Parody and satire are by nature offensive
By Michael A. Matteo
I have been writing comedy for approximately two decades and have laughed at jokes since I was able to understand the spoken word. In my lifetime I have heard thousands of parodies, one-liners, puns, jokes and many other forms of humor. Some of these attempts at humor I found amusing, some made me yawn and other stuff made me cringe. And even when things made me cringe I thought, “Well, I may not like what I’ve heard but someone may feel that way about something I’ve written. Thank God for freedom of speech.”
Recently there has been a furor created over the song, “Barack the magic Negro” that was made famous by Rush Limbaugh last year. It is a parody to the tune of “Puff The Magic Dragon,” sung by an Al Sharpton impersonator with the theme being that attempts to satirically question Barack Obama’s racial authenticity.
Is this song in bad taste? Is it justified for Republicans who found it funny to be attacked and labeled as “racists?” Who has the right to impose their judgment of what should be considered funny or not on other people?
Over the last decade political correctness has taken hold of every aspect of the lives of Americans. If the classic television program, All in the Family, were to be a new show today it would never make it because our culture has become hypersensitive at anything that could remotely offend anyone. All in the Family was a groundbreaking show because for the first time in television history it dealt with issues of racism, politics, sexism and other social issues that had been taboo and did it in a humorous way because it made us realize that there is a little of Archie Bunker and Mike Stivic in everyone.
For those who feel this way here is a NEWS FLASH: HUMOR IS CRUEL! And if you don’t believe it think about what people find funny. Approximately 99% of the time what is funny is at someone’s expense. And herein lies the inherent problem with political correctness as it applies to humor: it is only acceptable to pick on people on X list while the people on Y list are off limits. In the 70’s when Chevy Chase of Saturday Night Live was portraying President Gerald Ford as a bumbling and clumsy buffoon did anyone stand up and say they were offended? When President Bush had a shoe thrown at him during his Iraqi press conference it was gold for comedic material. Did anyone object to jokes about this incident? When Sara Palin was satirized on a Saturday Night Live skit that made fun of how she answered interview questions why wasn’t there an outcry that she was being treated unfairly and people should not laugh at it even if they found it to be funny? Was Mel Brooks out of line for parodying Nazis with the song, “Springtime For Hitler,” in the film the Producers?
I don’t think anyone, on the left or right, wants to have to look over their shoulders to see if they are being scrutinized at what makes them crack a smile. The thought police need to go away and they can take the chronically offended with them. Of all the things that make America a great country the best thing is the freedom to express our thoughts without worrying that there will be a political backlash by a group of whiners who must first check their PC rulebook to see if the group being satirized is on the good or bad list.
Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty full-length feature films, has taught screenwriting at the University of South Florida. He has also written or co-authored three books including The Politically Incorrect Joke book: Written by 4 white males, Push Pull Press. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.