Home > Podcast Updates > It Was Bound to Happen Eventually

It Was Bound to Happen Eventually

by Noah Lugeons

I got an email yesterday that’s had me a little in the dumps.  It’s something that was bound to happen at some point, but that doesn’t take much of the sting out of it.  I won’t name any names or anything, but a guest I was really hoping to interview on the show just turned me down.  By itself, this is not new.  It’s happened a number of times before.  But this particular guest declined based solely on how raunchy our show gets.

To her credit, she sent a really nice and non-judgmental email in reply to my request, told me she was flattered by the invitation and explained precisely why she was turning it down.  And it wasn’t because we swear too much or make too many dick jokes, but rather because we have no filter when it comes to who or what we joke around about.

In her words;

… [T]he jokes about whores and junkies and Chinese midgets crossed a line for me.  I enjoy and appreciate edgy, scathing humor — but not when it punches down. I’m just not willing to be part of that.

Like I said, it was bound to happen eventually.  It’s a risk that we know we’re taking when we record the really cringe-worthy jokes.  We know that we sacrifice some listeners and inevitably sacrifice some really interesting guests.

I was asked about this in a round-about way on a recent interview on “Rational Talk“.  We were discussing the out-of-whack moral compass of the show and how it’s grown edgier as time went on.  We were specifically discussing Heath’s penchant for political incorrectness, but everything I said of him has become true of me as well.

When we first started the show, I was a lot pickier about what I would and wouldn’t let in.  I never shied away from an opinion, but some of Heath’s more over-the-top racist, sexist, Chinese midgetist jokes wound up on the cutting room floor.  I would talk to him about it afterword and I would offer in defense the excuse that it “went too far.”

But how far is too far?  It’s an arbitrary cultural line and, of course, it’s one that we wanted to cross.  But I wanted to dip my toe in the water of “too far” and Heath wanted to dive in.   And his justification makes perfect sense to me.  If we allow a joke that is “a little” racist but not “really” racist, it’s as though we’re endorsing a certain amount of racism.  It’s as though we’re saying “this much racism is okay.”  But if we allow the joke to live all the way on the other side, it’s impossible to ignore the sarcasm.  It’s impossible not to see how tongue-in-cheek the act is.

Let me be clear, we use our platform to denounce racism, sexism, homophobia and child abuse.  But along the way we joke about racism, sexism, homophobia and child abuse.  And since any joke on any of those subjects “crosses the line”, we cross the line.  And we’ve rejected the notion that it’s okay as long as you swim in the shallow end.

All that being said, I don’t begrudge my would-be guest her decision.  She didn’t say that she we shouldn’t be doing the show, she didn’t say she thought we should tone it down.  She simply didn’t want to lend her name to it.  I admire the principle even if I disagree with it.

Still, would have been a really cool interview though.

Categories: Podcast Updates
  1. February 21, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    I have never taken the “over-the-top” humor to mean that you guys actually hold any mean-spirited feelings toward anyone. Sometimes, I hear it as making fun of the people who do hold such views. Sometimes, as in the ubiquitous “atheists eat babies” sort of thing you’re making fun of the very stereotype the joke plays upon–knowing the stereotype is false is, in fact, what makes the crack funny. When talking about horrific crimes and such, your target has always seemed to be either the direct perpetrator or the cultural/political system that fostered or protected the perpetrator. Those are indeed fair game, I would say, and those who say differently are only listening to the words and not the intent behind them.

  2. Not Magnus
    February 21, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    Can I just say that since she said “punch down” after complaining about midget jokes she has no right to be offended?

    • February 21, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      That comment absolutely made my day. Thanks for that.

    • February 21, 2014 at 4:46 PM

      There is that! 🙂

  3. Barnabus Fakename
    February 21, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    Well put. You explained it so well, I can’t comment further. Just, well put.

  4. February 21, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    The thing that draws me to your show week after week, within hours of its release, is the no-holds-barred attitude. I understand that when someone makes a racist or child abuse or even child rape joke, you are NOT endorsing it. On the contrary, it strikes me that you are highlighting how fucking ridiculous all that stuff is.

    And it’s telling to me that members of a high-class and serious podcast, Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, have no qualms being associated with your show. Which is not to begrudge your potential guest — she has every right to maintain her public image or persona in her own particular manner. But if someone is offended by Chinese midget jokes thrown about on your show AND they made it past the intro sequence, I’m left scratching my head. Seriously, just going TWO episodes back, how does someone who could be so offended get past this single line? “Today’s episode of the Scathing Atheist is brought to you by the new Nazi Surplus wholesaler, Holo-Costco.”

