To understand if a person or group is on the left or the right, look no further than what outrages them. If you’re offended by how much tax revenue is squandered year after year, you’re probably on the right; if you are ticked off at the “rich” for not paying their “fair share,” you lean left. If you have a strong urge to kill or capture evildoers around the world, you’re likely conservative; but if you’re irate that detainees might be water-boarded, safe money is you’re lefty. If you drive home in your Toyota Prius to pop a Big Pharma-produced Lexapro that gives you just enough vitality to take your ungrateful kids to the Starbucks for a Java Chip Frappuccino … only to lecture them on the evils of the corporations once you get there, there’s a good chance you’re left-wing. But if you love capitalism… you get my point.
What inspires your ire tips your hand–politically speaking–and a sanctimonious editorial on Tracy Morgan in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times tells you all you need to know about the staff of SoCal’s leading paper.
For those of you who dropped out of society for the past week, the synopsis is that during a stand-up comedy routine in Nashville, Morgan, of “SNL” and “30 Rock” fame, joked that he would stab his son if he used a “gay voice.” Word got out and all hell broke loose. The twitterverse was outraged, celebrities clamored to condemn the comment, and Morgan eventually delivered the obligatory pandering over-apology replete with a commitment to partner with America’s most ironically named advocacy organization: GLAAD.
The story is a social justice cliché.
The courageous editors at the Los Angeles Times joined the fray yesterday, unloading a bold op-ed stating Morgan had crossed the line:
But that’s not what Tracy Morgan, the comedian and star of the popular NBC TV comedy “30 Rock,” did during a recent stand-up gig in Nashville, when he unleashed a rant against gays and said that if a son of his ever came home sounding effeminate, he would pull out a knife and stab him.
That wasn’t pushing any new boundaries; if anything, it was a reversion to old ones. In the process, Morgan revealed that he’s capable of frightening (and unfunny) invective, and left his audience wondering whether he is a garden-variety homophobe.
Fair enough. This analysis is lacking in originality, but it’s at least an accurate assessment of a joke even the most homophobic comedian would probably want to take back.
But here’s where the L.A. Times leaves themselves open to criticism. They identified **gasp** a trend in comedians taking a joke too far:
Morgan isn’t the first public figure trying to be funny who crossed a line that seems fuzzy — until the minute you step over it. In a failed attempt to be amusing and irreverent during a news conference at the Cannes Film Festival last month, Danish director Lars von Trier rambled on about how he is a Nazi because of his German background, adding that he sympathized with Hitler “a little bit.” When comic Michael Richards was unnerved by an African American heckler at a comedy club several years ago, he responded with a racial-slur-laced tirade. And Don Imus referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as a group of “nappy-headed hos.”
Uhhh…excuse me…but these are the best examples of “crossing the line” the L.A. Times can muster? An off-his-rocker director with whom practically none of us are familiar (who isn’t even American!), the Michael Richards tirade from nearly five years ago, and the comparatively mild Imus comments from 2007? Wat? The editors of the Times do realize there’s a woman named Sarah Palin and most of Hollywood really, really, REALLY doesn’t like her, right?
Just in case they need their collective memory jogged:
- Comedian Chris Titus joked about assassinating Sarah Palin. June 2011.
- Comedian Louis C.K. on Sarah and Trig Palin: “When she was on stage at the fucking convention, that [Trig] just came out of her fucking disgusting cunt. Her fucking retard-making cunt. I hate her more than anybody…” Likely 2010. After these and other similar comments were made about Sarah Palin and her family by Louis C.K., the “Tonight Show” producers thought it would be a good idea to seat him right next to Bristol Palin on television. September 2010.)
- Comedian Whitney Cummings said, “[Quentin Tarantino has] produced more retarded things than Sarah Palin’s vagina.” December, 2010.
- Humorous political blog Wonkette published a “birthday card” to Trig Palin mocking him unmercifully. This lead to a massive advertiser boycott. April 2011
- 9/11 Truther Ed Asner hates America, thinks the U.S. government was behind the World Trade Center attacks. November 2010
- Roseanne Barr, dressed as Hitler, baked burnt “Jew cookies.” July 2009.
- Aaron Sorkin, amid calling Sarah Palin a slew of names, wrote that he delights when hunters are shot: “I get happy every time one of you faux-macho shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face.” March, 2011.
- 50-year-old comedian Kathy Griffin said she will be dedicating 2011 to attacking 16-year-old Willow Palin. January 2011.
- Rob Reiner likened the Tea Party to the Nazis on HBO’s comedy show “Real Time with Bill Maher.” 2010.
Tracy Morgan joked about killing a hypothetically gay son; Chris Titus joked about assassinating the real Sarah Palin just last week! But to the L.A. Times, these examples all pale in comparison to Don Imus’s “nappy-headed hos” line from the Bush years.
But wait! There’s more! As a bonus, here’s some name-calling:
- Charlie Sheen called Sarah Palin a “whore” in front of a live audience. April 2011.
- Jennifer Lopez called Sarah Palin “bitch.” January 2010.
- Joy Behar on Sharron Angle: that bitch is going to hell. October 2010.
- Rosie O’Donnell called Big Hollywood reader a “bitch” (twice). April 2010.
- Rosie called Elisabeth Hasselbeck a “twat.” August 2009.
There’s even more Hollywood Palin hate in the upcoming doc “The Undefeated.”
And what about Dan Savage? The openly-gay podcaster and columnist wrote at Salon.com in 2000 that he infiltrated the Gary Bauer for President campaign and licked doorknobs with the express purpose of infecting the Republican and his staff with the flu. Seriously. At the time of this writing, Savage has a pilot in the can at HBO. (The always charming Savage gave his $.02 on the Morgan kerfluffle, noting “Tracy Morgan can suck my…“)
The mistake Tracy Morgan made (and Richards and Imus) is not unleashing h8red, but doing so at a protected class of people. Had Morgan spewed venom at, say, a mother of five who doesn’t abort her fetuses and thinks “Drill Baby, Drill” isn’t just a line from Anthony Weiner’s facebook conversations, he’d almost certainly have skated the literary lashing form Hollywood’s biggest newspaper.
The Times wraps up the editorial by not-so-subtly suggesting Tina Fey and the “30 Rock” big-wigs might want to consider canning Morgan over the joke:
Morgan’s future on the show is a call for Fey and NBC to make. There are plenty of ways to handle this situation. But when artists slip from funny to hateful, it’s time to stop laughing and call them out on it. We all learn something from doing that.
Chris Titus has a special on Comedy Central next month, Whitney Cummings has TWO pilots debuting this season on network television, Louis C.K. is quickly becoming a household name, Sorkin just won an Oscar, etc. etc. etc. The careers of these h8ers, with the exception of the staff at Wonkette (thanks to new media and readers of this blog), have been augmented since they made over-the-line jokes about conservatives. Yet, the Los Angeles Times felt it appropriate to plant the seed that a “30 Rock” sans Tracy Morgan would be an appropriate result of this dust-up.
Obviously, I’m not here to defend the awful things Tracy Morgan said, but if you are outraged that comedians have carte blanche to savage conservatives but must abide a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to gay jokes, you’re probably right-of-center. On the other hand, if you are aware of the invective that has been hurled toward Sarah Palin and her family in just the last couple of years (Months! Weeks! Days!) and you still can’t get beyond Don Imus and Michael Richards, you might be an editor of the Los Angeles Times.