The Offendarity Movement

#offendarityIt offends me, deeply, whenever other people are offended. It also offends me when other people are offended that other people are offended by other people’s offensiveness. When one is offended, all should be offended.

We’ve all heard of Solidarity. The time has come for people to stand together in a spirit of “Offendarity.”

Here are a few famous quotes revised to promote the Offendarity Movement.

Four score and twenty offenses ago.

I have a dream, that one day no one will be offended by anyone else.

Ask not what your country can do to stop offenses. Ask what you can do to be less offensive.

We have nothing to be offended by, but offenses themselves.

Give me inoffensiveness, or give me death.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of inoffensiveness.

This offense is your offense. This offense is my offense. From California, to the New York island…

#offendarity

Conan O’Brien and Stolen Humor

"Conan With The Duck" by Gocha Nemsadze

Like the people who wear military uniforms and medals of valor they never earned, many Twitter users steal jokes so that they can pretend to be funnier than they actually are. Instead of stolen valor, they have stolen humor. Conan O’Brien was recently accused of stealing jokes tweeted by Robert Alex Kaseberg and using those jokes in his monologues. Kaseberg is suing for the unattributed use of several of his masterpieces in 140 characters.

I empathize with Mr. Kaseberg because I know how upsetting it can be to hear one’s own joke in someone else’s act. In the 90s, I was getting jokes on a few popular syndicated radio shows. Shortly after It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton was published, I made a joke that the sequel would be titled It Takes a Village Idiot. The joke got on the air in dozens of cities. A few days later, Don Imus was the speaker at the Press Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington D.C. I watched the event live on C-SPAN, and I nearly choked on my corn chips when he uttered the line.

When people write topical jokes they’re dealing with the biggest news stories of the day or week. Because of that, many hit the same topics and write jokes based on the same premises. With topical jokes, it’s possible, and even probable, that several writers will come up with jokes that are similar. Even though my joke was incredibly clever, Imus or someone who wrote for him certainly could have come up with the same line.

Speaking of idiots, I once had a job an idiot could do. And I was very good at it. But I digress.

Familiar themes also serve as premises for jokes. Here’s a joke I used to tell. “If money is the root of all evil, I must be on my way to sainthood.” (I know the Bible verse says “the love of money.” However, that didn’t fit well for the joke.) Over a year after using that joke in my standup act, I saw it in a newspaper comic strip. I didn’t do much comedy outside of Florida and I doubted that the artist had somehow stumbled across my joke. She simply came up with the same joke.

After I published my book, Humor 101: How to Tell Jokes for Power, Prestige, Profit, and Personal Fulfillment, I was accused by someone from New York of stealing one of his jokes. The joke was different, but the premise was the same: A sense of humor is one of the most desired attributes when seeking a relationship. It wasn’t exactly a unique idea. The guy was doing local gigs in New York and he hadn’t had his joke published anywhere. Although he could not figure out how I had gotten access to his joke, he was certain that I had. There was no way to reason with him. He threatened to sue, but nothing ever came of that.

Twitter is a sharing platform. It’s also a stealing platform where many users cut, paste, and take credit for other people’s tweets. That genie is out of the bottle and it’s never going back in. Tweet plagiarism is sometimes referred to as twagiarism. Some twagiarists develop impressive followings. Sammy Rhodes accumulated 130,000 followers and became a Twitter rockstar with his funny tweets. In 2013, he got called out for plagiarism by comedian Patton Oswalt. Rhodes left Twitter for a while, but he’s back tweeting like a canary. Although he occasionally recycles his own lines, there don’t seem to be any accusations of fresh twagiarism.

As I read about Rhodes, I thought up the words tweetaholic and tweetaholism. I believed I had coined two brand new words. Then I Googled those words and found that they’ve been in use for some time, proving my point that more than one person can come up with the same brilliant idea. But again, I digress.

Tweetaholism can be a terrible thing. One tweet is too many and a thousand tweets aren’t enough. (That sentence is based on a line that’s frequently repeated in reference to alcoholism.)

A similar joke here or there doesn’t constitute comedic plagiarism. There have to be several jokes, as there were in the Kaseberg case, or a comedic bit, which is a series of jokes about one topic. For example, I once wrote a bit which was published in the January 2000 issue of The Door Magazine. In 2007, a mega-pastor adapted it for a parody video that got over 100,000 views. There was no attribution and I didn’t even discover the video till 2013.

When I contacted the mega-church about it, the church’s mega-lawyer asserted that my old piece and their video were “very different.” People who steal have no problem lying and denying when confronted. I discovered that Rev. Humongous had also plagiarized my piece in one of his books. The evidence was very obvious in black and white. After I contacted the publisher, they wasted no time inserting my name in a footnote.

Writers need attribution in order to build their livelihoods. Twitter is, and will continue to be, one of the worst places for writers to post anything that they want credit for. Nevertheless, people who write tweets that are good enough to share or steal actually deserve credit for their work.

