When we start letting politicians set the standards for humor, then we have accomplished something not even Carrot Top, Jay Leno or even Larry The Cable Guy has managed to do. We will have killed comedy and what will remain will be as sad as knock knock jokes, as pathetic as the "humorous" riddles on Popsicle sticks and about as funny as that wall plaque of a fish that sings.
If we take humorless dolts like Sarah Palin seriously when they get mock outraged at a late night talk show host's joke, then, we pretty much close the door on comedy. The only mistake David Letterman made with his joke about Palin's daughter getting "knocked up" by A-Rod during the seventh inning stretch of a Yankees game, was apologizing for it.
The joke, which got a laugh -- the essential goal of any joke -- was funny and it clearly played off the fact that Palin has a daughter who got pregnant at a young age. Whether Letterman knew that Palin attended the baseball game, the joke was made about her younger daughter, not the one with the baby, is irrelevant because the comedy works anyways.
Make Letterman only do mild jokes that won't offend anyone and you essentially have Jay Leno -- a man with enormous appeal to the humorless. These are folks who never get the joke and are always looking to become enraged when somebody says something they consider offensive.
If the joke offends you, change the channel or don't support Letterman's advertisers. If you think the joke was part of some liberal political agenda then you are a delusional lost in a Rush Limbaugh fantasy world where every question comes down to political ideology. Letterman may do his show from New York (which to ultra-conservatives makes him both liberal and Jewish) but he's an equal opportunity offender.
I would guess that Palin was no more offended by Letterman's joke than I was. Instead, she saw an opportunity to pander to her far right supporters. She may be fairly dumb, but she knows an opportunity when she sees one and going after Letterman for "attacking a 14-year-old girl" allows Palin to act like she's being targeted by the "liberal" media.
If we let comedy fall prey to the silly partisan politics that has ruined all reasonable political discourse in this country then we truly have become so uptight that we may never recover. It's okay to be offended by a joke and just choose to not like that comedian. We don't have to have press conferences and demand apologies.
Comedians should offend people. They should illuminate uncomfortable truths and sometimes there's comedy in being just plain offensive. There's very little to laugh about these days and if we look for ways to reign in comedy with political correctness then we will have even less funny to go around. We need to stop looking for reasons to be offended and start laughing -- even at ourselves -- a little more.
- Daniel B. Kline's work appears in more than 100 papers weekly. When he is not writing Mr. Kline serves as general manager of Time Machine Hobby, New England's largest hobby and toy store. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org