Franken Sense

« June 2008 »

Memo to Minnesota: YOU ARE DUMB.

Look, people. I know this is the home of Garrison Keillor and James Lileks, but I didn't think it'd actually become necessary for me to explain comedy to all of you. Thanks for proving me wrong.

You see, comedy is the means by which an entertainer, such as, say, Al Franken up until late last year, provokes laughter in his audience. The primary component in comedy is the "joke", which frequently utilizes shock, surprise, or cognitive dissonance* to generate laughter.

Any comedian with even a half-hearted dedication to his art is required to think and say things outside the narrow median of polite discourse. Why? Because polite discourse ISN'T FUNNY. So if your Senatorial candidate was at one point a comedian, you should not be terribly surprised to find that, at various points, he's written about sexbots, Janet Reno, or the hypothetical rape of Mike Wallace by Andy Rooney.

Yet shocked they were, and shocked they will continue to be, by the idea that a comedian might mine taboo subjects for laughs. Since people are having such a tough time with this, allow me to provide some helpful tips on when you should actually be troubled by a comedian's jokes.

Consider Context: If Al Franken had written his "Porn-O-Rama" article for Readers Digest, it would have been wildly inappropriate. But he wrote it for Playboy. A magazine dedicated to women washing their cars with their breast implants. In those hallowed and sticky pages, jokes about virtual bestiality are well within the pale.<?p>

Make Sure He's Kidding: Some comedians use jokes as an outlet for their inner demons. If Al Franken jokes about fucking a sexbot, it could be because sexbots are funny, but it could also be because he really, really wants to fuck a sexbot. How can you tell? Look for the subtle clues. For example, Franken has his sexbots come from the Minnesota Institute of Titnology. Titnology is a very silly word. People with fetishes have a really difficult time being silly about their fetishes. Ergo, Franken's probably just kidding.

Consider the audience: Republicans slammed Franken for telling this joke. ACTUAL JOKE TIME!

"[To pay me,] send a girl to my room. And they did. But she turned out to be a lesbian. Great! Next time you do that, could you at least send two?"

Know how I can be certain the joke wasn't offensive or homophobic? Well, he told it to the Human Rights Campaign, and nobody kicked his ass. So, while I certainly appreciate Minnesota Republicans taking a break from their constant anti-gay agenda to defend the lesbian sisterhood from Franken's horrible slander, they should consider just fucking off and dying next time.

Did The Joke Get Told or Not?: The 60 Minutes example is the best. Apparently, a 1985 article in New York magazine quoted Franken brainstorming in the SNL writers room about an Andy Rooney sketch. Reportedly, the brainstorming included the following: "And 'I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then when Lesley's passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.' Or 'That's why you never see Lesley until February.' Or, 'When she passes out I put her in various positions and take pictures of her... What about 'I drag Mike into my office and rape him. Right here! I guess that makes me bad.'"

None of that made it to air. It was just comedians throwing ideas around, deciding if any of it was funny, deciding if any of it was usable. You do not get to condemn Franken for this, period. This is how all the comedy you enjoy gets made. Ideas get thrown around, and then whittled down according to what actually makes people laugh and what you can get away with depending on your audience. Also, when state representative Laura Brod says "Rape is not a punch line and it certainly is not funny," she is clearly talking out of her ass, because by any objective standard, Andy Rooney raping Mike Wallace is pretty damn hilarious.

If you don't want to vote for Al Franken because he's a comedian, that's fine. Well, it's not fine, it's stupid. But at least it's stupid and fair. Not voting for Franken because of specific jokes he made as a comedian, however, is completely fucking ridiculous. As a senator, he won't be voting for research into cyber-blowjobs, introduce legislation making lesbian sex legal tender, or ask that Andy Rooney be put on a registered sex offender list, because those are JOKES. And being a senator, as we all know, is a deadly serious and important job held only by citizens of the highest moral character who would never even THINK about sex.

*Unless told by Dane Cook.