With topical jokes, more than one writer can come up with the same joke. However, when one writer’s jokes keep showing up in someone else’s act, something is probably wrong. Conan has people who write for him. If the four jokes in question all came from one writer, that person almost certainly plagiarized Kaseberg’s tweets.

Have you heard the one about Conan firing one of his writers?

#stolen humor #Conan #Kaseberg #twagiarism #plagiarism

Birth of a Rainbow Nation

A real rainbow

A real rainbow.

The Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage the law of the land was followed by The Night of the Rainbow, an event that will go down as one of the most momentous in decorating history.  Rainbows materialized everywhere in an uplifting national celebration of diversity, tolerance, and all kinds of love.

From Disney World to One World Trade Center, from Atlanta to Seattle, the colors flew with pride.  The residence formerly known as the White House was magically transformed into a Rainbow House.  How they got those lights installed so quickly after the announcement was nothing short of miraculous!

The Rainbow-ization of the United States is officially underway.  The country has been in desperate need of redecoration for a long time.  The makeover could begin with the motto “E Pluribus Unum.”  That dates back to 1776.  It’s Latin for “Out of many, one.”  The time has come to update to “E Pluribus Rainbow.”

“In God we trust” is another anachronistic slogan which has been on our currency since the ’50s, way back when TVs were black and white.  Many Americans have no idea what black and white TVs look like, and they can’t even imagine the horror of being limited to three channels.  Times have changed, and our coinage should be updated to reflect that.  “In the Rainbow we trust” has the pleasant ring of inclusiveness to it.

While we’re transitioning into a Rainbow Nation, we might as well deal with the colors on our paper money.  Minor changes to the longstanding color scheme have been made in the past decade, but our dollar bills are still hideously dull.  It makes no sense.  Why not be a bit more daring and use the full spectrum of colors?  Imagine how enjoyable spending will be with bills in android green, neon fuchsia, and deep carmine pink.

The design of the American flag has barely changed in two centuries.  Betsy Ross did a fine job with limited resources, but it’s time to move forward.  The thirteen stripes could display truly fabulous colors other than red and white.  Also, the blue field where the states are represented is a space with delicious possibilities. Why couldn’t we try neon yellow triangles and chartreuse lambdas on a turquoise background?  It’s time to be bold and use some imagination.

The Pledge of Allegiance is another holdover from bygone times.  However, with a few minor changes, it can be updated and vastly improved.  “I pledge allegiance to the Rainbow, of the Diverse States of America, and to every color which it includes, one nation, under The Rainbow, with pastels and fluorescent colors for all.”

Other American symbols could stand to be jazzed up as well.  Instead of holding a torch, Lady Liberty could just as easily be holding up a rainbow.  We could have a vivid and shiny Rainbow of Liberty instead of an old gray statue.  Finally, the bald eagle, a scavenger, has been the national bird since the beginning.  Boring!  It should be replaced with a colorful bird.  The peacock, an immigrant species to represent all immigrants, would be perfect.

All Americans are People of the Rainbow now.  Resistance is futile.  Be assimilated or be silent.

Note: This article was first published on the American Thinker website on June 10, 2015.

Wit Privilege and America’s War on the Witless

Give me laughterMark Twain once wrote, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

Wit is not always a laughing matter.  For example, the Sons of Liberty used their wits to pull off one of the most memorable practical jokes in history at the Boston Tea Party.  Also, Ben Franklin disseminated and popularized his philosophy through his bestseller, Poor Richard’s Almanac.  His witty one-liners are quoted to this day by people who’ve never even heard of the book.

Wit privilege refers to societal privileges that benefit witty people in ways that are unavailable to the witless.  It continues to be a potent force in the United States.  The witty elite use jokes and anecdotes to win elections, spread ideologies, and market their services and wares.  All too often, the witless are the butts of the jokes. They are at a severe disadvantage in virtually every area of their sad lives.

Witty people are more likeable, more popular, and have greater social status.  They tend to be cheerful, and they receive more respect and better service across the board.  From bankers to beauticians, from the police to pediatricians, from clerks to computer techs, people who provide services of any kind prefer to do business with funny people rather than the grumpy.

The witty are also considered more attractive than the witless.  That’s why comedians never have problems finding spouses, or second, or third, or fourth spouses.  A review of personal ads will inevitably show that the most desired trait for a potential date is a good sense of humor.  Nobody writes personal ads like this: “Seeking somber person to engage in serious conversation. Must hate laughter.”

Funny folks have greater freedom of expression.  In America, when you’re funny people listen.  The ability to tell a joke can make the difference between being heard and being ignored.  Funny videos are shared far more often than serious ones.  In the entertainment business, people who can make others laugh get more opportunities and are treated better than the humor-impaired.

The disparities between the witty and the witless are evident in the business world as well.  A properly delivered punchline can help a person land a job or seal a deal.  Jokes are also frequently used by the powerful to silence the witless.  The laughter emanating from corner offices may sound jovial, but it also reminds the peons in the cubicles of who is in charge.

