Friday, June 17, 2011

Morgan Words

Louie CK continues his defense of Tracy Morgan, insofar as people demanding that he lose his livelihood and beg for mercy from every single person in America -- and I'm not patting myself on the back or anything, but is there an echo in here?

"Well I've said a lot of things that were worse than what he said. I have my things that make it OK for people when I say them. I have my irony and different levels that I'm working at, so that makes it OK for people around me, for people that come to my shows. And people heard this Tracy shit mostly third-hand. He didn't stand on a public stage and say this stuff. He didn't make these announcements: 'Here, America, are my views.'

Where you say something makes a huge difference about what you say and what it means and what you let yourself say. There's a lot of times when I let myself channel bad ideas as a way to do comedy. I think it's something that's a healthy thing to do, honestly. And I think the person who really fucked people up and hurt people with Tracy's words was whoever took it out of that Nashville club and put it on the national stage--whoever called Huffington Post or whoever started this shit, and said, 'Guess what Tracy Morgan said,' and announced it to the rest of the world. He wasn't trying to say it to the rest of the world.

So when I read stuff like, How are gay people going to feel when they read this? Well they didn't have to read it! They weren't part of that show. Maybe there were gay people there who were laughing. You don't fucking know. Nobody gets to say that they represent anybody and they're offended on behalf of the whole world. You can see this shit really bothers me. I didn't carefully inspect what he said.

I heard some of it, and it made me laugh. I didn't get the context, but I have to defend it, because if I was in his role, if I was in his situation, which I might be someday--which I already am for having said something on his behalf--I would want someone to step forward and say something. This is a freedom that I live off of. I think, whatever, if Tracy made a mistake, he certainly didn't deserve all of this.

And I don't know him well, but he's a good guy. So I'm using that judgment, of just, hey, I met him and he's a good guy. And I get a sense of him as a father, and there's no way he would stab his kid. It's a dumb thing to take at face value. You'd have to be a moron. And if you do, you are not allowed to laugh at any more jokes. You are not allowed to laugh at any jokes that have any violence or negative feelings attached to them, ironically or otherwise.

I think there's a lot of hypocrisy in that. If anybody thinks that what he said is true and there's no comedy in it, don't come to my shows. I've said to many audiences that I think you shouldn't rape someone unless you have a good reason, like you want to fuck them and they won't let you. That's worse than what he said! And I didn't wink and say, just kidding. I just said it."

Louie's comments are responded to over at the Atlantic right now by writer and editor Ta-Nehisi Coates, by any measure a very bright guy. He makes some good points, certainly: the fact that Tennessee, where Morgan was performing when he went on his rant, is currently advancing a bill that many say is virulently homophobic and that the state has a history of antagonism toward gays and lesbians definitely adds a different dimension and context to Morgan's comment. That's worth considering. Did Morgan believe his crack would somehow find a friendly audience in Tennessee? For the record, I don't think that thought process entered into his decision to make the joke, but I doubt anyone will ever know with certainty one way or the other.

Also, I've thought quite a bit about Coates's hypothetical regarding Larry the Cable Guy; I've wondered what I would think if a comic like him had made the same crack -- would I have suddenly found it much more offensive? I can honestly say that while I'd of course immediately imagine the context of Larry the Cable Guy telling that kind of joke in Tennessee, I'd still want to see and hear it for myself before I knew for sure just what happened -- and more than that, I'd still defend his right to say it because it would be grossly dishonest for me to give a pass to one comic without allowing for the possibility that another comic might be trying for the same kind of irony, shock, or general statement, even a Larry the Cable Guy (who may, in fact, be the most brilliantly subversive comic working today given that he's been cynically exploiting a substantial portion of his audience through full-time performance art for years now). Demanding that some topics or statements be completely off-limits for comedy is still a demand and it's still wrong, regardless of who you're issuing it to.

All of that said, I still think that Coates, while admirably thoughtful, still kind of misses the main point that Tracy Morgan made a joke, and one that may very well have lost subtlety -- and gained malevolence -- through translation by an indignant intermediary.

And as for Morgan himself apologizing and not challenging the negative characterization of what he said -- that's a statement that begs the question.

An angry mob is calling for his head -- what the hell do you expect him to say?


B8ovin said...

I'm sure there are good points on both sides of this issue and I've thought it through very carefully. Bottom line: if my son told me he was gay I'd stab Tracy Morgan's son as well. That is the result of this kind of loose talk; once an idea is planted it just kind of takes over...

Anonymous said...

I kind of wish Tracy had just said "fuck you if you can't take a joke". By apologizing he's legitimized the complaints which - as you have pointed out - are ridiculous.

Mart said...

"You are not allowed to laugh at any more jokes."

What more is there to say?

Anonymous said...

Except the guy who was offended originally *was* at the show.

CK and you are the ones who are going through intermediaries of what was said and how it was received.

And why the fuck shouldn't he be pissed? I couldn't give a shit since I can't stand Morgan's act anyway. But really, you gotta get this "mr principled" bug outa your ass.

He can say what he wants and those that are pissed off can saw wtf they want to say. quid pro quo.

Chez said...

Congratulations, that "argument" didn't make one bit of sense and you're apparently too dense to notice. As for principled, believe me, I'm not -- but just for the hell of it, go fuck yourself anyway. : )

Joe Dixon said...

Okay, let me take up where Anonymous left off. Here is what he wrote:

1. "the guy who was offended originally *was* at the show."

That's a true statement.

