Comedy and I are Just Plain Mean

OK, I haven’t been able to be helped. I can’t hear anyone, and they can’t hear me; what I intend when I speak, and what I think my carefully chosen words are supposed to convey are not getting through. I know you have to consider the source, but honestly, the folks in my life don’t even know or care what it may be that I am supposed to be the source of. It would be awesome, relatively, to be understood and rejected consciously for once. At least then we’d be speaking the same language.

I’ve never raised a hand to anyone, man woman or child since my youth, and hardly then, and never at all with the people in my life here, this last marriage and pair of children. All these women, however and more as well, have judged me “angry,” and it must be for the way I talk, because all I did with any of those women is talk to them.

I have anger, of course I do.

I’ve had a life, troubles, enemies, frustrations . . . it’s largely a cliché, the social justice warrior that starts by wanting to make things better and ends by him stomping around pissed off his whole life, no fun at all. Plus I have my own issues, I feel misunderstood. What I do not have is some huge reservoir of misogynist rage that anyone should fear.

I must look like I do, though, or smell like it.


. . . missing link in here . . .


I see an analogue in comedy, male rage and “just talk,” and that idea I find uncomfortable, so it may be personal, the same sort of stuff I do.

I’m starting to tweet cryptic stuff like this –

Replying to @jefferiesshow

I so want to love this guy – but I kinda loved Louie, and now I don’t know if I can ever truly love again, but Holy Crap is Jim funny. If I outlive him and there’s nothing awful in the biographies, then I can love him, I guess . . . fuck you, Louie CK, on a personal level.

I feel Louie CK personally embarrassed me, I’d been lauding him, praising his fucking bravery or something, and so his exposure is my exposure, if he’s a scumbag then I am a lover of scumbags, and I don’t like to think of myself in those terms, I want to say ‘obviously,’ but maybe not so much. There’s a surprise in a joke, that’s what makes it a joke, and shock is maybe 50% surprise, but if that’s the proportion, shock is also 50% aggression, and I have lived my life trying to be “edgy” like that too.

I  wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, at least not consciously, or so I thought.

I’ve heard a handful of things from comedy and comics since Louie’s disgrace that have unsettled me terribly about comedy generally and comedians somewhat less generally – of course I mean about me. These things wouldn’t be upsetting if there weren’t a string in me vibrating in harmony, would they? I tend to globalize but globalizing is just over-synthesizing, when you go from making new connections to identifying a larger concept to explain them. Turning that upside-down might make it clearer, if it can’t be globalized, it’s either not fundamental, or it’s just not true. What I’m afraid I am presently synthesizing is this odd list here:


