“I went to Toys R Us and walked down the baby doll aisle, and they’re getting fairly realistic. They have ‘baby throws up, baby take my temperature, change baby’s diaper, Jewish baby, it comes with a pair of scissors so you can snip the penis yourself… The reasoning is: the more lifelike the doll, the better prepared a girl is for motherhood. Fair enough, but considering the state society is in today, why don’t they make dolls really realistic? How about ‘Shake the Baby,’ it cries until you make its eyes roll back into its head. ‘Premature Crack Baby,’ born with the heart on the outside and incubator so you can watch it slowly… yeah. ‘Siamese Twin Baby,’ comes with a surgical kit, but only one battery, so you decide which half lives and which half…  ‘Dumpster Ready Baby;’ comes with its own Hefty Bag so you can get back to prom quickly…”

That’s one of the first jokes I ever wrote. I haven’t performed it in about ten years, but I remember that audiences laughed at it about 95% of the time. While the joke is admittedly fairly dark, I’ve never considered myself a shock comic—someone who says something just to get a groan or a reaction. I talk about subjects that interested me, and I’ve always believed that the best way to expose evil is to shine a light on it. The light I use just happens to involve laughter.

I picked up this manner of thought from the television show M*A*S*H. I can’t remember the direct quote, but I recall an episode in which Hawkeye was in surgery and made an off-color comment. Another character chastised him, and Hawkeye’s immediate response was, “This is war. If I don’t joke, I’ll scream.” Humor was presented as a shield against terror, a method of maintaining sanity while in an insane situation. It resonated well with me, considering the less than idyllic childhood I was experiencing.

(It would be decades later I toured military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and discovered first-hand that the writers for M*A*S*H had done their homework. You will find the most-biting jokes of all in the trenches; dark-humor is how the military deals with the horrors of war.)

Today I talk about my life on stage, so I generally don’t cover topical events in front of audiences anymore. But I still take an interest in the world around me, and Facebook creates a beautiful outlet for day-to-day jokes. Case in point: the controversy surrounding the events at Penn State.

I think it’s safe to say that no one finds child molestation funny, but that said, I believe there is no topic that is off limits. To me, the focus of any joke is intent: do you intend to hurt, or create laughter? That question asked, I present you with a picture:

My friend Dave dreamed that up, and my wife designed it. I think it’s hilarious. Why? Because as my Mrs. was mocking it up using Photoshop, Penn State students were rioting. Not because their university covered up instances of child molestation, not because their university didn’t investigate allegations of child molestation, but because a football coach had been fired. Read that last sentence again if it didn’t hit you hard enough: buggering children was fine-n-dandy with a portion of the students, but the firing of a football coach who apparently didn’t do anything to stop said buggering was verboten.

To me, the picture pops the collective ego of those students. “You want to riot over football? Here, this is what the world thinks of your college.” The image keeps everything front and center, and serves as a reminder to any organization that might try the Catholic Church/Penn State approach to child molestation: “Hey, if we cover things up, that’ll solve everything!”

That is my take on the picture; others might have another view. To me, response to a joke comes from your worldview, your perception of events. Two people I know posted it on Facebook and received severe rebukes. One got hers in person; the other was insulted on Facebook and dropped as a “friend.” While I grant everyone the right to have their own opinion regarding funny and not-funny, to become actively angry over a joke escapes even my tolerance levels.

Yes, people are different, and some people put on blinders when it comes to seeing horror. Everything is rosy, and that which is not sunshine and puppy dogs should never, ever, be joked about. Some topics should be covered using serious conversation, with crossed arms and dour faces. Not in my world. I refuse to ignore evil, pretend it doesn’t exist, or silence my tongue when it comes to combating wrong. “Mock the devil, and he will flee” is an important quote; you don’t hide from horror, you challenge it at its core.

Earlier I said that 95% of the audiences laughed at my baby-doll joke. Regardless of whether or not people laughed, this is how it ended:

“If you don’t like what I’m saying, you know what you can do, right? Change society. Every one of my examples was pulled from a newspaper. If you teach young parents how to deal with colicky babies, maybe there wouldn’t be as many people shaking them. Be realistic when it comes to drugs; don’t lump pot in with heroin. Allow people their vices and get them counseling when they need it and don’t just throw them in jail, and maybe we’ll have fewer crack babies. Discuss safe-sex with teens so they’ll use more condoms and get pregnant at sixteen less often, and once and for all let’s intervene in the south and tell them inbreeding is NOT OK and we’ll have fewer Siamese Twin babies!”

The last part was said with a flourish, to emphasize the absurd and generate another laugh. I didn’t want to end on anything “serious,” as I was already being fairly preachy from the pulpit. Though I don’t like spoon-feeding my thoughts to people, even those who didn’t like the first half of the doll joke up top understood where I was coming from by the end. It would be nice if people gave you the benefit of the doubt regarding intent, but that’s sadly not always the case.

Oh, and about ten years after I retired it, Family Guy aired an episode with an extended gag about a high school girl throwing her baby into the dumpster while at prom.

I love being ahead of the curve.

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