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TRACI SKENE has appeared on VH-1's Standup Spotlight, A&E's Comedy On The Road and Lifetime's Girls Night Out, all of which has done her absolutely no good.

Traci Skene


Traci Skene

SHECKYmagazine Chief

There She Is-- Miss Afghanistan!

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 soccer match."

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?"

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?

Isn't there a time and a place for everything? You bet there is. What seems like a simple concept is actually at the very heart of a civil society. I do my thing at the appropriate time and the appropriate place. If others at the bleeding edge of free speech do their thing at inappropriate places and at inappropriate times, it bodes ill for all of us.

I don't want to return to a Lenny Bruce-like (or a Belle Barth-like ) situation where I have to worry about a member of the Philadelphia vice squad sitting in the back of the house taking notes because Springer's producers think it's okay to broadcast seminars on the stinky panties of "pregnant whores" at 11 AM Eastern Standard Time.

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. HOME Back to the Top