Not Funny

October 25th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 26 comments

When you eat only kosher food, as our family does, traveling has an added element of uncertainty. Will there be a kosher market or restaurant? What will the quality be? We are grateful that in the United States many national brands of crackers and other items are kosher and fruits and vegetable are easily accessible. Even so, after a few days tuna fish and peanut butter stave off hunger but don’t do much more than that.

To our delight, my husband’s recent speaking engagement was in a city that had a kosher restaurant. The place was clean and the food was delicious. What more could we ask?

If you pay close attention to our website, you know that we were closed for much of September in honor of the Jewish holy days. Imagine owning a kosher restaurant. Not only do you close every Friday night and most Saturday nights throughout the year, but this year there were barely any evenings in an entire month that you could remain open. We completely understood when the proprietress told us that she was trying different things to ramp up business.

The night we were there was one such attempt. The owner had invited a local college’s performance art class to come and deliver a stand-up comedy show. Suffice it to say that after only a few minutes, my husband and I whispered a prayer of thanks that I had two sets of earphones in my purse. We each plugged them in and spent the rest of the meal listening to podcasts on our phones. 

As the program continued, we noticed the owner’s mortification as she went around the room offering to pack customers’ meals up. We also saw the teacher of the class motioning his students to end their routines prematurely. All in all, it was a disaster. It seems that one after another, the students (most of whom were older than standard college age) were under the impression that using profanity and making sexual references turned words into humor.

Fast forward to today, where we are in another U.S. city. This one doesn’t have a kosher restaurant. The incredibly gracious folks at the TCT network where we tape TV ask someone each day to drive to the nearest city with a kosher restaurant to pick up lunch for us (shout out to Morris who does the not-always-pleasant drive).

We did something a bit different on today’s show and interviewed Judy Gruen about her book, The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith. This particular book of Judy’s is on a serious topic, although true to her calling as a humor writer parts of it are very funny. The book doesn’t have a bit of crudeness or profanity. Neither do her previous humor books.

Each day seems to bring proof that the country in which we live is divided between two groups of people who look at just about everything through different lenses. One group sees humor in vile and dehumanizing references. The other group of Americans use humor to connect and uplift. No wonder we are no longer laughing together.

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26 comments

Lee Stoll says:

Wow. That brings back a long ago memory. Back in 1979 Zsa Zsa Gabor was supposed to entertain some of our church group of those who wished to afford the quite expensive tickets to see what was to be a clean comedy dinner presentation in a popular dinner Seattle restaurant by the Seattle center. The place was filled that night with mostly my church group of about 100 or more who wished to go. There was about 2,000 or more there at the Fall Feast we kept that year in Seattle. Zsa Zsa got sick so the show was quickly changed to be a live stage show called “2 rooms river view” which turned out to be about a man and a woman getting locked in a room they were looking at which was for rent over night. They were both married to someone else but because of what happened they got romantically involved for one evening.
I think the lead impromptu star was Tab Hunter but I may be wrong. Many church members just walked out during the first break as the act was getting romantlily involved in an adulterous way. It was not visually shown to us but the words and lead up to adulatory was very clear. We both decided to stay to the end even though we did not enjoy at all the theme of the live, up close stage show. We just didn’t wish to embarrass the entertainers. We had a front row seat which did not help the matter. I feel I was correct morally for us to stay to the end and not to make an abrupt exit like many did towards the middle of the show. Several elders I knew and many deacons and older members left with moral disappointment. I feel many of the ones who left felt they had to leave as if they stayed they would be judged by other church members as condoning the concept of the adulatory theme. The next day it was announced of the big mistake and an explanation was given to the congregation. It’s interesting the church made all the arrangements of ticket sales but still that no refunds were ever offered from the restaurant to us.
What is your take on this?

Susan Lapin says:

I think we will take a pass on commenting on an incident from 1979. But the story was interesting to read.

