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Friday, May 07, 2004

The one where I sued my friends

This Wedneday, I went to a friend's house to watch the season finale of The OC. I mention this because it lead to me sitting in a room with five guys, drinking and shouting about how much the episode sucked. (And it was LAME.)

Anyways, another guy came over, and he brought up the racial/sexual harrassment lawsuit filed by a writer's assistant against several staff writers on Friends. Specifically, he brought up the fact that excerpts from the lawsuit were available at The Smoking Gun. So the guys looked them up. Much hilarity ensued, including the crowning of Greg Malins, staff writer, as their glorious new king. They emulated Malins' antics, and I laughed most heartily, indeed. Because you know what? It was funny.

The issue itself isn't quite so hilarious as the Smoking Gun excerpts -- it is a real thing, to be alone in a group of men and hear them laughing about women, and to feel uncomfortable as a result. But honestly, I think Chuck Jones said it best: "No artist can be conservative. You're always adding to art. Liberal, new and original ideas are generated." I'm not saying Malins is an artist, but he is a man working in a creative environment. He's an asshole, sure. But a funny one. And to be told what you can and can't say? It's such a fine line.

I never want to be offensive or to hurt and insult others. I still don't. But I do want to write funny and be funny. And what I'm figuring out more and more is that we laugh at the bizarre, the offensive, the stuff that pushes us just a little bit over our limits. Because everyone has limits, and what's funny is the stuff that we don't talk about, that's still taboo.

Funny is funny. I'm listening to Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right in the car right now, and he uses that as a defense of one of his jokes. "But it's funny!" he says to a stern brigadier general about a gag for his USO tour involving the Taliban Cheerleaders. No dice with the general.

The Friends lawsuit is such a messy and complicated thing, with both sides vaguely at fault and neither of them really to blame. I think that treating others with respect and kindness is imperative above all else, and I feel bad for this woman, especially since the race issue is a whole lot different than the sex issue and I don't know enough to say anything regarding it. But I also wonder why this woman would want to work in comedy. Why she stayed so long. She'd had other writing assistant jobs before -- she couldn't have not been aware of what a writer's room is like.

It is a trade that really does involve sitting around and making really foul jokes. And I'm completely serious on that front. In college one semester, I was a writer/producer on a student-produced sitcom, and we would make the most WRONG jokes in the world... that would eventually lead us to the right ones. And I heard the same sort of thing coming from the writers' room of the network sitcom I interned on later that year. Sitcom writers say the darnedest things. They write comedy. The last thirty years are saturated by comedians who push the boundaries of what we're allowed to say. And why? Because it's funny.

Which is why, the next day, I sat down with Photoshop and made comedy for my friends who had made me laugh the night before. Interested in funny? Even if it's potentially offensive vaguely inside-jokey-funny? Okay then. Go look at the Smoking Gun excerpts. And then:

Miller v. Malins 1 | Miller v. Malins 2

And don't worry. My friends are really much nicer than you think.

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