The tricky part about being a comedian is finding the line between edgy honesty and senseless offensiveness. (Unless you’re Louis C.K. and then you can say whatever you want, my ginger boo.) Exercising unrelenting observation against an unbiased spectrum of topics can push your audience into a realm of discomfort that is somehow wonderfully entertaining. But increasingly, “comedy” and “satire” are tired scapegoats (no one likes a sleepy scapegoat; gotta always find fresh ones) for people who just want to say rabidly offensive things, and to the credit of discerning audiences, the whole shock jock game is getting boring.
A pretty undeniable example of someone we just shouldn’t tell jokes about: Trayvon Martin. If you can’t quite put your finger on why that name fills you with sadness-soaked rage, he was the unarmed 17-year-old who was gunned down almost a year ago while walking to his Florida home by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, by the by, walked free for weeks while Florida fumbled with its “Stand Your Ground” law, which is something of a Get Out of Jail Free card, literally, for people claiming to have acted in self-defense. His trigger-happy self goes to trial in June. So, in a nutshell: a senseless hate crime whose perpetrator was validated and protected by a ridiculously broad pro-gun law, despite a mountain of stark evidence that he had simply gunned down a kid for no reason. Not really fodder for funnies.
We want comedians who can do more than prey on our common decency until we’re disoriented enough to believe we’re amused. Similarly, among politicians, we want someone who is confident and opinionated enough to push forward past the line of legislative lemmings, not someone who is contrary for the sake of being contrary. Or in this case, just a run of the mill Internet troll.
Oh, did I not mention that tactless “comedian” here is a not a comedian at all, but rather the former executive director of South Carolina’s Republican Party, Todd Kincannon?
On February 4th, Kincannon decided to give all our spare hatred a home when he started running off at the Twittermouth about Trayvon Martin:
But it’s not all bad news (actually it is, but I’m gonna give this “ending on a good note” thing a whirl). Arguably the most tragic part of things like the Trayvon Martin killing is how quickly such injustices drift from the public consciousness. How many people had forgotten about Trayvon before Todd Kincannon’s inflammatory Twitter purge? So if you’re feeling optimistic, maybe choose to believe that reigniting public outrage over something we should absolutely still be outraged about was Mr. Kincannon’s endgame all along. Maybe he was offering himself up as a martyr for remembrance. Maybe #RememberTrayvon was the un-hashtagged hashtag on all those tweets. I mean, that’s probably (definitely) not true, but wouldn’t it be nice?