  • And old one, I couldn’t bear Seinfeld, and the Jason Alexander character in particular, it felt too embarrassing to watch, so I’m afraid that’s me or something. Again, this was an old feeling that has morphed. Now I just see Seinfeld as negative, as normalizing bad behaviour, and I think I’m on the other side of this one, I think that only I found Seinfeld . . . traumatic. As far as I know, at least. I’m the victim, at least as far as Seinfeld is concerned.
  • Louie CK, mentioned above. It was exactly his treatment of “taboo sex subjects” that I was impressed with, and then it turned out he really meant it and now the theory seems corrupted by the practice and I want to turn conservative! Don’t talk about that stuff! Suddenly, the “edge” is not cool.
  • Something Bobcat Goldthwaite said on Norm MacDonald, about how women say they like a funny guy, but that comedians’ girlfriends aren’t prepared for the guy who’s in the bathroom crying and masturbating at the same time . . . “we’re not fun, we’re sick” was pretty much the message.
  • I’m sorry, the Gilbert Gottfried movie, and so very sorry, Gilbert himself. I loved him too for the bravery, the wildness – the masturbation bit at the Oscars, was it? “Your puny weapons can’t hurt me!!”? I loved him, and what he went through after he went over the edge about the tsunami was awful, and one thing the movie did was let me know we did it to him, I did it to him, teased him to the edge with money and such and then watched him go over it and shunned him. That may have been what the film was about and it worked, but for me, in tandem with all this other stuff and dark worries about my own complicity in awful jokes, what came on slow and isn’t going away is that Gilbert went over the edge and apparently never knew it, that there was no calculation, that he himself cannot tell the difference between the sort of pain laughter applies to and the sort it doesn’t, or shouldn’t. I don’t want to elaborate, don’t want to theorize or talk shit. I simply found it disquieting and dark. Not fun, sick, was the impression that stayed.
  • Norm MacDonald and his podcast figure in a general way, the show is very adult and usually very male, I watched a bunch of it last year, and it added to this growing concern. I went over the edge, repeating a paedophile joke I heard on there, that added greatly. I’ve stopped watching since this idea took hold. That entire story is coming up soon.
  • I didn’t know he was dying, and I know he was famously combative, and no, there is nothing untoward in Barry Crimmins’ comedy. He only gets into this for the combativeness, for the alpha-dog attitude. I foolishly picked up an easy roast he’d left lying there on Twitter, before I understood that Barry Crimmins could leave himself wide open to Jeff Ross and the entire roasting world and no fool would touch it if he wanted to live! He bit my head off, as he does so well, he was a lion, I am not complaining about Barry, I worship him still. What I learned in that encounter was my own aggression. I went after him with that joke, as I do, as I did in my nuclear family, around the dinner table! Who the fuck did I think I was, was his point, and now it’s mine too, but not only why did I think I belonged in that room, but why did I want to be in that room? For a laugh, I’m insulting someone like that, someone worth a hundred of me, someone I personally appreciate? (He said something about being a better person, and I jumped in with some shit about at least a better comic. I didn’t mean it about him, he was plenty good, I thought it was a joke . . . but it was very direct, wasn’t it, a straight up attack on the guy’s livelihood, on his skills. Just now, I realize, it would have been the same joke if I had said at least a better driver or something, a better anything.) Why did I go straight for the jugular and expect him to enjoy it? This is me, pleased to meet you, and I’m sorry. What it adds to my sense here, is that comedy is aggressive. Even when I do it.
  • Black comics, race comedy, for some probably racist reason, I love that stuff. I thought Karlous Miller on Roast Battle Two was sublime. Chris Rock’s “Black man have to fly to get where a white man can walk” was a perfect joke, truth and surprise . . . but I am seeing hints that perhaps I have chosen another flawed hero there . . . and no doubt, because that seems to be my taste. If anyone hears any awful shit about Dave Chappelle or Neal Brennan, please don’t tell me. I just watched Eddie Griffin: Undeniable and I loved it, but it challenged me, challenged my self-image as not racist a bit. He based a joke on his having children all over, and the raw biology of it shocked me. I don’t think it was true, but the premise was so . . . raw, made me gulp. I can imagine the critics, you can’t deny his power, dude is awesome. Maybe the strongest show I’ve seen.



I have said some awful shit, repeated some horrible shit.

This may as well be a confession all the way through. I was born in 1960, I saw all the stuff about the Manson murders, watched the movie, read Bugliosi’s book in my teens . . . I’ve been “edgily” quoting Manson, that one about you beat a man with a whip, he likes a whip, maybe other ones. In my defense, Helter Skelter portrayed it as a one-off hippie phenomenon. Honestly, I somehow blocked out the sight of the swastikas in my youth, until we started seeing them again recently. I probably used that line within the last two years, and never thought about what sort of a man beats what sort of a man with a whip. My focus has been about the beating, and the whip, not who the men were, but I am an asshole, and I’m sorry.

I’m gonna shift gears again.

I have been punishing my sister with shocking, awful sexual jokes forever, and I haven’t known why, it was this intrusion from my unconscious, and a horrible trait I share with my father, a family villain. It’s been unconscious, never planned, and an awful mystery to me, until I realized that I have been getting nothing from her my whole life, that I have been unable to see that to her, I’ve always only been some male and always the problem in her mind, and that this has been my revenge, my fighting back to her inconsideration of me. She never saw me as having believed her and grown up feminist, she only saw Dad or something. We were sixty before I ever experienced her considering my feelings at all, and when she finally did, I finally saw what I’d been missing. That’s been hurting, so I’ve been hitting back.

