Saturday, March 19, 2011

How Soon Is Too Soon?

My Fellow Comedists,

This week, good brother YKW sent me a link to Gilbert Godfried's Twitter feed full of Japan earthquake/tsunami jokes.

What does Japanese Jews like to eat? Hebrew National Tsunami.

What does every Japanese person have in their apartment? Flood lights.
YKW's question was "too soon?"

On the one hand, jokes make light of a situation. Being the subject of a joke makes one often feel like you are being laughed at. In a situation in which empathy is appropriate, joking seems uncaring.

On the other hand, Gilbert Gottfried is one of the last of an old breed, joke writers. Contemporary comics tend to be more narrative, allowing their delivery to get the laughs. But Gilbert Gottfried writes jokes in the classic style. There is a technique to writing a joke, you need to find an unbalanced ambiguity, create a set-up that uses the stronger interpretation of the ambiguity and then twist it for a tightly worded punchline. For someone as experienced in the craft as Gilbert Gottfried, any event provides material and it is a simple technical exercise to write a joke about it, it has nothing to do with a lack of empathy any more than finding rhymes for "tsunami" does.

So, too soon? If you think so, please express it in a civil manner...don't have a meltdown.

Live, love, and laugh,

Irreverend Steve