Disparities due to wit privilege are rampant in healthcare.  People who know how to tell jokes and enjoy a good laugh live happier and healthier lives.  The witty are able to handle stress and anxiety better than the witless.  Laughter is widely regarded as the best medicine, and the witty get it for free.  The primary reason comedy isn’t part of healthcare is that they want to keep it to themselves.  Meanwhile, people who suffer from humor deficiency pay exorbitant amounts for the prescription and non-prescription drugs they need just to get through the day.

Witty people take their unearned benefits for granted.  When confronted about wit privilege, they deny that it exists or say that it’s not their fault they were born funny.  Furthermore, they have no comprehension of how different their lives would be if they ever lost their sense of humor and had to experience horrors like these:

·      The realization, after they’ve delivered a punchline, that they’ve omitted a critical part of the setup.

·      The inability to produce suitable and timely responses to offensive remarks or insults.

·      Dreaded sympathy laughter due to poor comedic timing.

The roots of wit privilege go all the way back to William Shakespeare.  In Othello, the bard wrote, “They laugh that win.”

Little has changed.  Renowned neurohumorist Karyn Buxman proclaims, “Humor is power.”

Wit privilege has had a profound and disturbing influence in the United States throughout the country’s history.   It is deplorable that humorous people have advantages over people who are not funny and who may never become funny.  People born witless are human beings entitled to the same freedoms and opportunities as the witty.

The longstanding and systemic abuses of power enabled through wit privilege are a form of discrimination which must be addressed.  In the interest of fairness and decency, if an equitable solution cannot be found, the laughter must stop.

Note: This article first appeared on June 4, 2015, in American Thinker.

Rachel Dolezal jokes: When will the laughter stop?

Sponsored by Ocean Hair Restoration!

Sponsored by Ocean Hair Restoration!

When I saw the story about Rachel Dolezal being outed by her white parents, my mind went into joke mode. It was just so ironic that this lady passed as a black woman, got a full scholarship to historically black Howard University, and went on to become a leader in the NAACP and an esteemed educator on black studies. All the hypocrisy made it the perfect storm for a joke. Here’s what I came up with.

“A white woman passing as a black woman? This is the ultimate expression of white privilege. Apparently, white is the new black.”

I couldn’t help myself. The joke just came to me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That was bad. However, I confess that I took it to the next level. I should have kept the joke to myself, but I spread it around. It seemed like too good of a joke not to share. I posted the joke on news websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter. Thousands of people liked the joke. The high I used to get from telling jokes onstage came back. People liked the joke and I was proud that I had come up with it.

A day later, I was suffering with a humor hangover. I shouldn’t have spread the joke, but I was stuck with that. I slipped and now I have to return to the first two steps of Witticists’ Anonymous. I admit that I’m addicted to my own laughter and the laughter of others. Also, I’m coming to believe, again, that it’s wrong to tell jokes that cause discomfort.

Jumping ahead a bit on the steps, I apologize to anyone who may have been hurt by my insensitive joke. Please understand that as a recovering jokester, I’m not perfect and I’m prone to slipping once in a while. However, I’m working the steps. It works if you work it. I’m getting better, one day at a time.

I promise there won’t be any Rachel Dolezal jokes.  No “Rachel Dolezal walked into a bar,” or, “Rachel Dolezal walked into a Denny’s,” or, “Rachel Dolezal walked into a Tea Party conference,” jokes from me.

No sir! I don’t care how good the jokes might be. I’m not going to do it.

Have you heard the one about the white woman who walked into a bar with a former NAACP leader? They were inseparable.

Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Remedial Sensitivity

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the cauldron of boiling water.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the cauldron of boiling water.

Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t play colleges anymore due to political correctness. Neither does Chris Rock. In an interview last year with Frank Rich of Vulture, Rock said, “I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative… Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody.”

In the tradition of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin, comedians love to exercise their wit privilege by telling jokes about anything. They’re essentially wit supremacists who act as if nothing is off limits. Sometimes they push the envelope just to see how far they can go. Louis C.K., Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, Seth McFarlane, Tracy Morgan, Amy Schumer, Dane Cook, Daniel Tosh, and Michael Richards have all been accused of going over the line in one way or another. Radio personalities Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus, and Howard Stern have also been accused of going too far with their humor.

It could happen to anyone who’s trying to be funny. For example, I myself was recently tempted to come up with a few jokes about what happened to Bruce/Caitlin Jenner’s javelin. It just seemed to me that there’s probably a man in a woman’s body somewhere who would love to have Jenner’s old javelin. It seemed to me that it could have been sold or auctioned off on Ebay. However, I realized that jokes based on those premises, which could be extremely offensive to some people, would be way over the line. Thank goodness I figured that out before it was too late.

Just because a joke is funny doesn’t mean that it has to be told or that it should be told. Funny people love their wit privilege, but it doesn’t give them the right to tell jokes that offend and hurt feelings. Comedians and others who earn their livings through humor must have sensitivity for the feelings of anyone who might be offended. They must figure out how to deliver kinder, gentler jokes that won’t hurt other people’s feelings. They simply must. If they cannot do that, the laughter must stop.

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