Sometimes our values sound strange to The Others...


...perhaps because they are: We didn't know the late Bob Saget, although we did hire and host him, for one weekend, a very long time ago.

We think it may have been our comedy club's anniversary weekend in November 1987. If that's correct, he was already well-known in the comedy world, but his very large fame and popularity—the result of the sitcom Full House and the TV show called America's Funniest Home Videos—wouldn't have happened yet.

In the past week, we've been very impressed by the (very large) number of people who have said he was the nicest guy and the best friend in the world. We also know how strange the headline shown below will sound to a wide range of Others:

The Sublime Beauty of My Friend Bob Saget’s Filthy Comedy

That's the headline on a guest essay in today's New York Times. The essay was written by Penn Jillette, who seems like a very nice person.

That said:

It's amazing to see how hard our tribe is sometimes willing to work to advance and advertise our outré, offbeat values and inclinations. In this case, that includes our love of "filthy comedy," a love affair which sometimes seems to overlap with other values we say we disapprove of.

What exactly was the "sublime beauty" of which Gillette's headline speaks? Gillette, who seems like a thoroughly good and decent person, opens his essay like this:

The Sublime Beauty of My Friend Bob Saget’s Filthy Comedy

My children are teenagers, ages 15 and 16, and they know the comic Bob Saget was my friend. They know he died earlier this week, and that I’m grieving. They want to comfort me. But when they saw clips of Bob on the internet, making hard-core jokes about pedophilia and incest, they were offended. They thought my friend must have been a bad person, and it was hard for them to understand how I could have loved him.

I don’t know if I can blame them. How could they understand that doing transgressive comedy was, in Bob’s hands, not about hate and pain but, rather, a daredevil act of mutual trust?

We're inclined to say, as a general matter, that Gillette's kids are right to be a bit suspicious of the impulse to give voice to "hard-core jokes about pedophilia and incest." As a general matter, we sometimes find that such impulses overlap with values and impulses which may not be entirely decent, respectful, healthy. Progressive.

Gillette say it wasn't that way with Bob Saget at all. As far as we know, he's entirely right—and we think his kids should listen to what their father says about his dear and departed friend.

That said, we don't think Gillette does a very good job explaining that "sublime beauty"—the "sublime beauty" involved in the fact that his friend, onstage and possibly off, "told filthy, disgusting, offensive jokes."

Where and when did that "sublime beauty" enter the scene? After some foofaw about Allen Ginsberg, Gillette is soon telling us this:

GILLETTE: I first got to know Bob when we were shooting “The Aristocrats,” an arty documentary from 2005 where we recorded comics telling the filthiest version they could of an inside comedy joke. It was a joke that comics loved—Johnny Carson was a big fan—but was never told to the public. It was meant for other comedians—siblings who understood the fun challenge of pushing boundaries while keeping trust.

Johnny Carson was a big fan of the joke! It's also true that, entirely brilliant though Carson was at what he did in the world of show business, his gender politics—at the Tonight Show and in real life—weren't necessarily always the absolute best.

We think Gillette's kids should retain their sense of concern, but should also listen to what their father has to tell them. Regarding their father's fairly ridiculous search for that "sublime beauty," we will only say this:

All too often, something makes our tribe work very hard to show The Others how remarkably different we are.  (We're often so inclined with respect to our high regard for the work of various types of "artists.")

That headline in the New York Times is going to sound rather strange to some of The Others. It's typical fare for the New York Times—but in this case, can anyone say that The Others are necessarily all that wrong?

Does "sublime beauty" lurk in "filthy jokes?" Except when we're remembering very dear friends, does anybody really believe that? And does anyone think such things but us, over here in our failing tribe?


  1. "We also know how strange the headline shown below will sound to a wide range of Others:

    The Sublime Beauty of My Friend Bob Saget’s Filthy Comedy"

    Only to "a wide range of Others", dear Bob? To none of your liberal comrades, none at all, eh?

    We love it when you admit that your liberal comrades are dummies with no independent minds whatsoever. Needless to say, we're of the same opinion...

  2. It is amazing how a grown man such as Somerby can tiptoe around the issue of "filthy" jokes, as if all filthy jokes were alike, including ones about incest and pedophilia. It is amazing how he bend over backwards to assure us that both Saget and Gillette are good, kind, decent people.

    But his agility is especially obvious in the way he pretends to be one of us (presumably liberals or progressives) while pretending that the ones who might object to such jokes are Others (does he mean The Other, or someone else?) while also pretending that all comedians share the same love of filthy jokes when they do not.

    For one thing, female comedians don't love jokes about incest and pedophilia or many of the filthy jokes the male comedians supposedly love. For another, there are comedians who pride themselves on being funny without working "blue", recognizing that you can always get a laugh by talking about bodily processes (vomit, farting, yes sex, and anything strongly taboo) but it takes more skill to get a joke by saying something clever or making a universal observation about human life.

