Ethics Hero: Jerry Seinfeld

One wonderful thing about extreme success combined with middle age is that you can, if you have the integrity, speak unpopular truths without caring who objects. Thus it was the Jerry Seinfeld correctly dismissed as irrelevant and misguided the suggestion that seeking racial and gender balance should be an objective in his comedy shows. In response to a question challenging his Web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee“as too white and male, the comedian said:

“People think it’s the census or something, it’s gotta represent the actual pie chart of America. Who cares? Funny is the world that I live in. You’re funny, I’m interested. You’re not funny, I’m not interested. I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that, but everyone else is, kind of with their little calculating, “Is this the exact right mix?” To me, it’s anti-comedy.  It’s more about PC nonsense than ‘are you making us laugh or not’.”

Exactly. Not that the race and gender bean counters will let Seinfeld escape with an explanation of such obvious common sense. Here’s Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher playing his full hand of gender, race, guilt and quota cards: Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Chelsea Bacon

“Comedy is not assuming zero responsibility over your actions. It is not telling others how to respond. It is not demonstrating the utmost hypocritical behavior in making callous, lazy, ignorant statements and then lashing out aggressively against critics. Comedy is not free from criticism. This is not an echo chamber containing only yourself and a couple other people exactly like you. You won’t need to do any of these things if you want to be a good comedian, or a decent human being for that matter.”

—-Chelsea Bacon, concluding her account of the reaction she received from male comedians and commenters when she criticized what she regarded as gratuitous sexist jokes.

You might want to read Chelsea's piece, Seth...

You might want to read Chelsea’s piece, Seth…

Bacon takes a brave and ethical stand on unpopular topics among comics, such as whether all jokes are defensible regardless of content as long as they make someone laugh, whether rape is ever legitimate joke fodder, whether exploiting minority stereotypes is fair game in pursuit of comedy, and whether it is inappropriate to criticize comedy material at all. Along the way, the dirty little not-so-secret of the gender imbalance in the comedy world also comes to light.

It is a bold and thought-provoking piece, which you can read in its entirely here.

___________________________________

Pointer: Fark

Source: Little Village Mag

You Ask, I Answer: The Kmart Ad

Reader and friend Tim LeVier asks what I think of the following K-Mart ad, knowing, I think, what I’ll say:

He knows, because I’ve said it all before, more than once. The post about Ben and Jerry’s “Schweddy Balls” Ice Cream is essentially on point; just make the appropriate substitutions. Some excerpts:

  • “Ben and Jerry’s new Schweddy Balls ice cream (‘sweaty BALLS,” get it?? HAR!)  is just one more step in coarsening the culture, and an unnecessary one.”
  • “…the only point to naming the ice cream after [the Saturday Night Live joke] is to sneak something crude into plain view. Wow. What an accomplishment.”
  • “The ice cream name is no more or less tasteless, rude and juvenile than naming a New York bar “Buck Foston,” or a TV show called “$#*! My Father Says.” The slobs and foul-mouthed jerks among us won’t rest until everyone talks like sailors and ugliness is everywhere, and they will do it while being applauded by self-styled “liberals” who are really just old-fashioned boors.”
  • “It’s not a big deal any more; the boors are getting their way, because not enough people are willing to endure the guaranteed “Oh, lighten up!” and “Get off your high horse!” sneers that will follow any objections.”

There are those witless and unmannerly among us who will not be satisfied until “fuck” is uttered with abandon in every classroom, lecture hall and public forum, Bill Maher and his ilk calling female politicians twats and cunts is commonplace, and every man, woman, child, debutante and priest is swearing like a sailor. That such discourse is ugly to the ear, destructive to civil interaction and corrosive to wit and language doesn’t trouble these people, probably because they are incapable of better, and want to pull everyone down to their cretinous gutter level. This appears to be Kmart’s target market, and I wish them luck.

Personally, I would rather dumpster dive than patronize a company that chooses to profit from promoting vulgarity.

Ethics Quiz: Truck Nutz vs. Schweddy Balls

Remember Truck Nutz? That may the name of Ben and Jerry's next flavor, if Schweddy Balls catches on...

I’ve been driving or lecturing all day and may be a little punchy.  Yet having last posted on Ethics Alarms about Ben and Jerry’s crude homage to Alec Baldwin (FULL DISCLOSURE: I would be likely to find any homage to Alec Baldwin offensive, since I find Alec Baldwin offensive) and juvenile word-play, I found myself wondering: which is more uncivil and disrespectful, Ben and Jerry’s new Schweddy Balls ice cream, or the large, red, swinging plastic scrotum decorations that some truckers hand at the tail end of their rigs, Truck Nutz?

So that’s your Ethics Quiz, dear readers, as we head into the weekend: Which is more arrogantly disdainful of public decorum, decency, and respect for one’s fellow community members? Continue reading

Ethics Dunces, and Crude Ones at That: Ben and Jerry

Stop, you're killing me...