Carolyn says:

My read on this story is that her question is “How do we behave when confronted with entertainment that goes against our religious beliefs?” That is relevant in 1979 and today. Do we behave rudely to the entertainers and honor God? At first blush, the answer is “But of course! Honoring God is far more important than honoring man. “ But if one left the show about adultery, discussed in the 1979 incident, one might have missed an opportunity for later Biblical discussion. After all, King David committed adultery with a married woman. Does one walk out to show the world one is pious? Or does one dig deeper into understanding the need and deep desire to honor God? Does behavior that dishonors God bring pain to your heart? And now to your solution of putting on head phones… a great solution but not always possible. So I think the woman’s question remains. What is the Biblical solution to such dilemmas? Profanity laced vile forms of “entertainment” are clear times to walk out but not all is so easy to know where and when to draw the line. I think a simple solution is: If you would not say it or want to listen to it with God sitting next to you, you have your answer.

Peggy says:

Thank you Carolyn for your input on Lee Stolls story above. Susan, the question was asked of you-what is your take? What happened in 1979 still happens today, maybe more.

Susan Lapin says:

You’re right, Carolyn and Peggy. I answered flippantly. Maybe this can be the subject of a future Musing.

James says:

Alas, many moons ago we fired and released the disingenuous corporate conglomerate that offered us TCT via less-than-ethical-capitalism! And Oh How I Miss Your AJW! Yet from your (pl.) show how well I remember your (pl.) monolithic lessons on the awesome power of humor and the Biblical injunctions that warn how humor and mockery can destroy human lives. Among these: ‘Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor SITTETH IN THE SEAT OF THE SCORNFUL.’ (Psalm of David 1, KJV). Furthermore, the Kabalistic lesson of the letter פף on the power of human speech, which ‘releases spiritual energy into the Universe’ (thanks to Dr. Edward Hoffman and his The Hebrew Alphabet), is a profound awakening. Christians are taught that the Almighty will judge us on our every utterance. Do our words and actions serve to build for others ‘a stumbling block or a stepping stone?’

Isn’t it strange that princes and kings
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings
And common people like you and me
Are builders for eternity?

To each is given a bag of tools
A shapeless mass, a book of rules
And each must build ere life as flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
(–R. Sharpe)

This post is most appropriate to the irresponsible and disastrous media messages of our times, from media that swell in mockery and scorn, and perhaps less applicable to the purveyors of benign-if-misguided potty-humor, but there it is. If the shoe fits, wear it, right? Bless you guys!

Susan Lapin says:

James, you can always see our Ancient Jewish Wisdom show on http://www.tct.tv and going to View on Demand. Our show’s name starts with an “A” so we’re right towards the top of the list.

Karen Boswell says:

I often ‘encourage’ people to invest in a Thesaurus (when I post comments on internet news)

Expletives are lazy and ignorant.

I am so stunned at the coarseness of language and behaviour.

I was talking with my Mother today, If “as in the days of Noah’ were so bad that God cleansed the Earth, and with things as crass as they are today, I can’t imagine how bad it must have been “as in the days of Noah”

That we are still here…I don’t want to find out just how bad it was “in the days of Noah”

May this be our prayer ‘ if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ‘ 2 Chronicles 7:14

Thank you for what you do

You are a blessing and an education to me

Susan Lapin says:

Amen, Karen.

James says:

p.s Best of luck in your travels!

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you, James. We just walked in the door after being away since Sunday.

David J says:

Being truly funny is very difficult and takes a lot of talent. What I find even more disturbing than people trying to pass crude insults of public figures and crude unimaginative remarks as comedy is that some people consider them to be funny. They are merely grade school remarks with the crude level turned up greatly.

Susan Lapin says:

You are completely right, David.

Brian F. Tucker says:

Dear Susan,
The one thing I really miss since we moved out of Baltimore to live in the country is that there not one Jewish deli less than 3hrs away. I would die for a corn beef on rye with cold slaw and Russian dressing. And let’s face it the grocery store “Kosher style” pickles can’t hold a candle to the real thing.
As for today’s so called comedians. Well let’s just say that there very few Bob Hopes, Red Skeletons, Tim Conways or Carol Burnets around. A high school English professor
once told our class that he believed one of reasons that some people use so much profanity is that they have so little vocabulary.
With regards and Gods Blessings,
Brian

Susan Lapin says:

Brian, I agree that a lot of profanity is due to an inability to express oneself and then it becomes a vicious cycle where you don’t try to add vocabulary because it is so much easier to just fill in the blank with vulgarity. My husband goes into this in depth in his audio CD, Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak. https://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/perils-of-profanity/. Very worth listening to and sharing.

