Crossing The Line – Whose Line?

January16/ 2000

….. I love it when the daily headlines dramatically illustrate a point and I get to point out that point.   David Feherty and Wanda Sykes?  Not exactly household names but both fringe provocateurs are in their Andy Warhol 15 minutes this week.   Half of America thinks one of them “crossed the line” but America can’t agree WHOSE LINE.

I know all about “crossing lines”.  Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it.   I probably do “it” here on occasion but this website does not invade anyone’s world.   Whenever I, or any one, appear before a live audience the onus is on the performer to gauge the audience’s “line”.  Misgauge and you know it …… the temperature in the room drops 20 degrees and/or a rabid Jabberwock rushes the stage or both.

With Bill Cosby or Larry The Cable Guy you would think their audiences know in advance.  Bill Cosby has been doing “Bill Cosby” for 40 years.    There’s A REASON he still sells out every show after 40 years.  LTCG has been a headliner for only about 5 years.  Chances are not every member of his audience is ready for redneck “crotch humor”.

Back to Feherty and Sykes ……. David Feherty wrote a column in D Magazine that included a line about shooting Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.   Left-wingers went bonkers to absolutely no one’s surprise.   The micro % of people who read Feherty’s column immediately mushroomed to numbers in the federal bailout range.   Libs are calling for Feherty to be gutted and his entrails sealed in a nuclear waste dump. ….. Wanda Sykes meanwhile picked up a bunch of new club bookings.

 Wanda Sykes was this year’s obscure comedian at the White House Correspondents Dinner this past weekend.   This is an annual DC affair at which a designated obscure comedian gets to prove why they are obscure.  Don Imus made a mess with his turn several years ago.  Craig Ferguson was last year’s obscure comedian.   Craig who?

Wanda Sykes is a potty-mouthed C-list club comic currently in the cast of The Old New Christine or The New Old Christine.   Her on-site audience was predominately mainstream liberal media types, and Barack Obama, so she did a bunch of acidic comments about Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.  Her audience, including the President, ate it up.   Her comments, like Feherty’s, of course, made it immediately to the Internet.  Apparently “the lines” were at different places for the two audiences.  Duh!

I guarantee you Feherty has told his “two bullets” joke many times in Men’s Grill Rooms across America to accompanying chortles.  It is a classic joke set-up – “guy walks into a bar” ….. “three people, two parachutes” ….. “four people in a life raft – the Pope, Bill Clinton, Jack Bauer and Paris Hilton ….”.  there are only about six scenarios that every joke is a hybrid of.

An audience of 30 middle-aged white guys in a country club bar ain’t exactly a slice of Americana circa ’09.  Neither is your basic D Magazine subscriber.  (NOTE:  I love D Magazine and Texas Monthly and have for years.)

Wanda Sykes knew the DC event could jumpstart her “Wanda who?” career.  She knew she would be given full pardon regardless of what she said.  That the POTUS would “bless her” by leading the laughter said as much about him as sitting in the front row for Jeremiah Wright’s sermons for 20 years.

Feherty never imagined his comments would ignite a national outrage.

Wanda Sykes hoped and dreamed that hers WOULD.  

Here’s the litmus test …… If Sykes had told the VERY SAME joke that Feherty did but used Rush and Sarah Palin instead of Reid and Pelosi …. She would still be applauded and Feherty condemned.  Civility may be dead in America but Hypocrisy is thriving quite well thank you.   “Free Speech” is what I can say about you and yours.   “Hate Speech” is what you dare to say about me and mine.

In a different time in American history, both Feherty and Sykes would have stopped well short of the respective ”lines” they both crossed according to which 50% of America you happen to be comfortable in.   Them days is long gone.  I wish they weren’t but they are.

Provocative and outrageous “sells” in 2009.  …… if you know you have the mainstream media in your pocket.  Feherty didn’t.  Wanda Sykes did.  Accept that reality.  It is going to get even more acrimonious in the days/years to come.  These will be “the good ol’ days” two years from now.

I have read dozens of on-line stories about the comments.  Reader comments to every story were exactly the same.   “They” have no right to say those things about me and mine …… but it’s OK for “us” to say those things about “them” because, doggone it, it’s “TRUE”.   Ahhh “true” …. that silly putty word again.

Hopefully there will be no “risque photos” of either David or Wanda to be leaked to the media.

You want to know about the times I “crossed the line” don’t you?  One was obviously in South Dakota when I misjudged the sensitivity of a local situation, which set off the rabid Jabberwock.  My ignorance of a local situation reduced the crime to a speaking misdemeanor rather than a felony.

The other time was several years ago while speaking to a chamber of commerce in a small town in eastern NC.   I mis-overestimated their level of topical sophistication.    I “assumed” with the Internet and cable TV now days that everyone “gets it” the same way.  They don’t.  Again, the onus is on the performer, not the audience.

There is a credo …… “if they don’t laugh, it ain’t funny”.    That has several meanings that anyone who speaks in public will understand.  Pissing off people is very easy these days.   Entertaining people is getting progressively harder.

David Faherty will likely be fired from CBS.   Corporations will be reluctant to hire him for outings as he will be PC-toxic.  Wanda Sykes will draw larger crowds in comedy clubs for the next six months.  There is a reason I never have / never will work comedy clubs.  Those are Wanda Sykes-kinda audiences …… not BobLee’s.

Folks like me, and many of thee, are “ganders” …… and the “geese” occupy the high ground these days.  That is simply how it is in 2009.  If you don’t like it you can always change your basic values and core beliefs.


What is Larry The Cable Guy’s real name?

(go ahead and google it, its a fun fact)


The two other reprimanded golf analysts were Ben Wright and Gary McCord.  Both middle-aged white guys.  Huumm, what does that tell you?

I just reread this column.  What an incredible essay!  I think I’ll quit my day job.  Oops, I already did that.

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