Thursday, August 8, 2013

Should David Sedaris Be in Jail?

“David Sedaris is still the funniest guy around,” gushes an Associated Press blurb on the back of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Say whaaat? I miss Douglas Adams, but Dave Barry’s still alive isn’t he? I hadn’t heard any bad news about Cosby? O’Rourke? Andrei Codrescu is still alive. Gene Weingarten. Joel Achenbach. Chuck Shepherd. Jeff Foxworthy. Michael Moore...I rate Sedaris, as a comedian, pretty close to Michael Moore. Sometimes either can be hilarious, and then sometimes they get earnest, and sometimes they’re just plain wrongheaded.

Now Amy Sedaris is another barrel of laughs. I have to admit that, although I didn’t buy it, I had to borrow her craft book from a library. I could not read it in a public place. It’s so funny that if you wanted to invest that much in laugh-out-loud therapy you could continue laughing through all the time it took you to make those preposterous projects. (They'd sell, too, at venues like the Washington City Paper's annual art show.) But of course she’s not a guy.

Anyway I borrowed Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls too, figuring that if the AP writer called it “the funniest” it ought to be good for a chortle here and there. And, having predisposed myself to chortle over lines like “I’m Monsieur Sedaris, not my father but the smaller, Continen­tal model” and “The water runs from glacial to heart attack and is tinted the color of iced tea,” I did. Laughing out loud is like stretching each muscle and drinking six glasses of water: something people should do every day.

So I chortled my way right up to the chapter in which Sedaris tries out a fresh argument in favor of same-sex marriage: the short story of Randolph Denny, who believes that same-sex marriage renders his thirty-nine year marriage meaningless and, on further consideration, renders all laws meaningless. Randolph Denny shoots his wife and daughter, stabs his mother-in-law, runs over a child with his car, goes to jail, and finds that smooching his cellmate is not all bad.

This is funny?

Right...if Randolph Denny had just abandoned his fictional wife, used his marriage certificate to light the fire to heat up a pizza, decided he loved the pizza enough to marry it instead of eating it, and discovered that smooching his roommate at the Funny Farm wasn’t all bad, that would have been funny. The way the story’s written, it’s just disgusting. Remedial Comedy 001 for People of Immature Wit, here.

But there’s a double standard thing going on. As discussed on the third of July, a previously obscure teenager called Justin Carter has been treated like a murderer in prison because he posted a gross-out insanity joke—similar to pages 167 to 173 of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls—on Facebook. This web site, having reviewed Justin Carter’s case, found him guilty of a severe humor impairment and prescribed that he should be banned from Facebook for ten years and cut off from all electronic communication for one year.

Whereas, as a bestselling middle-aged author, David Sedaris is raking in the money because he’s published a gross-out insanity joke.

This is fair?

This is right?

This is real?

Yes, unfortunately it’s real. You can check out the book from most public libraries, and although you should of course complain to the librarians about this misuse of public funds, you should check it out from a public library—you wouldn’t want to encourage this kind of thing by buying it. Of course, Sedaris has taken the precaution of moving to Europe. On the other hand, he’s writing in English and publishing in the United States, and why he’s not been extradited as a suspect inciting global terrorists (some of whom are also based in Europe) this web site has no idea.

What’s the logic here?

“If a fifty-year-old man says it, it’s funny. If an eighteen-year-old boy says it, it’s terrorism.” Say whaaat?

“If someone rich and famous says it, it’s funny. If someone too young to have an income says it, it’s terrorism.” Say whaaat?

“If someone says it in defense of same-sex marriage, which is an Official Sacred Cow of the Left Wing, it’s funny. If someone says it in defense of his own social status among local teenyboppers, it’s terrorism.” Can we say “unconstitutional”? That’s what!

Justin Carter was bailed out of jail on the eleventh of July:

His trial is scheduled for 2014...wasn't there something in the Constitution about "speedy" trials?

Meanwhile, David Sedaris is still promoting his book on a global tour, being described as "the rock star of writing" on Wikipedia...

...selling out tickets to readings, promising his fans additional audiences between the 17th and 24th of August inclusive...

Hmm. Stephen King at least admits, in a currently available nonfiction e-book called Guns, that an early, now suppressed novel of his called Rage may have "inspired" a school shooting. Can David Sedaris at least admit that the success of his more sophisticated, but similarly disgusting, comedy may be "inspiring" "jokes" like Justin Carter's?

Answering my own question...I don't think David Sedaris should be in jail. I think the public should demand that he write something that is funny, rather than disgusting, to fill up pages 167 to 173 of the revised edition of Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. (This web site opposes all censorship.) I don't think Justin Carter should be in jail either. I actually think both of them should have been "punished" by boos, shouts of "That's not funny," and demands for refunds from anyone who bought the book. But as long as any criminal charges are associated with Justin Carter's name, I think some societal onus should be imposed upon David Sedaris and other writers whose "comedy" features gross-out violence.