I’ve been trying to hurt her, to make her see she’s been hurting me, unconsciously. Once she allowed my feelings once, I saw it, and I could apply my conscious response to it – shunning, at least so far. I’ve got to figure some shit out before I walk back into that lifelong trauma.

I think this may be the primary case of me trying to shock people, I think when I’ve done it to others, it was always this, always me fighting my sister.

I mean, a case can always be made for a joke, there is usually a way to explain it and make it sound sort of moral. Case in point, a tweet I loved and slapped my sister with in a moment of unconscious sibling bullshit –

“I saw Mommy sucking Santa’s whole damn dick!”

The argument can be made that it’s all surprise, that it’s Mom and Dad, and Mom sucking Dad’s dick is perfectly fine, except maybe to the young kid seeing it and putting it to music, a childhood trauma that maybe shouldn’t be, primates do that sort of stuff . . . but telling that “perfectly fine” joke to someone for whom the idea of Dad’s dick is perhaps personal and traumatic . . . not cool. This is why we’re supposed to try to make the unconscious conscious. I’m the family holdout for that, but therapy and such has been my sister’s life for decades and she didn’t realize she’s been treating me like a guilty little clone of Dad’s all her life either.

I’m under some pressure. She doesn’t deserve any punitive shunning, she’s a had a hard-enough time, I don’t want to be the source of any more pain for her . . . but I couldn’t afford it these last few years, before this realization, when she froze me out after everyone shunned me. I can’t go back there now. I got nuthin’ on the positive side of the ledger, and Lord, I can’t go home thisaway.

The clue, when I realized comedy could be a weapon, was an episode of Norm MacDonald, where comics go to tell us they’ve grown up and mellowed and Norm rubs their nose in some awful, non-PC sexual jokes. It was Bob Saget, and Norm forced this paedophile joke on him, trigger warnings, paedo joke (paraphrased):

Pervert’s driving around town in his ice cream truck, looking for kids, but no-one lets their kids outside anymore, he’s not seeing any and he’s practically downtown, about to turn around when he sees a welding helmet pop up out of a dumpster. Turns out it’s a kid playing in there, so the perv pulls over, talks to the kid and gets him into the truck, letting the kid drive. Young kid, driving, he’s having a great time and the perv starts asking him,

“Hey, you wanna suck my fat juicy cock?”

The kid’s like, “ . . no, driving’s cool” and the perv’s

“Well, how about I suck your cock?”

The kid’s “No . .  .”

The perv’s “How about my juicy cock up your ass?”

Finally, the kid figures something out, the penny drops.

“I see what’s happened here,” He says to the perv, “I’m not REALLY  a welder . . .”

Now, of course, a case can be made, we think the kid is a clueless victim, knows nothing, and in the end, he knows EVERYTHING, including some hilarious fictional stereotype about welders all being gay. That’s what I think I liked about it. But Saget took it like a beating. He had his hands up as if to ward off blows, he was shrinking in his chair, couldn’t wait for it to be over . . . not sure you’re hearing me: SAGET reacted like this, and if all you know is Full House, Bob was really the opposite of that. And if he reacted like that, then the conclusion became sort of inescapable to me. These jokes are brutal, not just metaphorically. Again, it is not zero people who have been in the fucking ice cream truck, Jeff, is it?

I want to apologize for my whole life.

I’ve touched on “women in comedy” elsewhere, in my less personal blogs, but it bears repeating. If comedy were all wit and cleverness, the women would outnumber the men. The fact that men have been ruling this proves that there is more mean than smart to it. I should have been here fifty years ago, if I had a brain, Heinlein took us all halfway there, we laugh because it hurts, that means we tell jokes to hurt people. Michelle Wolf: “I am not a nice lady!”

