In the interest of full-disclosure and for intellectual honesty purposes: I’m a comedian and I will always fight tooth and nail to defend comedians when their jokes offend people. Why? Because comedy that doesn’t offend somebody sucks that’s why. Comedy at its core is about a truth of some kind, as as the Trump administration proves every day, some people are just offended by facts to begin with. So let’s talk about this SNL writer who got fired for tweeting a joke with Barron Trump — Donny’s 10-year-old son — in it. Over-reactionary
First, let’s take a look at Katie Rich’s joke tweet, shall we?
Now, I’m not a friend of Katie’s, and I’m not inside her head and didn’t write her joke for her. I can see how some would be offended; after all going after the minor children of politicians is usually frowned upon. But if I unpack this joke, I don’t really find that Barron was the butt. In fact, it’s a joke that has a few different levels.
For starters, conservatives are very pro-homeschooling. Betsy Devos, Trump’s education secretary is all about vouchers for school choice, one of which is homeschooling. Because you know, who needs standards in education when you don’t care if the earth is 6,000 years old, or if climate change and evolution are liberal conspiracy theories right? So her joke was first a sleight against homeschooling.
Secondly, and far more importantly, it was a joke about school shootings. I know there has been talk on the interwebs about whether Barron is on the Autism spectrum, but there is literally nothing about Katie’s joke that you could take to be a dig at people with Autism. Unless you think she’s saying people with Autism are more likely to become school shooters, which in my mind kinda makes me question why you would assume she meant that. Unless we ask Katie and she tells us she thinks that people with Autism are more likely to become school shooters, that’s just some classic projection right there.
We also don’t know for certain that Barron is even on the spectrum. It’s pure speculation. So how the hell could Ms. Rich have even known this before she made her joke? She didn’t make mention of Autism, Asperger’s, or anything related to special needs kids. She made a joke about a spoiled rich kid and school shootings. How telling that the right is more upset that a joke about gun violence in the classroom was made than they are about gun violence in the classroom.
And, I’d be really remiss if I didn’t mention that for conservatives to bitch about Katie’s joke is triply laughable to me. These are the same people whose racist attacks against the Obama girls got so vicious on a Fox News piece, that the website’s moderators had to shut down comments on it. No, really, that’s not “fake news” or “alternative facts” even. It’s real. Here’s one of many links to the story, below.
The Fox News page running an AP story on Malia Obama’s recent acceptance into Harvard is missing its comment section after the story was met with an avalanche of vile, racist responses from the site’s readers. The most anodyne comments simply accused Malia of only getting into Harvard because of Affirmative Action.
Look, I’m not seriously going to tell you that because people were racist assholes to the Obama girls that justifies attacking Barron Trump. But again, that’s not what Katie Rich was doing. But let’s say she was, for the sake of argument. Doesn’t this whole issue just underscore how ridiculous conservatives are when they call liberals the “snowflake” and “safe space” crowd? I mean, liberals also attacked Rich for that, but Uber-PC liberal tone police are nothing new.
I find it fascinating that Republicans can spend eight years calling Obama all kinds of names and yet they get all apoplectic about someone returning fire on their people. If Rich had made Barron the butt of the joke, that would be one thing, but the butt of the joke was conservative philosophies on schooling and guns, not his intellectual acumen. It’s like when they mock liberals for needing safe spaces and then run and hide in their Fox News and Breitbart bubbles. Fox News was specifically started to give conservatives a place to get their news from a place they trust, that they feel is safe.
But as upset as I am about conservatives being hypocritical about presidential mockery, I’m furious at the brass at NBC right now. Let’s not kid ourselves — Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live last year helped vault him into the spotlight. It helped normalize him. It helped to give us Trump, and now a writer on one of their shows makes a casual joke mocking some of the more idiotic of conservative ethos and she has to pay the price for it?
Comedians make jokes. Sometimes they cross a line. A lot of times, actually, they do. NBC knows this. If they don’t want to have to explain this concept to angry Trumpers and butt-hurt super-PC liberals, they should stop fucking hiring comedians and only run dramas and news programs. In fact, I think Katie Rich deserves credit for how he’s handled the flack she’s gotten for basically doing what she’s paid to do.
Comedian and writer Brian Stack tweeted this out, and I think it describes perfectly what the situation is:
Katie Rich is a very kind, smart and funny person. I'm not defending her Tweet but neither is she. She sincerely apologized.
— Brian Stack (@BrianStack153) January 24, 2017
While I think that Katie had every right to defend her tweet for the reasons I’ve laid out, Brian Stack is completely right — she’s sincerely apologized for it. She deleted the offending tweet. What the fuck else did NBC want from her? Are we really going to say we live in a world where one misunderstood, albeit edgy joke, costs someone their job still in 2017? Can’t we just chalk this up to a learning moment and assume that Rich will make sure her meaning is clearer in her future jokes?
Of course not, this is America in 2017. Humor is barely tolerated, and only when it’s done in a totally benign, toothless, and well, unfunny way. I’ve got Katie Rich’s back though; and I’ll have zero problem using Barron in any future jokes or satirical pieces I write because I don’t intend to make him the butt or target of the jokes, and that’s all that matters…hand-wringing and pearl clutching notwithstanding, of course.
Follow James on Twitter @JamboSchlarmbo.