Funny Outrage

     I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Humor is dangerous.
     It’s best left to professionals.
     Case in point: the mini-uproar caused by the general counsel for Safeway, a guy named Robert Gordon, who dared to tell a joke at his company’s annual shareholder meeting.
     It wasn’t even an original joke. My guess is some corporate underling gave it to Gordon to liven up the proceedings – after digging it out of a computer database somewhere.
     Really. It’s a rewrite of a joke from the Clinton administration and whoever rewrote it wasn’t clever enough to leave out a reference to Arkansas.
     Humor is subjective, so you don’t have to laugh at the joke. But it’s really not terrible (in my expert humorous opinion). In case you missed it, this is what it was.
     First Gordon rambled on a bit about changing images and the Secret Service deciding to agree with everything the president said. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s what he said.
     Then we hear that President Obama “flew into the White House lawn” (apparently somehow avoiding a horrendous crash) and was met by a Secret Service agent who saw the president carrying two pigs.
     The president then explained that they are “genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”
     The agent replied: “Excellent trade, sir.”
     Perfectly fine late-night humor but these days even relatively anonymous corporate counsels can provoke people who love to be outraged in public. Go to your search engine of choice to see the reactions. The man was called sexist, politicians demanded apologies, and both Gordon and the CEO of Safeway ended up sending letters of apology to Clinton and Pelosi.
     My search engine query turned up, consecutively, a headline wondering if the joke was sexist and then a series of headlines calling it a “disgusting Obama joke,” a “hilarious sexist joke,” and a “misogynistic joke.”
     Oddly, no one seemed to be worried about the image of the president carrying pigs or the potential insult to the pigs.
     Isn’t it sexist to assume that any joke about a woman is meant to be sexist? You can joke about men but never say anything about a woman? That seems pretty sexist.
     This whole brouhaha could have been avoided if only the general counsel had consulted first with a professional humorist, such as me.
     The solution is obvious: One of the pigs should have been for Joe Biden.
     It’s equal opportunity derision and it even sounds almost reasonable.
     Semantics. Precise language is vital. If you don’t believe me, check out a Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruling called Turnpaugh v. Wisconsin Claims Board, in which a court actually had to rule that a guy who was in jail for three days was imprisoned.
     Really. Go read it.
     It seems the Claims Board, which is supposed to give money to people wrongfully imprisoned, didn’t think being in jail was imprisonment.
     It gets better. The reason the claimant’s conviction was thrown out was because his behavior didn’t quite match the statutory language for soliciting a prostitute.
     It seems it had to include a request for intercourse – defined as “vulvar penetration” – and all the guy asked the undercover cop posing as a hooker to do was masturbate in front of him.
     This led to an arrest and a 60-day sentence.
     My guess is that the officer was mad at the guy for not wanting to have sex with her.
     And this is how we get appellate opinions on the meaning of intercourse and imprisonment.

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