Thursday, July 31, 2008


You can make the case that anything can be funny. It doesn’t necessarily mean that anything will be funny. George Carlin suggested that even rape could be funny by imagining Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. Point taken. But try dropping that in the rape crisis centre of your choice and wait for the laugh. Carlin was smart enough not to do that (and wouldn’t condone it), his point was that some kinds of humour hinge upon your response to something grossly absurd or inappropriate.

I can think of a bunch of ways that a Jesus Sucks banner could be funny. Maybe as a throw-away shot in a South Park or Family Guy episode (it doesn’t strike me as a Simpsons gag), or a plot thread in an episode of Seinfeld where you watch the cast either make excuses or simply respond in horror. And so on. The idea might work out. But actually hiring the plane and doing it isn’t playing out as well.

The stunt has outraged the usual suspects – readers are predictably horrified (“…the Lord God Almighty has already cursed Toronto by populating it with Toronto people”) and Torontoist readers have given their 2 cents with some vigour (“Your life must be so unimportant if you get insulted by people mocking two thousand year old fairy tales”).

If Kenny & Spenny’s producers were fighting for free publicity, they’ve won. And if you look at the entire situation and feel like you’ve lost, then they’ve really won. That said, I’m finding it hard to be offended by anything other than the level of attention around it. I’m shrugging this off in the same way that I’ll ignore a 10yr old reciting a dirty Hail Mary (and if my grade school was any indicator, there are a couple of doozies). I’m far more offended by an Evangelist suggesting that Jesus will love me more if I cut his church a cheque.

I’m not going into my personal belief system here. But in the immortal words of the Doobie Brothers, Jesus is alright with me. He never hurt anybody. Encouraged everyone else to follow his example. As for his followers, well, that’s another story that’s not worth getting into in this context. Do you really want to discuss the balance between the beneficial effects of Christianity vs. the Crusades, the Inquisition, and various churches endorsing slavery in the same breath as Kenny vs. Spenny? Be my guest, but do it on your own time.

I don’t watch the show, but I’ve laughed at Jackass a few times. I’ve heard they’re similar. This wouldn’t make me a core audience member, but it puts me in a pleasantly indifferent position towards the whole enterprise. I wouldn’t have sought it out before the Jesus Sucks incident and I’m less likely to now, not out of religious offence but because I think Kenny Hotz is either an idiot or is just insufferably smug and disingenuous for the sake of garnering an audience. The former is something to be pitied or avoided. The latter is something that should really be ignored out of existence as soon as humanly possible.

The National Post has contributed the most space to this, posting the only after-the-fact interview with Hotz that I’ve been able to find online. Read the whole thing here, or choose to agree or disagree with my take on it:

Our show is stupid and we’re stupid

Suggests that everyone’s should learn to take a joke.

and I feel bad if anyone actually got offended
A sign of remorse to avoid taking responsibility for any negative response.

but, I don’t know.
Backing away from the previous two points begins…

I guess it’s freedom of speech.
Changing the topic – it isn’t about his self-described stupid show anymore or his personal bad feelings about offending anyone, or their offence in the first place, it’s about the big issues.

I’m sure people got pissed off,
Skipping the fact that he intiated the whole thing in the first place

but I don’t think it’s offensive.
Finally, a statement. If he’d said it at the start, I’d have no problem with it. Love the joke, stand up beside the joke, be prepared to be shot with the joke and refuse the blindfold. Or back away from it entirely and say you went too far or it just plain-old wasn’t funny. Don’t play the sorta-kinda-maybe card and hope for the best.

…a true Christian would turn the other cheek. I’ve studied the Bible a lot, I’ve done religious studies. So, I think for true Christians, it would only increase their faith.
Jesus Sucks provides an affirmation of faith for the offended? A lesson in humility? Something along the lines of your grade school bully saying “I was tough on ya, but it taught ya the ways of the world and made you strong”? Great.

Hotz’s interview might support my idiot theory, or could blow it out of the water. Steve Martin’s standup persona worked on the idea that he was so totally unfunny that he was funny. It’s possible that Hotz is riffing on an insensitive immature jerk who doesn’t care about collateral damage or understand the possible ramifications of his actions.

One should hope, at least. When you leap from "I didn’t really want to hurt individuals. I just thought it was mean and unlikeable. So I decided I’d just rather piss off large groups of people instead" to "I don’t think Jesus sucks...I really hope nobody takes offense" with no apparent knowledge of the disconnect, it's probably an act.

Then again, "never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity" right?

Either way, wasting anger on cheap jokes is like resenting the calories and sodium in a bucket of fried chicken. It won't change a thing. If you're grinding your teeth at it all, direct that energy elsewhere. Flip fifty bucks to the church or comedy club of your choice and improve the morale of the faithful. If you’re truly horrified on religious or ethical grounds, take the time and earn the right to complain. Money talks. Express your discontent to the network, and especially to the sponsors.

And hey- dying is easy, comedy is hard. Consider those Canadian laffmeisters Tom Green and Mike Bullard, and look where they are (if you can find them). Kenny vs. Spenny too will pass. And you can at least change the channel. There’s got to be something else on TV.


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