Carnes: Even witty satire has its limitations, as evidenced by White House Correspondents’ Dinner (column)
April 30, 2018
There was a big speech Saturday night, April 28, in Washington, and the caustic words reverberated 'round the world.
Full of vindictive spite, individuals were personally attacked and threatened, politicians demeaned, senators belittled, media mocked, deplorables deplored and plenty of jokes about the country being closed down over the building of walls.
And there was also a speech by comedian Michelle Wolf.
As opposed to President Donald Trump having yet another campaign rally in Washington, Michigan, Wolf was the headliner at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in the other, perhaps better known, Washington, as in D.C.
Traditionally attended by the president and vice president, it's a special night to celebrate our constitutional right to a free press and the importance of the First Amendment. It is also a fun night for journalists to let loose and insult one another, along with healthy doses of self-deprecating humor.
But a lot of wind has gone out of its sails these past few years, and Saturday night was, in my personal opinion, the bottom of the sarcastic barrel as far as jokes go.
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Don't get me wrong, I'm a lifelong fan of satire and laughed out loud many times, but twice as many times I found myself cringing at the downright cruelty of some of the jokes.
After all, the Correspondents' Dinner is not a Comedy Central roast (or a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast for our senior readers), but a gathering of media members and D.C. insiders with a sense of humor and, in some cases, extra thick skin.
And though certainly (news flash) not a fan of President Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, even I was taken aback by the tasteless abuse Wolf dished out on all three.
I applaud Conway and Sanders for the courage to attend, knowing full well they would be attacked mercilessly throughout the evening, yet wasn't surprised in the least by our insecure president's thin-skinned inability to "take what he gives" on a daily basis.
Good grief, as I write this, I find myself wondering if I've all of the sudden become a middle-aged fuddy duddy?
Nope, not a chance (quick brow wipe …).
I'm described on these very pages as a lot of things from time to time, but fuddy duddy ain't one of 'em.
So what is it? Am I just more conscience of personal attacks and below-the-belt zingers once I turned 50?
I wouldn't go that far, but with entertaining topical issues such as Bill Cosby (MeToo), Tom Brokaw (HimToo?), Kanye West (Who?) and racial sensitivity training at Starbucks, there's just so much more to poke fun at in addition to the ineptness and alternate-fact-loving members of the current administration.
And, yes, I am painfully aware of Huckabee and Sanders both spinning outrageous untruths on a daily basis, with many shouting they deserve such treatment, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to lower our personal standards just to play the game on what's supposed to be a highly entertaining night.
We can show a little class and respect and not be complete jerks, right?
Besides, we have a president doing that for us every single day.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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