2. "CK and you are the ones who are going through intermediaries of what was said and how it was received." Isn't that also true?

3. "He (meaning Morgan) can say what he wants and those that are pissed off can say wtf they want to say." Isn't that also true?

Your Response: "that "argument" didn't make one bit of sense and you're apparently too dense to notice. Go fuck yourself."

Well, I'm afraid he is not the only one who is too dense. If you can just explain why his comment is so horrible I'd appreciate it.

With this and your Leave Obama Alone post, you've certainly left me in the dust.

According to you if you call a homophobic routine homophobic your giving aid to an angry mob AND if you say bad things about the Nobel Peace Prize winner who is currently
engaged in 3 wars then you are handing your enemy a victory.

How are both these things not a call for people to just sit down and shut up? Because if my ancestors did things "in a way that recognizes political reality" slavery and Jim Crow would have ended a lot later than they already did. Hell, "political reality" said a black freshmen senator with a Muslim name wouldn't get elected president.

So political reality-near as I can tell-is kind of an excuse to do nothing or keep the status quo.

And speaking of the status quo, returning to Tracy Moragn, it's pretty common for bigots to cry victim whenever someone calls them on their bigotry.

For years gays have been the target of jokes and easy laughs at comedy shows. Now they don't take it anymore and all of sudden homosexuals are a raving mob out to kill free speech? That's bullshit.

Chez said...

Jesus, I'm so tired of arguing this stuff. The problem with anonymous's point, Joe, is that the guy who was at the show took it upon himself to become the intermediary -- and I have nothing to go by but his indignant take on what happened. He was offended, which is completely within his rights, but he then spread the joke to everyone and a whole lot of people who weren't there and didn't see or hear it are suddenly offended as well. Yes, actually, both Louie CK and myself are getting the whole thing through an intermediary; the difference is that, I guess, we understand that something can get lost in translation. I'm not saying that Tracy Morgan absolutely meant no ill will by what he said -- I'm saying that I don't know because I wasn't there to hear it and you start treading on dangerous ground when you try to allow one person to determine what is and isn't funny and what can and can't be joked about. Humor is 100% subjective. Now do you get it, Joe?

As for Obama: I am really fucking tired of talking about this. There are things I absolutely can't stand that Barack Obama has and hasn't done. I'm not happy with Libya, for starters, and I truly despise the fact that he basically turned Wall Street back over to the same people who gangbanged the global economy. The problem is that those who constantly beat him up while calling themselves Democrats, progressives, liberals, whatever, do so at their own peril -- and I don't give a crap how you parse it, that's an unavoidable fact. Once again, it's not about a never holding his feet to the fire, it's about doing it wisely -- with an understanding and acceptance of political reality. You wanna be a fucking Firedoglaker, howling at the moon about how Obama's a criminal and we need Nader/Kucinich in 2012 -- and that's not as much of a straw man argument as you'd think -- that's fine. Just don't be shocked when the guy who gives you part of what you want gets thrown out on his ass in favor of a guy who gives you nothing that you want -- and laughs in your face, at your self-defeating political ineptitude, while doing it.

Oh, and speaking of "bullshit," gays who have a problem with homophobic language or action have every right in the world to speak up against it. Again for the cheap seats, though: you start targeting stand-up comics who've made a career out of offending everyone just because they offend you -- and you coerce people into behaving by threatening to take away their means of making a living and by turning them into a cultural pariah -- and yeah, you're one step away from being an angry pitchfork-wielding mob. But then, I've said this -- over and over again.

John Foley said...

My biggest problem with Tracy Morgan's stand-up routine is that it's just horrendously unfunny. Seriously. He's great on 30 Rock and late night talk shows, but terrible at stand-up. If his act had been funny he'd probably be under a lot less scrutiny. Look at Eddie Murphy's live act from the early 80's. Tons of homophobic language in that routine. A shocking amount. But this was Eddie Murphy back when he had his fastball, and he somehow made it seem palatable. It's all in the presentation.
I wasn't at the show in question, so I can't speak for the reaction of anyone present. From what I gather the reason it was so disturbing is that Morgan made a convincing case that he really DID feel this way; that he wasn't just being outrageous. If he really does think that shit, fuck him. Not that I think he should be fired for it. If you really knew what these celebrities thought about shit behind closed doors you'd want them all to be fired.

Joe Dixon said...

@John Foley

Actually Eddie Murphy AND Sam Kinison were attacked for their homophobe. And in the case of Sam, to his credit, he owned it. He said gays were not his audience. He didn't care what they thought.

What guys like Chez don't understand is that most comedians (including Tracy Morgan) want it both ways. They want to be able to say whatever they want AND they want everyone to love them for it. And if you don't love them then you're just part of the PC police with no sense of humor.

The truth is if you're going to get on a stage and talk shit then you should fess up to it. Don't hide behind that 'it's just joke' garbage when you've got chuck after chuck of material attacking or mocking gays (or blacks or women or what have you). You said it, own it motherfucker.

Maybe some people are willfully blind but the rest of us know what you're doing. So go ahead and knock whatever group you want but don't, the moment you get heat for it, turn around and say how much you love the group you just shat on. Bad enough to be a bigot, but don't be a disingenuous bigot.

Chez said...

Thank God I (and those philistines like me) have you and the proverbial "rest of us" to educate me, Joe. Where would the unwashed be without you?

You're entitled to your views and I thank you for at least having thought this through, but I'm done debating it. I've made my point about as clearly as I'm going to and I'm not going to bother repeating myself yet again.