Comedians … or bullies?

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I had never heard of comedian Michelle Wolf until Sunday. Apparently, Ms. Wood was the entertainment for the White House Correspondents Dinner which President Trump, for the second year in a row, declined to attend.

By most accounts Wood was vulgar, insulting, and generally unfunny. Even a number of the leftist so-called elites in the media were embarrassed by her performance. From what I have been able to discern, Wood was in attack mode, saving much of her ire for White House Press Secretary Sandra Huckabee Sanders — especially her appearance and job performance.

I enjoy good comedy. I think that comedians can make people forget their troubles for a while and succumb to the best of all medicines — laughter. The Bible says that, “A merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

When I was a kid, my parents enjoyed the comedy of Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Jack Benny and a number of other genuinely funny people. Although my mother wasn’t crazy about him, I enjoyed Jerry Lewis. Although he has current troubles, Bill Cosby was one of the funniest men alive and the early Andy Griffith comedy skits, not to mention Carol Burnett and Tim Conway, could leave one belly laughing. In later years, Jim Carey was good for hours of entertainment. The world was full of funny people.

One of those comedians of my younger days was Don Rickles. I didn’t like Rickles. He made his mark by insulting other people and making public fun of them. I thought Don Rickles was nothing more than a bully disguised as a comedian. I thought then that such people were cowards who used “comedy” as a safe way of lashing out. I still do.

All of which is part of the problem that I have with people like Michelle Wolf and a plethora of so-called comedians. There is currently no shortage of people who think comedy is demeaning people, insulting their appearances, hurling insults, broadcasting vulgar epithets, and, after having hurt their victims, feign innocence and proclaim that they are just doing comedy.

No, that’s not going to cut it. Far too many of them are just sad, angry, vindictive people who hide behind a microphone and say things they would never have the courage to say to a person’s face if they were in a room alone with them. They are bullies and they are cowards.

A true comedian can make an audience, any audience, laugh. A true comedian can give a tired, depressed, trodden-down person a few moments where they smile, or laugh, or see the good and the humor in life. In the middle of a war, Bob Hope could raise the spirits of weary warriors who were between battles. President Ronald Reagan could make friends and foes alike laugh by poking fun at himself.

Sometimes, comedy will take the form of a “roast” where friends or co-workers of the “victim” point out the person’s shortcomings, weaknesses, and quirks. Usually, the person who is the target of the roast is in on it and knows what is coming. He or she has willingly agreed to participate.

Several years ago, the congregation I served was treated to a night of laughter at a roast. I was the “roastee.” I thought that most of the folks who roasted me were funny, although I thought that one or two of the comments had a little too much “bite” to them.

My wife did not agree at all. She thought that the whole evening was demeaning, insulting, and disrespectful. She thought that at least a couple of the “roasters” took the night as an opportunity to take some shots at me. And, truthfully, some of what was said was hurtful.

My wife said that she could see the pain on Sarah Sanders face as she endured the tirade of Michelle Wolf. A classy person, she took it all with a smile. Others, however, even people who despise the President, felt that such public abuse was unnecessary and, whatever it was, it wasn’t funny.

But, these days, we have a polarized country. We have people who enjoy seeing other people bullied and humiliated … especially those who think differently than they do. These people are the audience for those deluded individuals who fancy themselves as comedians.

There are truly funny people in the world who make people laugh. In my opinion, Michelle Wood, and those like her, are not among them.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]