Judy Gruen says:

Thank you for the shout-out for my book and my clean humor, Susan. What a privilege to be on your program! The topic of profanity in our culture has bothered me since our children were very young, and I realized how corrosive it is to their innocence — and our shared spiritual environment. With few exceptions, the best, most clever comedians and humorists will almost always work “clean.” (My friend, comic Mark Schiff, is hilarious and totally clean.) Slathering profanities and vulgarities into a comedy routine is not only lewd, it’s plain lazy. Here’s to a renaissance of clean comedy!

Susan Lapin says:

We enjoyed interviewing you for Ancient Jewish Wisdom, Judy. I know that you have been on a crusade to reduce profanity. I hope people read your other books in addition to The Skeptic and the Rabbi https://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/the-skeptic-and-the-rabbi-falling-in-love-with-faith-by-judy-gruen/. (Carpool Tunnel Syndrome, Till We Eat Again, and A Woman’s Daily Irony Supplement are the titles I remember.)

Catherine says:

My husband and I went to the Edinburgh Festival… well let’s just say more than a few years ago. While there we saw a number of comedy shows, and it truly was a delight to see shows and skits with thoughtful, irreverent, wacky, silly, and/or evocative subject matter. There was very little bad language (in one place a word for excrement was used – but in reaction to a neighbor’s ill-trained pet, so even that was almost reasonable). What a delight it was! We had long before given up on any “comedy” shows in this country, because even then it was all blatant coarseness; just vile. If anyone in the US cottons on to this trick (being humorous instead of vile), they would have a huge audience!

Susan Lapin says:

How wonderful to hear that at least one can find humor in Edinburgh, Catherine.

Betsy says:

Your words are so true. I have cable TV and access to “comedy” programs and movies but there is almost nothing on that isn’t profanity-laced and vulgar. When I want to laugh, I watch reruns of sitcoms from the ‘50s and ‘60s. How sad that our TV technology has advanced but the humor has plunged into the depths!!

Susan Lapin says:

I’m not sure that the two are unrelated, Betsy.

Celesta says:

Mrs. Lapin,

I, too, am horrified by the descent in language in general, and the rise in profanity. I am sure that you have noticed in the last 10 years or so, the massive acceptance and overuse of one of the worst profanities – the word that begins with the letter that follows “E”. (I am trying to be tactful!) Curses and profanities are awful anyway – but there has been a huge spike in the use of that one particular word in movies, in speech, in colloquialisms. For instance, I was looking online for gifts for Mother’s Day this spring, and I was stunned to see that even on Etsy, Amazon, and different, not-low-class shopping websites, that there were proliferations of personalized mugs, t-shirts, keychains, etc., that literally said, “Mom as ****” (they used the word), whatever the heck THAT is supposed to mean. Is this a compliment??? A gift you give your mother??? 20 years ago, even atheists in America would never dream to purchase an item like this. Movies, which in the past used to toss in an evenly-distributed sampling of profanities here and there (which was bad enough), now are obsessed with using the BIG curse words, almost every third word. How did this take place? Where is the outcry? Profanity seems to reduce the user almost to the level of a brute beast – base in nature, devoid of righteousness and virtue, and definitely gives the impression of lack of intelligence. WHY OH WHY??? I have read accounts of those who testified to seeing/experiencing parts of the afterlife, and who said that they were shown what actually transpires in a spiritual realm when people use their tongue to gossip, to tear down, to harshly criticize (not constructive criticism, but just rude and contentious), and so forth. It was a chilling description that they gave. Somewhat akin to the theme of the poem that James, above, referenced. I think about the prophet Isaiah, who when given an incomparable, convicting vision of God’s Holiness, exclaimed, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and come from a people of unclean lips!” It took several years for me to really grasp that he said “unclean LIPS”, and didn’t just say “for I am unclean”, which is what I had gathered from fast, surface-y readings through my youth. So…if a righteous, dedicated holy man of old laments his less-than-sanctified-LIPS when he comes face-to-face with our Creator’s glory, then where do we all stand? (When I was 13, my best friends from church and I would [sometimes] examine our foolhardy tongues. Our introspection usually resulted in three glum girls sitting on a couch, staring at the floor in ashamed silence, waiting for the dreaded divine ax to fall, our only conversation being the occasional statement, “Every idle word”.) I pray that I can use my tongue to glorify HIM, and to build back, even through my speech, areas in others’ lives that God knows need to be repaired.