    But setting that aside, liberals owned and supported Lenny Bruce and a string of obscene comedians in his wake, also opposing censorship and freedom in art, music lyrics, novels and comedy routines. Why are liberals being cast as prudes today by Somerby?

    Perhaps it is because liberals also are the party that values empathy. It isn't the obscenity of prudishness about sex that liberals are concerned with, but the obscenity of laughing at the pain caused to other human beings. And some human thought human abuse was funny. If that was Saget, we hope he eventually grew up, but the filth was in disregard for suffering, not explicit sex or raunchy language.

    In both incest and pedophilia, children are harmed, often for life. They are damaged and there is little to find funny in that, now or then. But is it The Others who would object? Seems to me that the child marriage laws (which cover up incest and statutory rape) are most lenient in the South, where The Other lives. Would they really object to Saget's humor? Or would they object to the dirty language and titter about sex?

    Penn Jillette codes Republican:

    "Jillette has previously identified as a libertarian, and stated in 2003 that he may consider himself an anarcho-capitalist. He was a fellow at the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute."

    What has changed since the 1980s is that feminists have objected to the sexism and misogyny in stand up comedy, including jokes about incest (which affects girls) and pedophilia (which is committed mostly by men as active participants instead of purveyors).

    Women have said that this stuff must stop. Today, The Others are using claims about pedophilia to tar liberals and prominent Democrats (historical as well as current) because it is the most unthinkable crime they can think of to accuse the left of committing. It isn't because they themselves abhor such acts, but because they are weaponizing the accusations to attack the left. Why then would Somerby think that we liberals (not him, but us) would not understand Saget's humor? We simply believe it should not be encouraged. The right has its own troubled relationship with such crimes against children.

    And no, there is no sublime beauty (to borrow Somerby's phrase) in incest or pedophilia, no matter how spiffy Saget's delivery or timing were. And I don't believe that someone can be a truly good person and make a living telling such jokes. I can only hope that Saget was relieved to finally be able to make a living showing funny home videos.

  3. I agree with Bob here. When you're a media junkie, you're missing out on a lot of HBO and all that repressed libido has to go somewhere. Political Twitter fantasized once that Michelle Obama was going to sodomize Barack to celebrate the feminist victory of Hillary's victory over Trump.

    These are the same people who shame you for not taking politics seriously when their demigod loses.

    1. So, then, you enjoy jokes about sodomizing children too?

    2. Can't say I do

      Have you stopped beating your wife yet? Just asking

  4. A lot of standup comedians skew right wing for some reason.

    1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe in the 1990s, the Right cozied up to shock jock radio. This brand of humor was about attacking marginalized people, women, the left etc. Comedians came up promoting their shows in this culture.

      This is not the entire scene. The alternative comedy scene is a reaction to this.

  5. "Sometimes our values sound strange to The Others..."

    I think that this should read "Sometimes comedians' lack of values sound strange to their audiences..."

    I really don't get who he is considering The Others here. Is it everyone besides Saget and Somerby?

  6. “We didn't know the late Bob Saget, although we did hire and host him, for one weekend, a very long time ago.”

    Did you know about his dirty jokes back then? If so, who are you to criticize “liberals” for their purported love of dirty jokes? You enabled him!

  7. Who was in Bob Saget’s audience? Only liberals? Does Somerby think “the Others” are all a bunch of church going Lawrence Welk fans with sensitive feelings? Has he heard of their former President?

    Does Penn Jillette speak for liberals? He is or was a libertarian, according to Wikipedia.

    Does the New York Times’ editorial decision-making reflect “liberal” values?

  8. Rancid Dennis Miller was recently on Kimmel faking a “what me Worry” politics is no big deal to me take on Trump. It’s hard to imagine Kimmel did not know he was lying. After worshiping W thru his disasters, he had a pay radio show where he lambasted Obama constantly, often in terms that were not totally not racist ( he signed off on Birtherism, and encouraged disliking Obama personally). The wheels of Show Business are greased with BS. Whether you liked Sagat as a comic apparently he was a nice man, and since he just died that’s probably enough to say. But Bob sees another chance to own the Libs…..

  9. Somerby was on Bill Maher’s show, and frequently gives him “hat tips” in his blog.
    Maher is a foul-mouthed anti-religious person, frequently laying into Trump supporters with great vigor.

    So perhaps Somerby is confusing his own support for filthy comics and outrĂ© values with that of liberals in general. When one is on a moral high horse, it’s difficult to see one’s own culpability and hypocrisy.

  10. The sublime can't be explained in words, by definition.

  11. Hey Bobby, if Penn Jillette is in your tribe, what does that make you? Apart from someone who can't keep the spelling of his name straight.

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