Going Too Far
by Noah Lugeons
I’ll admit it; sometimes we go too far.
Between the two of us, Heath and I have no moral compass when it comes to humor. We know in a academic way that there are things that are too offensive to make jokes about, but we’re not really aware of what those things are.
When we first started the show I was hoping that my wife could act as a “too far” barometer for us and point out the jokes that were just too over the top, but she had to drop out from that role. Eventually she had to admit that almost every gag in the show was “too far” in her opinion and if we gave her full editing autonomy, I fear the show would often we 6 minutes long.
In editing, I often find myself weighing a particular joke or comment and trying to decided if it’s funny enough to make up for how horribly vulgar it is. I hem and I haw and I almost always err on the side of humor, but once in a while, I do so with trepidation. I include a joke that makes me wince a bit and I just have my fingers crossed that I didn’t just run off 20% of our listeners.
I found myself in such a position while editing episode 14. After already making some horrible and border-line eugenic remarks about inbreeding in the Hasidic community, Heath doubled down with what I suppose may be the most blatantly offensive thing that ever made it passed the editing room. He referenced Chris Rock’s infamous (and hilarious) “Blacks v. Word I Can’t Type Because I’m White” routine.
I tried to put out the fire on the spot by pointing out that his comment was a reference to that routine, but to be honest, that doesn’t exactly diffuse the offensiveness of the joke, it just gives it context. When I was listening back over the headlines and we came to this bit, I stopped it and looked to Heath. He shrugged and grinned so I looked to Lucinda.
“Was that too far?” I asked her.
She also responded with a shrug, “Yeah, but pretty much the whole show is. I don’t know that it’s any more ‘too far’ than usual.”
With took that noncommittal reply as a semi-endorsement so I kept the bit in. And then today when I listened back over it and we reached that part I realized that I probably shouldn’t have. It was funny and if you understand the context fully it’s only kind of racist and only kind of antisemitic, but it’s still kind of racist and kind of antisemitic and it probably didn’t belong in the show.
I haven’t heard anything in response from any of our listeners so I can’t really say where anyone else fell on it, but if you bristled a bit when you heard it, I can assure you that you weren’t alone. Sometimes things seem way funnier when you’re editing after midnight than they do when you’re a little more clear headed.
We will, of course, continue to go too far from time to time. We’ll keep walking the tightrope of pushing the envelope without ripping it, but if you ever get the feeling like we’ve crossed the line from crude obscenity to pointless vulgarity, don’t hesitate to let us know. We need all the help we can get with this moral compass stuff.