Wednesday, October 11, 2006

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.

20 Comments:

At 7:28 PM, Anonymous butch said...

"Don't go there"....reminds me of a comment I read today about the NYC plane crash - had to be from a Mets fan. He said, "Should have been A-Rod flying the plane....then they wouldn't have hit anything."

I admit I laughed.

 
At 7:36 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Yeah, a sick comedian friend from Florida called with some I won't repeat. In a way it points out how I've been able to make a living, at least till I get fired tomorrow.
I don't have to make jokes about the space shuttle exploding, etc...

 
At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey bill,
This is an excerpt from yahoo news:
The crash rattled New Yorkers' nerves five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, but the
FBI and the
Homeland Security quickly said there was no evidence it was anything but an accident. Nevertheless, within 10 minutes of the crash, fighter jets were sent aloft over several cities, including New York, Washington, Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle,
Pentagon officials said.
10 MINUTES? More proof of government involvement on 9/11. This is what should have happened on 9/11. Of course everyone who reads your blog knows this...except Butch.

 
At 8:47 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

You know what got me? When they announced they had found the pitcher's passport on the sidewalk.
Didn't that remind you of finding one of the hijackers driver's license on the sidewalk after 9/11?

 
At 9:31 PM, Anonymous butch said...

Lord....or maybe the fast response time is an indication that the Bush administration has done its job since 9/11?

Let me do you one better. The evil genius Karl Rove, recognizing Republicans are in trouble of losing the house and maybe the Senate as well, planned this whole thing as a 'reminder' to the electorate of 9/11.

But of course it could not have been just some anonymous person's plane....it had to be a celebrity to take suspicion away from a government conspiracy. Rove scanned logs of smaller airports and found a Yankee pitcher who owned a plane had scheduled a takeoff that would send him over Manhattan. Rove immediately dispatched 'operatives' that sabotaged the plane - draned the fuel but locked the fuel gage, and somehow managed to ensure it would crash into a building - secret Pentagon missile guidance technology perhaps? - and therefore creating a stark reminder of 9/11 and the danger of terrorists....right before the election.

So, how was that? I think I'm ready for my DU membership, don't you think?

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger Frank Dufay said...

"Should have been A-Rod flying the plane....then they wouldn't have hit anything."

C'mon...that's funny. I certainly laughed. And I'm a Yankees fan.

Man...if we stop laughing at the absurdities around us, we're sunk.

As my wife and I were driving in to work this morning, and we had Bush on the radio talking about Iraq, it hit me: he's doing a Jon Stewart imitation. I can't wait for the crouched down "heh, heh, heh" at the next State of the Union address. A moment of true Zen.

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger Frank Dufay said...

Wow...a simultaneous post with "butch." How scary is that? Was it good for you too?

 
At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea,
The Bush administration is doing its job, Just like the response to Katrina in New Orleans.

 
At 11:12 PM, Blogger LaurelhurstDad said...

Hey Butch, don't you realize that Rove has already done his work for October? He gave N. Korea a dozen or so Bunker Busters to set off all at once. The idea being to fake a nuke test and get the U.S. all worried, so we'll have to vote for the Page Molesters/Cover Up crew.

As for the cause of today's crash, I'm sure you and Sean H. will tie it to Clinton somehow.

 
At 7:31 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Yeah the A-Rod line is funny because it deflects from the guy who got killed and turns it back to A-Rod. I still cringe at these jokes when the guy just died. I think there should at least be a 24-hour window. I remember when Swiss Air crashed, there were jokes while the bodies were still floating in the water. That's just sick. My comedian friend in Florida is from that genre. His jokes yesterday revolved around pitching terms like "high heat". Use your imagination.

 
At 12:55 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I also heard that Letterman had an insensitive baseball segment last night, although I don't know the details.

I know we'll eventually start making fun of this Yankee pitcher - and I believe in humor as a way to process sad things. Too soon is cruel, but after a few days, it's just the rest of us marching on.

In fact, before we start in on him, how about a special nod to the flight instructor? Great job, buddy!
That was some terrific work.

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger TR said...

In a biography on Lenny Bruce I read that he went on stage to do his routine the evening of the JFK assasination. His opening joke was to shake his head and say 'I feel so bad for Vaughn Meader.'

 
At 2:08 PM, Blogger TR said...

A quick check on the career of Vaughn gave me the actual Lenny Bruce line; 'Vaughn Meader is screwed.' That sounds so much more like Lenny Bruce I should have checked before posting.

 
At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill,
Finally....South Park addresses 9/11. This is funny.
http://www.911blogger.com/node/3641
Butch you cant watch this!

 
At 6:06 PM, Anonymous butch said...

Anonymous....you do realize that Southpark is conservative, right? I think you'd better not watch.

PS - it was hillarious.

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

South Park, Lenny Bruce...my blog has finally found an audience. Interesting tidbit: I met the former Chef, Isaac Hayes, one time. At the time he was working to promote literacy.
Okay, as Bob Dylan once wrote, "Lenny Bruce was bad, he was the brother that you never had." How far out did he go? Remember the tension between Jews and Christians over how the death of Christ is portrayed in movies like Mel Gibson's "The Passion..."? This is an untra-sensitive subject. Lenny said that not only did the Jews kill Christ, but when he comes back they're going to kill him again.
That is not your average comedy material. Rodney Dangerfield also had an explosive take on religion, specifically, "Love thy neighbor as thyself"-
"Oh great. You mean I have to jerk him off, too?"
South Park is following in the great American tradition of being out there on the edge. The idea of the President personally capping a blogger, is taking cartoons to another level.
I think we may get more of the explosive material when Borat hits theaters next month. It is comedy's job to go to the darkest most infected wounds in our society, and rip them open. Nobody else has the gnads.

 
At 7:20 PM, Anonymous butch said...

Borat and Southpark are on a level all their own right now. If you haven't seen it, you have to see the skit where Borat goes wine tasting with the Texas winery board. The part where he whips out the polaroids of him knockin' his sister is priceless.

I was serious about Southpark being conservative though. Parker and Smith both admitted are conservative/libertarian. And they are brilliant writers. See, even stodgy ol' conservatives can have a sense of humor. Myself included (though from an appreciative standpoint more than a creative one)

 
At 7:43 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Another interesting tidbit(hopefully):
My Hollywood producer connection who was here in May and appeared on my humble cable access show, is the father of the editor of Borat.
Sometimes I think everything's about to break, although I got shot down this summer by one of the leading greenlight people in the biz. Ouch. That really sucked. We're talking about a potential 700 large here, plus a producer point.
I am striving to be free.

 
At 7:58 PM, Blogger LaurelhurstDad said...

Why do people who are smart and clever enough with their fingers to contribute to a blog, and even people like Butch, care about religion?

People who believe in the occult, supernatural, hocus-pocus of gods and spooky folk in the clouds are by definition extreme.

But then, Republicans are extreme these days. Maybe there is a connection. Bush is certainly extreme, and he used the nutjobs in the religious sector to help him get (sort of) appointed president.

While there has never been any kind of proof, ever, that any sort of god exists, Bush might be the one to send the ‘take it on faith’ crazies over to logic and clear thinking. This might be the best thing that could happen to our country, and to the world in general.

 
At 1:35 AM, Anonymous butch said...

So laurelhurstdad, are you an aetheist? Even so, I wouldn't confuse 'careing' about religion with believing in one. I 'care' about Santa Claus when it comes to dealing with my five year old at Christmas....

 

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