Comedy ain’t what it used to be. The days when a comic could say something potentially tasteless or offensive, get a few groans and move on with life by finishing the set and leaving everyone laughing are, essentially, done. Now, people are grabbing video, editing clips and posting them online with inflammatory headlines that send people into fits. Sometimes, the anger is even deserved … though, often, the reaction is much more extreme than warranted. What’s the case in this situation? Well, you decide…
Recently, Samantha Bee, host of Full Frontal, was left sputtering apologies for a segment where she mocked a person for having “Nazi hair.” That person? They’re a cancer patient. Oops.
The segment in question was poking fun at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which, given Bee’s proclivities, ‘had’ to include a Nazi reference. This particular reference included Kyle Coddington, who just happens to be undergoing treatment for stage four brain cancer. Now, there’s every reason to believe Bee’s team had no idea Coddington was a cancer patient. And, in their defense, they found several guys with similar haircuts to mock. Sure, they could have called it “Macklemore hair,” but Full Frontal loves Nazi references, so that’s where they took it.
After it was learned that Coddington was sick, Full Frontal producers scrubbed the clip of the offensive comments and posted an apology of sorts on their Twitter feed:
“We deeply apologize for offending (Kyle Coddington) in our CPAC segment. We only learned of his condition today and have removed him from the piece.”
The next day, Coddington was a guest on Fox News’ Fox & Friends morning show, who asked Kyle to share “the impact this had on your life…”
Impact? Yes, that’s how they framed it. Now, if you think that question might be too loaded or over the top … you would share that opinion with a good number of folks. But not everyone … Like many things these days, opinions were decidedly split. For those ready to be offended, the takeaway was easily, “Liberal comic called a sick kid a Nazi…”
And Coddington’s take? “It’s kind of a half apology… I would say the effects of this go much further than insulting me and the illness itself… It’s just inconsiderate and very unprofessional to lump together anyone with a certain hairstyle or just by the way they look…”
The apology and obligatory on camera response underscore a relatively new dynamic comics of all kinds are facing. In the age of social media, what was once laughed off — even if the bit was in very poor conventional taste — is now a cause for a snowballing public relations issue.
Largely, we’ve become a reactionary culture, some of whom flip out given the slightest provocation. People see or hear something that hits them wrong, even if it’s been stripped completely of context. But it doesn’t stop there. Even long ago videos are being dug up and torn apart by people searching for reasons to be offended.
Tread lightly, or decide going in what level of chaos you are willing to unleash, on yourself and others.
Daniel Palmier is a leading Boston CEO, Real Estate Investment Manager, and Founder of UC Funds.