    In short, you just keep on doing your thing, Scathing Atheist crew. I love you and I promote you to all my atheist friends!

  5. Gilberto A Rivera
    February 21, 2014 at 10:19 PM

    If you need to excuse yourself from participating in the show, then…you don’t get it. I have listened in the past and was subscribed to their podcast (SGU). However, my listening time is limited and I’m always on the lookout for shows that are appealing and entertaining to me. After many years, I’ve found The Scathing Atheist and am now very happily subscribed. Not to take away from what a previous poster said about her right or reason not to appear, that’s all well and good. For my valuable time, I rather listen to Noah and his merry band! Thank you and hopefully soon I’ll be able to contribute ($$$) to your excellent, excellent, podcast.

  6. February 22, 2014 at 1:04 AM

    Don’t worry about it Noah. the fact that you cross the line is what makes your show so great. I’m sick to friggin death, no let me rephrase that I am sick to fucking death of having to do a ballet dance around all this political correctness bullshit. now, as athiests we kind of have the spotlight on us trying to show that we are not moral. but the fact is we are more moral than most Christians or Muslims or any other religion I can think of. the problem is we are moral. We are actually moral. not some kind of pretend morality that just lines up with a book. the thing is that the people that everyone thinks Heath and you are offending are not the ones who are bitching about it. so relax dude we are strong with the farce!

  7. bob
    February 22, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    One of the things I have always disagreed with Richard Dawkins on is his idea of “raising consciousness.” The idea is that we can be programmed to react negatively to certain terms, words, and statements. He sites it as a good thing, and we are supposed to cringe at things like “all men are created equal,” or “man evolved in Africa,” for example. I understand where he’s coming from, but it makes me cringe because it smacks to me of just a new dogma. Call it political correctness, raised consciousness, sensitivity to important issues, or whatever, I think dogma, no matter what its source is wrong. Can we live up to being “freethinkers” or are we just going to replace old dogma with new dogma? Having taboos and prohibitions on thought and speech are the tools of religion and politics not freethinking. The best tool of the iconoclast is often comedy. Being exposed to the sacred cows of political correctness in a comedic setting might be able to inoculate us so that we don’t fall prey to new dogmas. Like little kids who hear shit, fuck and damn for the first time, we giggle and ooo and ahhhhhh, but after a thousand repetitions they’re just words like any other words, nothing more nor less. So keep inoculating us against all that shit! and don’t worry about anybody’s dogma.

  8. Darcy
    February 23, 2014 at 2:07 AM

    Love the show, have been laughing at the Ken Ham/Amish Wolverine line for the last few weeks. Some of your jokes do make me cringe, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that you and Heath present as hetero, white men, and so likely have never experienced the every day realities of being a minority. That makes it seem like mockery of the victims. Some of your jokes really undermine your stated objective. Having said that, I think you, Heath and Lucinda are doing a hell of a job piercing the heart of religious stupidity and that your show has evolved over the eps and keeps getting better. Cheers.

    • Magnus the Great Dane
      February 23, 2014 at 7:57 PM

      I would think that living as an atheist in Podunk, Georgia makes you a minority and probably leaves you with less rights and protections than most other minorities.
      Also, just read Christian Nation by F C Rich, worth every second to read and share.

      • YourHeavenIsNow
        February 25, 2014 at 8:48 AM

        Well said, Noah. I appreciate and respect your non-guest’s decision to decline your invitation – and to provide her reasons. I also appreciate the respect you showed her in return. Instead of using your blog as a place to bite back, you used it to start a discussion. And, for what it’s worth, I agree with you one-hundred percent.

        Thanks again for what you do. And for not half-assing it.

        *Off-topic: glad to hear you liked Christian Nation, Magnus. I just bought the Kindle version and it’s next in the queue. Really looking forward to it.

  9. johanges
    February 27, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    Since I don’t know who the person is, this is just speculation in my part, but it might just be that she just wanted to manage her image by not offering an opportunity to be quoted out of context.

    Some women in the skeptical/atheist community has been attacker in all kinds of ugly and abusive manners, and being quoted out of context is just one of the tools used.

    I know this doesn’t follow from what you quoted from her, but sometimes the reasoning behind an action might be more complex than stated.

  10. johanges
    February 27, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    I just wanted to keep this as a separate note…

    My only worthwhile objection to some of Heath’s jokes was that he got repetitive with Jewish scat jokes. We know he has a much broader range than that and it is disappointing when he just stays in his comfort zone. I see that the last couple of episodes (54 was just released] have changed this a bit, but Heath will be even funnier if he can stretch a bit.

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