How to Get Hurt Doing Comedy
Alan King was on a TV show decades ago and made a joke about coal miners. The audience gasped in horror. Unbeknownst to him there had been a coal mining accident that day, putting his joke into the "Don't Go There" category. Sometimes you should know better. Recently Robin Williams was asked if he would ever run for office, during his media blitz to promote his new movie. He mentioned some politician known for his bad behavior and said compared to Robin's past, he made the guy look Amish. Folks, it might be 6 months before anyone should make a joke about the Amish. Yes, I know, they don't watch TV, etc...but right is right. I think Robin Williams made a mistake there.
Have I made mistakes? As a matter of fact, there's one going on right now, that could make for an ugly day tomorrow with the radio gig, and I'm powerless to stop it. One of the stories we wrote about today was a study that claims visits to ER during a big sports game go way down for men, and then right afterwards they are above normal. I mean if the point is that men love sports, I think we got that already. But this was the assignment.
I fired off a little "gem" saying that sometimes a group of men skip ER and go right to the morgue after a big game, but enough about the New York Yankees. First of all, the joke is slightly dated as tomorrow is Thursday, and the Detroit win was last weekend, but this was a monumental collapse. This actually does stick around, with A-Rod references and the whole bit. I mean what did A-Rod do? He had more runs in his pantyhose than anyplace else. Damn, I'm going to have to remember that one. Maybe not. That one could also cause problems.
Incidentally, I had already gotten hurt by believing all the New York sportswriters who said Joe Torre was gone. I made a joke that he may not be going to the World Series but he could end up on the World Poker Tour. That went straight into the garbage can, when Steinbrenner decided to retain the beloved manager. I mean it's ridiculous - I got burned betting that George Steinbrenner would fire someone. How can you go wrong on that? Still, that mistake was no big deal.
However, when one of the Yankee team flies his plane into a high-rise building in New York, you do not make a Yankee morgue joke and present it to the DJs the next day. Comedy is timing and I wrote the joke around 45 minutes before the event. The radio network could have killed it but the details probably weren't know by the time they put the sheet to bed, and sent it out to over 140 radio stations around the world but mostly in the United States.
I'm not worried about the stations in the other countries. The way the world hates us now, they might even enjoy it. But several things could happen tomorrow with some of the American affiliates that use the material in the morning commute, and none of them are positive. The best case would be the DJ just doesn't go there on his or her own. As you know you can always count on DJs to show terrific judgment - NOT! The second level would be that the stations would call us sick bastards for sending this, and cancel the service. That would definitely irritate my bosses. Every now and then they relay an angry email they get when we did something unforgivable like make fun of Cher. There is a radio person in the Mid-West who is a huge Cher fan. After one joke I wrote about her - let's just say if he ever got his hands on me, I would have less original body parts than Cher herself.
The third thing that could happen is that the DJ could read the joke on the air, causing all kinds of bad reaction. The nightmare scenario is the station making apologies, and the DJ getting fired. It's unlikely but it does happen. If you follow the wacky news, you know there is a regular stream of DJ pranks and comments leading to trouble. It is what they do, and the trick is not to go too far.
Sometimes that's hard. One thing I know for sure: When I wrote that joke it never crossed my mind that one of the team I was making fun of was going to crash a plane into a New York building an hour later. That also qualifies as buzzard's luck, but it does show how you can get hurt doing comedy.