I hear you, Ms. Wolf. I don’t want to agree with it about you, but I’m a fan and I am a nasty little prick, maybe that reflects back on you. You said it, not me!

I know this is far from done, but I’m not so far from it, and I’m hoping, as often happens, that publishing prematurely will put me under the required pressure to fix it. Failing that, this, and I will be a work in progress.

Apologies and thanks,



Oct. 20th., 2018

22 thoughts on “Comedy and I are Just Plain Mean

  1. Phoebe Sparrow Wagner October 23, 2018 / 10:11 pm

    Dear Jeff,

    Wow, wow, wow…I dunno where to start a reply except to say that you are nowhere near as “bad” as you feel you are, and maybe comedy is fundamentally cruel unless one is making fun of oneself, which may be the only moral or kind way to tell a shock joke…but you just are not the monster you seem to feel you are, or perhaps are being treated as by your family of origin and your own nuclear one.

    I used to like Louie too. I love it when anyone can say, Cunt and get away with it..until of course it turns out that his language was him, and not just a disguise. Many of the other examples of comedians you mentioned I do not know. Gilbert gottleib I do, but not the movie or incident you wrote of…

    But yes, at base, comedy that pokes fun or cruelty at Others, esp The Other, can be and maybe perforce is brutal and unnecessary, I dunno. I do know sarcasm and cruel jokes at our expense was my own fathers modus operandi, but that has not stopped me from enjoying my brother’s jokes, including the sexual ones. I might be the rare asexual person who can take raunch without fleeing. My twin, On the other hand, often joked during our speeches at my expense, which shocked me completely. Not only that but she said things that were jokey and about me, that seemed to reveal a deeper aspect, but were not based in fact. For instance, she would joke with audience my maxing out her credit cards when psychotic, and she would get a good laugh from that, but since I know I never did any such thing, and her husband was the one who did, it did not make ME laugh at all. So there was something either consciously or subconsciously cruel in her telling a story that made fun of me, and I know she does secretly or not so secretly resent me, so I got that part of why she told the joke as she did.

    Often humor appears to allow us to say things that do only hurt two ways about it. I am guilty of that too! But if we cannot also laugh at ourselves for that very human fact, then we are lost! Please know that you truly do only do the best you can…you are the special person who learns from it when “best” is not only not good, but not good enough. I know you learn, and you dear soul have nothing to be ashamed of.



    Liked by 1 person

  2. Phoebe Sparrow Wagner October 23, 2018 / 10:14 pm

    By The way, comedy is mean, often, but I have not seen a cruel bone in your writing body yet!


    • Phoebe Sparrow Wagner October 23, 2018 / 10:18 pm

      Good! You seem awfully down on yourself…without any forgiveness. I feel sad about that..we are all of us just big apes blundering through the world, truly!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Phoebe Sparrow Wagner October 23, 2018 / 10:16 pm

    Ps I laughed out loud at the welder joke, not having any idea that there was a welder and homosexual stereotype, it was simply the boys finesse that tickled me..
    It really would be funny, to me at any rate, whatever profession was chosen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff/neighsayer October 24, 2018 / 3:12 pm

      I loved it too, but I’m going to try to stop telling it, every other listener’s a victim.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff/neighsayer October 23, 2018 / 10:18 pm

    ooh, theory – we have to be unconscious, in an unconscious state, to engage on comedy, because comedy depends on surprise? We have to make sure we don’t see it coming, somehow?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Phoebe Sparrow Wagner October 23, 2018 / 10:21 pm

      The one about he surgeon who cuts the legs off the frog, which then goes deaf… ya know that one?


        • Phoebe Sparrow Wagner October 28, 2018 / 1:17 pm

          Okay, here goes nothing. If I don’t lose the page a second time. But I warn you my standards are LOW for funny jokes.

