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Under Taliban rule, the Miss Afghanistan Pageant* must have
been the most boring beauty contest in history... or, at the
very least, the hardest to judge. After all, how do you pick
a winner in the swimsuit competition when the two-piece
Catalina's are hidden under head-to-toe burkas?
How do you expect a woman who has been denied an education
to answer that question from the celebrity judge?
(Heck, I've seen Tony Danza stump a Miss America contestant
who, at that time, was studying for her Master's in Communications.)
More importantly, how do you determine the winner of the
talent portion when all forms of artistic expression have been
banned by the hardline theocracy?
"Our first contestant is Miss Kabul. Her talent
is avoiding death."
"Our second contestant is Miss Mazar-i-Sharif.
Her talent is... let me check my notes...yes, her talent
is avoiding death."
"Our third contestant is... was Miss Kandahar. She won
the preliminary talent competition by flying a kite, but
has since been executed at midfield during halftime at a
Talk about your rough crowds.
To quote Lee Greenwoood, "I'm proud to be an American
'cause at least I know I'm free." To quote Experience
Unlimited, "Ain't nothing' wrong, if you wanna do
the butt all night long." (Personally, I think
the E.U. song would make a great anthem for the war effort.
Can you see the confused looks on their bearded Taliban
faces as The Butt blasts from speakers lashed to the
pontoons of an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter? Bin Laden's last
words would be "Did he say big ol', big ol'
Butt... and I do mean butt... I digress.
Each morning when I awake... okay, each late morning/early
afternoon when I awake... I find myself turning on the television
just to see if the world has come to an end. A habit I cannot
break, one learned on the morning of September 11. I can't tell you
the relief I feel when I see the smiling faces of
Regis and Kelly on my screen and not the smouldering
remains of one of our treasured landmarks. (No, that
was not a Kathie Lee Gifford joke.)
A few weeks ago, while in hotel room in Washington state,
I woke up, grabbed the remote and was suddenly, and quite
unexpectedly, hit with the image of The Jerry Springer
Show. Indeed, I thought the world had come to an end,
but in an entirely different way.
On the stage was a family of four. If you called them
trailer trash, it would be an insult not only to trailers but
also to trash. Among the tatoothless bunch was an obviously
pregnant woman wearing a midriff top. Springer walked among
the audience members and allowed the curious among them to
ask any question they wanted. One superior being took this
opportunity to ask, "This is for the pregnant whore: Why
don't you put your panties back on, you're stinking
up the room."
I'm going to type it again, but slower this time, so you can
fully comprehend what I heard on daytime television.
"This... is... for... the... pregnant... whore. Why...
don't... you... put... your... panties... back... on? You're...
stinking... up... the... room."
Attention bookers, owners, fans and fellow comedians: I don't
want anyone ever, ever, ever to tell me that what I do
onstage (or in the cyber pages of this magazine) is in anyway
offensive, obscene or scatological in nature. The bar has
been lowered, society has been coarsened and my harmless little
jokes are downright Mormonesque compared to the regular fare
on any of a number of daytime television freakfests.
What has happened? At the risk of sounding like an
evangelist, have we gone too far as a society? Do we need
to pull back and find a happy medium between the Taliban
opression and Jerry Springer freedom?
Another example: I read in the paper that Barbara Walter's was planning to interview porn king Ron Jeremy on her daytime show The View. Ron Jeremy... the porn king... on The View... on daytime television... on a show owned by Disney. Am I crazy? Shouldn't there be a different set of standards for twelve noon and twelve midnight? What ever happened to recipes? Makeovers? Tips on traveling with your toddler? Do the stay-at-home soccer moms really need to hear how Ron Jeremy blows his own horn, so to speak? What is Barbara Walters going to ask Ron Jeremy? "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you boink?"
Oh, you bet I'm mad!
But, Traci, but, Traci what about free speech? If we start
setting cultural and societal boundaries aren't we no better
than the Talibans who oppress the people of Afghanistan?
Haven't you ever heard of a slippery slope?
Today they ask us to clean up Sally Jessey and tomorrow
it's The Sopranos. Why should we let the feelings
of a few, ruin the party for everyone? Where will it end?
All good questions, especially since I wrote them.
It's a very simple answer: With free speech comes responsibility.
Responsibility, of course, often requires common sense.
As standup comics, we fiercely guard our right to perform
what we deem respectable in a closed, controlled environment.
People pay to get in, children should not be admitted and
anyone who walks through the door must understand that
envelopes will be pushed. However, if I'm sitting in a
Jiffy Lube waiting room with my 84- year-old mother-in-law
we should both be spared the embarrassment of hearing about
pregnant whores with stinky panties? Is that too much to ask?
My fear is that someday society will get fed up with the
daytime trash and ban the nightime trash as well. And who
could blame them? If we, as entertainers, can't control
ourselves, you can rest assured that someday, somebody
will try to do the controlling for us. And, once again,
who could blame them?
The Bill Mahers of the world would just say that it's
incumbent upon the offended to turn the TV off.
But if the purveyors of such bizarre and offensive
"entertainment" refuse to use restraint, how
can we expect any restraint from those who seek to
obliterate it? Conversely, if the purveyors behave
somewhat responsibly, wouldn't that knock some of the
wind out of any movement that opposes them?
So, I ask the Jerry Springers and the Barbara Walters and the Ricky Lakes of the world to clean up their acts, for the sake of the children, for the sake of society and for the sake of my livelihood. To this request, they would no doubt respond, "Take a lesson from Miss Kandahar and go fly a kite." And if it was sweeps week, they would probably have me executed during half-time at a soccer match. Right after they lop off the head of the pregnant whore.
* The only Miss Afghanistan, Zohra Yusuf Daoud,
who copped the title in 1972, currently resides here in
the good ol' USA and is a radio host in Malibu, CA.
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