Griffin and Maher: A Week in Comedic Infamy

comedic, Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher,racism, controversy, donald trump
The week of May 28-June 3, 2017 is one that will go down in comedic infamy thanks to Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher. Composite image of the two comedians. Left image taken in September 2011; uploaded by gdcgraphics [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. The image on the right was taken in September 2010 and uploaded by Angela George [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Last week, two comedians came under fire for decisions they made. On one hand, we Kathy Griffin pulled a “comedic” stunt many will agree went too far. On the other hand, Bill Maher used a term many consider to be the worst in the English language.


About Kathy Griffin

On Tuesday, May 30, Kathy Griffin came under fire after a controversial picture taken by “provocateur” Tyler Shields. I will not post the photograph here, but it showed Griffin holding a blood, fake Trump head.

Many people, regardless of their political views, decried the stunt, as they should have. Due to the backlash, Griffin made an apology, but to no avail.

As a result, a few companies severed their ties with Griffin. She was fired by CNN and she lost a couple of gigs with a New Mexico casino and Squatty Potty.

Donald Trump, Melania, and Donald Trump, Jr. eventually took to Twitter and admonish Griffin. The elder Trump mentioned his youngest son, Barron, as being distraught at seeing the representation of his father’s bloody head.

This week, Griffin held a press conference where she cried and said Trump had broken her.

What Do I Think About This Controversy?

I immediately thought the stunt was unfunny and disgusting. It was also dangerous because we live in a time when protests are becoming increasingly violent.

Many people are angry at Trump, and particularly for his policies and his move toward austerity while rewarding the rich. And as you can see by what is going on in Venezuela, when people lose their civil liberties and struggle to eat, they tend to turn to violence. In that sense, the stunt made light the bubbling sentiments against Trump.

At the same time, there was a fair question of where the outrage was when people like Ted Nugent were making threats against Barack Obama. (Nugent was allowed to visit the White House just this year, after Trump’s inauguration. Classy.)

Also, Griffin’s apology was insincere. While she said the stunt was unfunny and she was sorry, that apology was rushed and she gave physical cues (like shaking her head) to signify that she didn’t really care. In fact, it was shown while the shoot was planned that Griffin was fully aware she would face backlash while mocking it.

Additionally, I didn’t really believe Griffin’s second statement (on the first viewing), but she made a few fair points:

  • She does have a large gay following.
  • This controversy was being used by Trump to distract from the Russia probe.
  • She does have a real reason to fear about her career, especially since she is a woman past the age of 50.

Given that context, Trump’s statement was fairly tasteless. He used his youngest son to guilt another person while The Donald himself is shameless. His tweets are even worse when you consider how he and his son Eric have been stealing from kids with cancer for years. To hell with the both of them.

Should Griffin Lose Her Career?

As a human being, I hope she doesn’t. I’m no fan of Griffin and I think some of her comedy hinges on being mean-spirited, but I hope she is given another chance.

I hope she is able to get other gigs and please her fans for as long as she is able to do so. Yes, she has fans and they should be able to see her as long as they want to hear from her and laugh with her.

That said, I won’t miss her being on CNN.


About Bill Maher

Last Friday, I wrote another post about Bill Maher. Coincidentally, he said something else that same night to create more controversy.

In an interview with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Maher made a terrible joke. When Sasse suggested that the Real Time host do some field work to help out Sasse’s team, Maher scoffed at the notion saying, “Field work? I’m a house ni**a.”

At the time, Sasse laughed it off. He later took to Twitter and apologized for not addressing Maher’s use of the slur in the moment.

Riiiiight ….

Now, How Do I Feel About Maher’s Comedic Use of the N-word?

I made a post in September 2015 about the use of the term and why it’s so controversial. It’s not easy to explain, but refraining from using the term is an easy adjustment to make.

The N-word is a term that is still harmful to the group it is mainly aimed at: African-Americans. I’m an African-American and I personally hate the term. I don’t call others the N-word, and I don’t want to be referred to in that manner.

In Maher’s case, he was simply being an idiot. Although he is a comedian and practically nothing is off-limits when it comes to comedy, there are good jokes and there are bad jokes. Maher’s was a very bad joke for several reasons.