Sorry. I’m ready to be jeered as a humorless prude.  Ice cream flavors should not be named after gross double entendre Saturday Night Live skits. Ben and Jerry’s new Schweddy Balls ice cream (‘sweaty BALLS,” get it?? HAR!)  is just one more step in coarsening the culture, and an unnecessary one.

The skit was a one-joke parody of earnest NPR cooking shows in which a character named Mr. Schweddy talked about his signature holiday confection, rum balls, or “Schweddy balls.” It was funny (hardly hilarious, though; anyone who thinks that is hilarious is 12); it also aired after midnight. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is sold during the day, the joke is old, and the only point to naming the ice cream after the joke is to sneak something crude into plain view. Wow. What an accomplishment.

The ice cream name is no more or less tasteless, rude and juvenile than naming a New York bar “Buck Foston,” or a TV show called “$#*! My Father Says.” The slobs and foul-mouthed jerks among us won’t rest until everyone talks like sailors and ugliness is everywhere, and they will do it while being applauded by self-styled “liberals” who are really just old-fashioned boors.

It’s not a big deal, any more; the boors are getting their way, because not enough people are willing to endure the guaranteed “Oh, lighten up!” and “Get off your high horse!” sneers that will follow any objections. I hope those big belly laughs from  “Sweaty Balls” ice cream are worth it, I really do. As long as it makes you guys happy.

“Sweaty Balls” ice cream. You slay me.

Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly

"Andy Hardy, the Asian Years"

A Bronx woman, Ursula Liang, has started a petition against Brooklyn Bridge Park’s “Movies With A View” series showing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the 1961 Audrey Hepburn classic that gave us “Moon River” and one of actress Hepburn’s most endearing performances. Why? Well, the movie, which has long been popular for summer screenings in New York City and elsewhere, also contains a pre-political correctness performance by Mickey Rooney as Holly Golightly’s comic Japanese neighbor, “Mr. Yunioshi.”

Rooney’s performance, in my opinion, was cringe-worthy even in 1961, one of director Blake Edwards’ not uncommon excesses in vaudeville humor, placed in a context where it didn’t belong. It is a scar on an otherwise marvelous film, but there is nothing inherently wrong with comic stereotypes. Stereotypes are a staple of comedy, and have been forever; the question is whether a particular stereotype is cruel, gratuitous, harmful, or funny. Some stereotypes are cruel and funny. Continue reading

When TV’s Ethics Matter, and When They Don’t

As one who has argued that certain TV commercials, notably the infamous “green shirt” Tide commercial, the Twix commercial  and Direct TV’s disturbing (but often funny) series showing football fans hurting rival team supporters, I know I’m asking for trouble by declaring, as I officially do here, that for compliance firm Global Ethics to criticize TV shows like “The Office” and “30 Rock” for supposed workplace ethics violations is absurd. But it is absurd. And criticizing the commercials in question is not.

Hear me out. Continue reading

Ethics Call To Arms: Fight the “Fuck You!” Culture

“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”

This was the very first edict in the list of civility rules memorized by George Washington as a child, rules that shaped his character and significantly influenced not only his life and career but the fate of America. Like most of Washington’s 11o rules, the first has universal and timeless validity, pointing all of us and our culture toward a society based on mutual respect, caring, empathy, and fairness.

Recently, however, there has been a powerful cultural movement away from George’s rules and the culture of civility that they represent. Rudeness has always been with us, of course, and public decorum has been in steady decline since the Beatniks of the Fifties, to the point where it is unremarkable to see church-goers in flip-flops and airplane passengers in tank-tops. Something else is going on, however. Like the colored dots of paint in a George Seurat painting, isolated incidents and clues have begun to converge into a picture, and it is not one of a pleasant day in the park. I believe we are seeing a dangerous shift away from civility as a cultural value, which means that we are seeing a cultural rejection of ethics. The past two weeks have presented damning evidence that this true. Continue reading

Dishonoring Honors: Tina Fey, Derek Jeter and the Death of Award Integrity

We should have seen this coming. Once the most prestigious award of all, the Nobel Peace Prize, was bestowed on President Obama because, to paraphrase Sally Field, “They liked him! They really liked him!,” it was clear that the whole concept of maintaining the integrity of awards was being abandoned. More dispiriting proof arrived yesterday in the fields of comedy and baseball, when the Mark Twain Prize, given to artists who have made major and significant contributions to American comedy, was awarded to Tina Fey, and the Gold Glove Award for the American League’s best fielding shortstop went to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Jon Stewart

When Jon Stewart announced his “Rally to Restore Sanity on the Mall” in support of a return to civility and moderation in politics, many, if not most, assumed that he would be hosting a boisterous, funny, pointedly partisan rally in favor of progressive policies, with the secondary objective of putting the Tea Party movement in its place—sitting in a corner wearing a dunce cap. Continue reading