Note to Comedians: Your Fat-Shaming Jokes Aren't Funny
In a world that feeds comedians with an endless stream of material – bad drivers and in-laws and leather jogging pants… oh my! – why has the subject of women’s weight, of all things, become their go-to “joke”?
Making fun of women’s looks isn’t just mean – it’s also bad comedy. Lame, lazy, snore-worthy comedy. Take Jay Mohr, for instance, who was skewered in the media for taking a cheap shot at Alyssa Milano’s post-baby body during a recent radio interview.
“She’s very tiny, in height… It seems like she had had a baby and said, ‘I don’t really give a s**t’ … I read it on her gut,” Jay said regarding Alyssa’s appearance at the Nascar Sprint Cup Series Awards gala he hosted in Las Vegas on Dec. 6. “Somebody sat in the director’s chair was not wearing Spanx and I was like ‘Jesus Christ!’ ” he (unwisely) continued.
Really? Really, Jay? I don’t know whether that is more offensive to me as a woman and new mother or as a humorist. As a mother and woman, I will say this: Jay’s dumb remarks undoubtedly were hurtful to Alyssa, who responded to Jay’s unnecessary barb with a kinder-than-deserved Tweet: “So sorry you felt the need to publicly fat-shame me. Be well and God Bless. Please send my love to your beautiful wife.” (Well-played, Alyssa. Well-played, indeed.) His comments also served as a jolt to millions of us women who are thinking, “If he thinks she’s fat, what must the world think of me?” Because, let’s be honest, Alyssa is gorgeous with a capital GORGE. One would think that Jay would be more sensitive to this issue, having been on the receiving end of “fat” jokes, himself. My husband listens to Jay’s sports talk show from time to time and informs me that men often call in with eloquent insights such as, “Dude! You’ve gotten FAT!” to which Jay defensively barks back, “No, I haven’t!” Not to mention the media’s cruel commentary on his wife’s evolving looks.
In Jay’s defense, he has subsequently issued a sincere-sounding apology on his blog, noting:
“I will not make excuses for what I said. Although I immediately removed that segment from my podcast, it still doesn’t change the results. I know full well how much words can hurt people, having seen my wife get destroyed by the tabloids, and I am embarrassed that I didn’t think before I spoke,” he wrote. “Sometimes comedians go too far. I went too far. I cannot change what I said, but I can assure you that my heart is broken that I hurt her. I am very sorry.”
Alyssa accepted his apology (via Twitter, of course, and quite humorously so), so, yeah, we can move on from this particular “feud.” However, the public’s largely disgusted reaction to Jay’s remarks should remind comedians that calling women fat is not good comedy. Just as Jay Mohr thinks a few extra pounds around the middle indicates that a woman has “given up,” a fat joke indicates that a comedian has given up on producing original comedy – we read it on the blank stares of the unamused audience. Singling out a celebrity and ridiculing their weight in hopes of getting a laugh takes zero effort, talent and class.
This goes for you, too, Joan Rivers – we get it; Kirstie Alley frequents buffets because she likes to eat! A LOT! Ha, haaaa! This was as funny the first time as it was the four-hundredth time. Meaning: not at all. It’s baffling that one of the hardest-working comics in the business would resort to such lazy punchlines. And we know from watching Joan’s documentary that she was devastated by comedians’ jabs at her looks on the Comedy Central roast. So, as a pop culture-focused comic, why not spare others that same devastation by delving into richer – and less hurtful – material, such as celebrities’ body of work (instead of their body)? Please, Joan, cut the fat jokes already – if not to be nicer (it’s no secret that kindness isn’t exactly your schtick), then to be funnier.
Of course, not all comedians stoop to such mean, cheap “jokes.” Seinfeld has forged one of the most successful and lucrative careers in comedy by mining everyday minutiae for laughs. A comedic legacy of which to be proud. Meanwhile, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have mastered the art of lampooning celebrities’ behavior, perhaps most notably via this clever line about director Kathryn Bigelow from last year’s Golden Globes:
“When it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.” — Amy, on Bigelow’s movie Zero Dark Thirty
Zing! Set. Match. And nary a mention of anyone’s waistline.
Featured image via ShutterStock