Susan Lapin says:

Celesta, I love this description of you at thirteen. Imagine how much better our society would be if young girls worried about misuse of speech.

LJ says:

Let me first say thank you two, Susan and Rabbi Daniel Lapin for your work and all these posts that I get to read but that I can’t frequently comment about. They are always uplifting to my soul.

I have two adult daughters: 30 and married, 22 and single; and I have an adult son who’ll be 21 this November and he is single. Our younger two who still live with us do not like any kind of foul humor. I’m not sure what our eldest daughter likes today, but she liked all kinds of bad and good humor in high school; and my husband and I grew up in an era of bad and good humor. One of our son’s favorite movies is “Lilies of the Field” with Sidney Poitier and East German nuns as main characters. It’s very funny even though there is a priest who drinks too much and a big party scene at the end. However, it has mostly good, clean humor.

Our younger two have taught my husband and me to appreciate cleaner content. In fact, they are the ones who showed us the mock commercial, “Honest University”. We are fortunate to be able to find humorous and clean content, or even content that mocks some dumb (and not clean) things that young people are being taught.

It is important to be able to turn off the sound or to walk out in some situations. There are many moments when we reflect on how we would’ve changed the way that we responded to our external inputs. We cannot go back in time but these times do serve as a purpose for us to grow into the human beings that God made us to be. We know the Bible tells us that God’s will is better than ours. This most certainly means that we discern when we are able to help those who might otherwise have no one else to help them.

Our family of four was invited to a Father’s Day Sunday brunch with secular friends; we never do celebrate “Father’s Day or Mother’s Day” at home. The family is a couple with one daughter a year younger than our son. The wife often blasted Republicans and once said that they were “rich _ _s!” (fill-in-the-blank with profane words.) I then pointed out how many rich Tech company moguls and Hollywood elites supported Democrats and the husband agreed with these facts. He was also previously an Economics university instructor in Washington State. During this Father’s Day brunch, religion was brought up. So, I simply said to the wife what I say to a lot of secular people, “I have not yet met one atheist who disagrees with, at least, five of “The Ten Commandments.”” I’ll say to folks, “honor your father and mother-doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, do no murder, no adultery, etc.” She took issue with the father and mother part because of “Gay marriage.” Then I said that if I had chosen to marry a woman instead of my husband then I wouldn’t have had my children and my husband, likewise, wouldn’t have them if he’d married a man. (I made the point personal on purpose.) I also said that science agrees that two men or two women simply can’t have any babies together. She couldn’t argue about it but the subject was quickly changed to a more agreeable one, like the weather (but even that is contentious today!)

I wanted to comment on several posts in the past three weeks, but like you occassionally do, I would sit down to write something and then did not choose to publish it. I also read the 100+ comments on the topic of political frustration over the idea of “What took Congress so long to man or woman up?” I have observed that it was a change in the Exective Head; and President Trump defends his chosen team when they accomplish his view of America’s goals: thankfully his view of America strongly appears to be to conserve the foundational principles upon which it was built it into a great nation. He also values individual freedom under the law.

There is no question about this American division. We are divided about many things in our country, but we have the power to speak up through personal contact and through our voting.

PS I read David Horowitz’s book, “Radical Son” and it was shortly after I had read Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book, “America’s Real War.” I do pray and hope for your joint success in re-releasing this most excellent book. And I highly recommend the book, “Radical Son” to anyone who wants to understand communism/socialism in America. God bless you always!

Maripat Loprete says:

Dear Susan,
Thank you for this! I pray your voice is heard and wakes people up from jumping on the political agendas that are being pushed so hard today. I posted it to Facebook hoping others will read it.
I also pray that people will wake up to turn back to God.
Thank you again for putting words to what is in my heart.
Maripat Loprete

Susan Lapin says:

What a nice thing to say, Maripat.

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