While he could have pulled off a joke about slavery, his use of the N-word was ill-advised.

That said, I have heard far worse than what Bill Maher said. At least he referred to himself by that term and he wasn’t insulting anyone else.

Do I Think Maher Should Be Fired?

That’s for HBO to decide, but my first response was to say no. While the blowback Maher’s receiving, even after his apology, is well-deserved, I don’t feel it was a fire-able offense.

Nor do I believe that this alone is proof of his raging racism.

What I find more offensive are the things I complained about before:

  • Maher’s ongoing attack on religion, although he makes valid points about how people use religion to oppress and kill others.
  • Maher’s attacks on overweight people. For example, I don’t like Chris Christie, but do we always have to go after him for being fat? There are other aspects of Christie that are exploitable for comedy, like his hubris and bullying persona.
  • Maher’s crusade against young people, which really kicked up during the past election. He sounds more and more like a Fox News personality. In the same vein, Maher has an ongoing crusade against others on the left, for the sheer fact they did not vote with him.

And to that point, Bill Maher’s overall record on race should be considered, at least for the sake of debate.

Is Bill Maher Racist?

This week, I saw an article on Think Progress about Maher being a racist. While the writer made a poorly formed argument, I feel there is some validity to that charge.

To be sure, Maher is deeply prejudiced, namely against religious people, and he is pretty ignorant when it comes to race. In the past, Maher has said things while lacking self-awareness and he has said deeply offensive things that go beyond the pale and with extreme seriousness.

On Racial Profiling

Maher has repeatedly said he supports racial profiling in terms of rooting out Islamic terrorism. This is what ultimately got him fired from ABC.

On Black Names

The comedian has made fun of black names, while not realizing he is basically making the case for those who argue about the prevalence of discriminatory hiring practices. And it was ironic because Real Time is filmed in Hollywood and celebrities have been notorious for giving their kids uncommon names.

Sure, it might be easy to figure out that someone named Shaniqua is black, but is it not discrimination is the hiring manager refused to look at her qualifications?

Oh, one of Maher’s guests argued that the stars are different because they have connections. But what if those same stars burned their bridges? Then that uncommon name will immediately work against the kid.

Look at LaVar Ball. Dude can’t shut his mouth up and he is ruining the prospects of his own sons. They could have names like Kyle, or Michael, or any “normal” names but it wouldn’t matter if teams didn’t want to deal with their father’s baggage.

On Barack Obama

Maher has also said that he wanted former President Barack Obama to “act black” and give his Republican foes a good tongue-lashing. Maher’s mentions of Obama’s race have often made me feel uncomfortable except for the times the comedian was making a valid point. The fact is Obama face a lot of resistance solely due to his race.

On Race Relations and Law Enforcement

This harkens to my post from last week, but Maher actually made a racial statement that offended me more than his use of the N-word last week. He talked about how Cornell West’s “black brothers” were being hurt by policies that Trump supports.

Again, that was such a disgusting statement because he used social injustice (along racial lines) as an opening to wag his finger at someone and score political points. He essentially trivialized what should have been the main focus.

Maher’s Real View on Using the N-Word

If someone wanted to prove Maher’s real feelings, it is fair to bring up what he said to Anne-Marie Johnson in August 2001 when he hosted Politically Incorrect. Recently, a clip from that show resurfaced and Maher could be seen making a bunch of gross statements about black people and the usage of the N-word.

I hadn’t seen that clip before. It shocked me more than this recent incident because he was trying to lecture a black woman on how the word was used and how she should feel about it. And while he has sometimes shown a reluctance to use the word, he seemed quite comfortable in that clip.

With that in mind, Maher once again exposed himself as that type of liberal who has not done any kind of introspection to deal with his own prejudices. However, HBO hired him even with the knowledge of the controversial opinions he could espouse.


Conclusion

In the end, I don’t wish for Griffin or Maher to lose their jobs (especially not Griffin), but it goes to show there is only so far the “comedy” excuse can shield someone from a bad decision. Griffin suffers from a premeditated, yet poorly-though-out action. Maher’s deep-seeded prejudices were once-again exposed and they beg discussion.

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