          A researcher was studying frogs and their reaction to surgery. He keeps a log as he works.
          First he cuts off one of the frogs legs, and says to the frog, “Jump.” The frog jumps, and the researcher carefully makes a note about this in his log. He then proceeds to cut off the second leg, and says, “Jump,” and to his satisfaction, the frog jumps. He notes this in his log as well.

          Okay things are going great, he says to himself, I must continue! So he cuts off the frog’s third leg, tells the frog, “Jump,” and once again the frog jumps! Wow, I must be heading in the right direction, he says, and notes it all in his log. Finally, feeling on the brink of a huge discovery, he cuts off the frog’s fourth leg. He looks with pride on his work, and tells the frog, “Jump.” But this time the frog just sits there. “Jump,” the researcher says, louder this time. But the frog just sits there, does nothing. Omg, the researcher thinks, this really is a big discovery. But I must make certain I am not mistaken. So he yells as loud as he can to the frog, “Jump!!” But the frog simply sits where he is and does nothing.

          The researcher is elated, this is a ground breaking discovery he has made. Carefully he notes it all in his notebook. What he writes is, “cut off fourth leg of frog… And frog goes deaf!”


          Now I’m still laughing as I write this but as you can see, it doesn’t take much, do it?!
          Did you get a small chuckle from this at least?


          Liked by 1 person

  5. Phoebe Sparrow Wagner October 23, 2018 / 10:21 pm

    But I think the joker, the joke teller can’t be too conscious as he or she would then know how cruel or bigoted he/ she was

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Jeff/neighsayer October 23, 2018 / 10:28 pm

    thanks, Phoebe, finished reading now . . . thanks, I’ve definitely been doinf some mean shit unconsciously, though. This is my stab and trying to find whatever male anger is freaking the womens out, you know, from my own search, in some way I can understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Phoebe Sparrow Wagner October 24, 2018 / 10:47 am

    Hi Jeff, I am off to French class soon but wanted to say Hi again. Ya know, we all harbor anger for or against something in our past (or even present) and that is not always a bad thing, but you are right, it is good to be conscious of what stimulates it or us to act on it, so we can both use anger to good effect and not lash out or otherwise wound people we really had no intention of wounding. But I do not see you as ever consciously using anger to hurt and that is a great thing. I guess what I am saying is, we are all human, and people need to remember that even though we all live in our own bubbles believing we are the star of the drama around us, as indeed we are, so too does each other person feel and live that way. I truly believe we choose to tell ourselves the stories that lead to how we react and feel, and that none are carved in Stone. Maybe if we all were more conscious of these internal narratives — that person hurt me on purpose, or I’m a victim of his abuse etc, — and realized we only feel anger or hurt because of them, maybe we could choose to tell ourselves OTHER stories that produce happier feelings and more productive or serene lives. One may have been hurt in fact, but the story does not have to be, I am a victim of that person’s malevolence. No, I’m fact if we stay calm and think about it, we could tell ourselves the story that the other person must have had some unmet need and his or her lashing out had nothing at all to do with us as the person we know ourselves to be, but everything to do with Them, and only them as the star of their drama.

    This is SO difficult to keep in mind, esp when one feels hurt. But the feeling hurt and emotionally wounded has to do again with the story we tell…if we had another different story to tell ourselves about what happened, we might react differently too, and not in fact feel hurt at all.

    Okay, lecture over. But I must say that NVC has really taught me a huge amount, and I no longer believe that suffering is necessary or good for a person. That we really *are* meant to be happy in life, but our stories get in the way.



    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jeff/neighsayer September 14, 2021 / 8:21 pm

    Gawd, this is painful to read again – Norm MacDonald passed today. But it’s hard to read all the crap I confessed to. Small update, I think Chris Rock is OK, whatever was making me worry about him was backwards, he’s anxious, is all. My general fear of comedy remains though.


  9. Jeff/neighsayer September 14, 2021 / 9:38 pm

    It didn’t shock me when I wrote it, it does now.
    I hope that means I’ve learned it. Kinda think it does.


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