I'm reminded of William S. Burroughs lately-Language is a virus from outer space, and the wonderful tagline from Laurie Anderson: "That's why I'd rather hear your name than see your face.
She also uses a wonderful line from her lyrics: "And I had to sell the car and go to Florida because that's just my way of saying 'That I love you'"
I guess I'm always reminded of this quote and her song when another round of suspensions are doled out for using words like "Lynching" at a very inappropriate time (Kelly Tilghman badly worded...Bill O'Reilly where it was actually used *correctly*) ...or Michael Richards decides that he cannot handle hecklers, or Imus decides he would like to comment on the hair texture and possible sexual practices of a mostly African American Basketball team.
Or some cute pundit decides that the word pimping is so appropriate to use towards the parents of Chelsea Clinton.
It is not the words that are the most shocking. It is the "Aftermath of the words and context"
I have found a wonderful new trend in the back peddling of using some badly phrased wording after it has been said. People generally go nowadays for two options:
- What? are you calling me racist? - Defense
- I didn't mean it...I didn't know it was that offensive - Defense
Basically they have left themselves open for two meanings to these: You are an insensitive jackass or You are dumb as a bag of bricks.
With the racist defense...you will get someone who will not realize what they are saying, get called out on it by someone who will say "Wow...that's sort of whacked" and this person will go head first in the "What are you calling me racist" Defense.
I'm here to hip all of you who have (or might eventually use) this defense: Guess what dumbass. YOU just called yourself a racist. I just said your shit is whack, and now you have left your sorry self open for all sorts of interpretation. Ixnay on the acistray. Oh. And that is not going to deter me from looking at you cross-eyed and replace that with feeling guilty, because you said something sort of whacked.
This generally does not happen...because most people go for the Dumb as a Bag of Bricks Defense. And even then the idea that people would go for the Bag of Bricks leaves yourself open for parody goodness:
What? Did you sleep through US History? Did you just arrive off the spaceship?
In this world of political correctness even the old school comedians of the day get sucked into the back peddling. A while ago icon comedian fave Jerry Lewis halfway dropped the word faggot at his MD Marathon. he released the statement (along the lines)
"In the family atmosphere of the telecast I forget where I am" - Defense statement
Alrighty Jerry. What sort of family do you have? Dropping the F Gay Bomb around the table at Chanukah and Thanksgiving.
How refreshing would it have been if the media statement read like this:
Look I'm an old man who has done comedy since they created caveman art. The word Faggot was a word we would banter around to Sammy Davis Jr and he LOVED it. We loved telling gay jokes! Haven't you watched the Aristocrats?! Don't you know I have been part of the original Friars Club and I have heard worse come out of Don Rickles and Poet spinner Nipsey Russell? I'm an old man who is a walking drug store and has not slept since this telethon started! I have never said faggot on this show...ever. Only to my Vegas friends who think its hilarious! Jesus Christ! I'm 800 years old! Leave me the hell alone! Different generation here! OH GLAVIN! (lights cig and the flame is 300 sizes too large) I'm an icon!! Can't I let faggot slip once because I'm old, tired, on pain killers and I think I'm playing pool with Dean Martin right now?!? Great Christ! I'm the original Nutty Professor! I did that typewriter thing! Cut me some SLACK!
How refreshing would that be. Like the windows opened up to the fresh smell of truth.
Comedians are the upholders of The Edge. The edge where no one wishes to tread. May I submit that when we use language that would be inappropriate in any other situation than a comedic stage...the material around it has been well crafted and the stage persona complete.
This goes right to Lenny Bruce....to the off kilter Sara Silverman. We can get away with a lot of language. If it is *crafted well*
But if it is not? Your ten minutes at The Chuckle Factory suddenly becomes five minutes with the red light flashing madly...and the next thing you know you are all over TMZ and your wacky character you had done for lord knows how long on television and your entire career has been reduced to this bad choice of dealing with hecklers. And the new defense: I got anger issues. So let me go to every minority based group and bake a cake. (when I first saw this particular instance I was doing a Monday Night Jam with a bunch of comedians and improvisers. I laughed and said Enjoy that greeters job at Walmart, hon.)
It has to be crafted. You also have to know that some words and phrases do not have "Double Meaning"
When you use the term Nappy Headed Ho you will be hard pressed to find that used in any other meaning other than calling a black woman this. You generally don't hear. Today I reserved two box seats for Les Miserables. I felt a little like a Nappy Headed Ho when I used my Diners Club Card.
Lynching means exactly that. To take a mob of people and inflict death on a person or persons. When Kelly uses it towards Tiger Woods (as much as they are friends and she immediately apologized for it) it does have double the historical connotations to African Americans. Lynching was common practice in the US for a very long time to a race of people.
It just does not have that Double Meaning. Unless someone wishes to give it one:
Today I wrote a pilot a lot like Twin Peaks. It has a giant, cherry pie and coffee in it. It is set in the Northwest. I'm doing a Lynching.
Words can either be Burroughs in theory or the more upbeat (yet slightly over hopeful and high pitched) Bee Gees:
It's only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away.
Nice when words can take your heart, instead of giving you indigestion.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.