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Defending Wanda — Kind Of


So why is it, that a joke about kidney failure is funny, but a joke about two bullets in an elevator needs an apology? Even though both punch lines suggest death, in the two bullet scenario the victim is a Democrat. Suggesting the Death of a Democrat is a far more serious matter. (I’m also not sure why TWO bullets would be necessary, although my Mom hunted alligators once, and claims that smaller brained animals can withstand more headshots.)

I’m not mad about Wanda Sykes recent diatribe against Rush Limbaugh and other Republicans. Today, you expect this kind of nonsense at the Correspondent’s Dinners. It is modern tradition to spare no mercy for the attendees. Being an edgy comic myself, I often find that the meat is much sweeter when it’s closer to the bone. Edge comedy means that you are trying to land that punch line so close to the precipice of good taste that it is very likely to fall over. On more than one occasion I have personally felt the plummet after I misjudged where the line stopped.

I once walked out 90% of the room in Minneapolis. I was working Acme Comedy Company, a club that is famous for hosting comics who can push the envelope. It was the week after Paul Wellstone’s campaign plane crashed, and Vice President Walter Mondale was tapped to run for Senate in his stead. After the announcement of Mondale, I asked onstage the question everybody had: “I thought he was dead, too?” After about five minutes of dead silence and me stutteringly trying to win the crowd back, people started paying their tabs and leaving the showroom. Out of 273 people, only 27 stayed long enough to hear me say, “Thank you, good-night!”

So I’m in no position to cast stones here. But what did bother me about Wanda’s rant, was her inability to make any jokes of substance against the President. It’s different when someone like Rich Little performs at the Correspondent’s Dinner, because Rich Little is a very uncontroversial act. But Wanda wasn’t doing impressions of Jimmy Cagney, she was making jokes about September 11th and kidney failure.

Past Correspondents Dinners have been controversial as well. A long time ago, before Lewinsky became a euphemism for a specific carnal activity, and when naps were just something Don Imus needed during commercial breaks; Imus became notorious for making cracks about the reputation of the White House. He did it right in front of the President Clinton and his wife at the 1996 Correspondents Dinner. A review of the transcript puts that scandal in perspective; it is incredibly tame by modern standards.

But it set the bar quite high, for satire; a level that wasn’t cleared until ten years later, by comedian Stephen Colbert. Stephen became the sweetheart of the left, for telling President Bush off right to his face, at the 2006 Dinner. The incident not only failed to amuse the President, it took Rich Little out of the unemployment line for a year.

Now I wouldn’t begrudge Wanda, even if she didn’t have any disagreement with the President, for fawning over him and the First Lady. She isn’t the only comic out there who is smitten. She isn’t the first who can no longer bring themselves to satire. There are hundreds of “political” comics who came of age during the Bush Administration who are suddenly without new material.

Wanda however, should have a major beef with this President, since he doesn’t think Wanda should be allowed to marry a girl. Here is a video of Wanda getting up in the face of people who believe in traditional marriage.

The gay community, who never seemed to have a problem in the past blaming Republicans for AIDS and Matthew Shepard, seem remarkably silent about this President’s position on homosexual marriages and military service. Even the New York Times is starting to question whether the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community has an ally in the White House. But like the rest of her demographic, Wanda refused to question the President on his opinion, or force him to state it publicly.

If non-traditional marriage is, as she said in her Leno panel “an Equal Rights issue,” how could she stand there in front of the leader of the free world, and not demand her civil rights? That routine was the comedy equivalent, of tap dancing for Governor George Wallace.

She should be ashamed of herself.

Look for more of Tim Slagle’s edgy comedy on iTunes and Amazon.

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