Thursday, June 16, 2011

Losing our sense of proportion

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been hearing Republicans bang the drum for less regulation of big business. Personally, I’m for less regulation, but I think those bastards in big business can suck it. I’d like to see less regulation for small and medium-sized businesses. Here’s my thought process, the amount of regulation you should be under should be in direct proportion to the amount of hellation you can cause if you screw up.

For instance, here in Texas, if you were a mom who wanted to start a small business from you home baking fresh muffins and selling them to your family and friends on the side to make some extra cash – forget it. The requirements you’d have to meet in order to do it are beyond crazy. And that applies to church bake sales, 2nd graders’ lemonade stands, farmers’ market stalls and your friendly neighborhood tamale lady. Say the worst happened and the muffin mom made a bad batch, how many people could she really hurt? A dozen? Two dozen? On the other hand, a Texas company like Enron faced so little regulation that they were able to nearly bankrupt California by creating an energy crisis, and then bankrupt the retirement savings of thousands of Americans who were invested in Enron stock.

I can’t help but think the balance of the scales is somewhat off. In an age where Wal-Mart thrives, mom and pop stores crumble. But somehow, I’m supposed to feel sorry for Wal-Mart. We should all just leave Wal-Mart alone. Sorry. No. I think those bastards can take care of themselves. I like small businesses. I think America was a better place when there were more of them. We cut big business big slack, but make it nearly impossible for the little guy to get a break. It’s like walking past a homeless guy to hand Donald Trump a dollar.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


So. Tracy Morgan and the homophobic rant. Wow. I’ve read some of the verbatims from the routine, and it seems pretty hate-filled. Granted, tone can make things sound different than they read on the page. But still. It sounds like an episode of “When Comedy Goes Wrong.” See Michael Richards.

The thing is comedy has an ability to illuminate peoples’ anxieties, hypocrisies and pre-conceptions. Many comedians work that line really closely, between discomfort and laughter. But comedy is also many bullies’ weapon of choice. Couching a putdown as “a joke” and if you can’t take being attacked, it’s your own fault. Many of the edgier comedians work a line of anger into their routines. When you combine that high volatility of anger and race or sexuality or gender, things can go wrong. It’s a risk you take when you’d rather be Richard Pryor than Jerry Seinfeld. I think that the fact that the audience was really uncomfortable is a measure that probably Tracy Morgan’s routine crossed the line. Sometimes it’s only a vibe, as hard as that is to define, that makes the difference between “I can’t believe I’m laughing at this” and “I want my money back.”

Hopefully, this will end up having a positive result. It looks like the LGBT community is standing up to this instance of bullying in an assertive manner. And for the most part, comedians are intelligent, reflective and sensitive (the ones who aren’t don’t usually make it very far). And if they are able to work with Tracy Morgan in a way that discusses the issues he was talking about in an open manner, it might have a positive influence on relations between the black community and the gay community. Something that years of people calling out black basketball players for using the word “faggot” has never been able to achieve.

And for Tracy’s sake I hope he’s able to get this figured out. My gay friends are some of the most rabid consumers of standup comedy I know. I mean they consistently go to comedy clubs and theaters to actually see standup comedians. I’ll just say it. The gays love the standup. And they are a pretty sophisticated audience who can tell the difference. If they can take the kind of s### that Lisa Lampanelli dishes, they do know how to take a joke. And when it’s just not funny.

TIME: Quotes of the Day