Stop me if you've heard this one before but Salon is complaining about Seth MacFarlane.
The debut of the new Fox show Dads has given the internet's premier destination for keeping track of everything you need to be outraged by another chance to revisit one of its favorite subjects. In a piece today called "Is 'Dads' creator Seth MacFarlane the Most Offensive Man in Show Business?" Daniel D'Addario treads the familiar ground of lamenting MacFarlane's brand of humor, although this time Salon goes the extra mile by wondering out loud what it is about our culture that would allow someone like MacFarlane to flourish. It's all our faults, you see. We're the ones rewarding his bad behavior, since those who enable him in the entertainment industry are simply giving us what we want. Shame on us. Or at least shame on Fox for hitching its wagon to MacFarlane's philosophy of funny.
And in an era of increased fragmentation — when Fox shows like “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project” all do fine, but are not hits — MacFarlane’s devoted fan base is something Fox is willing to stake its reputation on. They’re not, and were never, raunchy because of philosophical desire to push envelopes: As witnessed by Fox’s willingness to push the family-friendly “American Idol” to the brink of over-exertion, they’ll go with whatever works, and actively trolling audience expectations is a good way to appeal to teenage and 20-something boys, if entirely alienating everyone else.
From everything I've seen, Dads doesn't look like the kind of thing I'd watch. First of all, irrespective of that or anything else, it's not really a Seth MacFarlane show; he lent his name to it as executive producer but it really belongs to long-time Family Guy producer and MacFarlane friend Alec Sulkin. But nothing I've seen in the commercials looks very funny to me and, believe it or not, I'm not usually a fan of offensiveness just for the sake of offensiveness, or more to the point, offensiveness handled badly. Being offensive, inappropriate, and flat-out "wrong" can often be hilarious, but it ironically takes a delicate touch to pull it off. Just going for the cheap shock gag is exactly that: cheap -- and clumsy. But here's the thing: That's my opinion. It's my very personal take on what I personally find funny, and that's what's important to keep in mind about comedy -- it's completely subjective.
I feel as if, sort of like Salon, I guess, I've had to tread this ground over and over again. But I do so because the freedom to try almost anything in the name of being funny matters to me. There's a really terrific response in the comment section of today's MacFarlane post that nicely sums up how humor can't be dictated by one person to another.
I get that some people don't find Seth MacFarlane funny. But it is futile to try and define funny for other people. If I laugh at a Family Guy joke, you cannot convince me that it wasn't funny by giving some long-winded explanation about who's (sic) feelings were hurt.
I'm not going to go too far down this rabbit hole again because I have so many times in the past. If you want a detailed description of why I feel the way I do, there's plenty of stuff in the archive. But Salon's ongoing quixotic obsession with Seth MacFarlane -- and really any brand of comedy that refuses to be tethered by political correctness -- is more than tiresome at this point. The site stakes out the pious, hyper-liberal moral high ground and disapprovingly scolds those trying to make us laugh who don't measure up or who dare to be crass and occasionally even cruel. It tries to tell everyone what is and isn't funny, and there's nothing less funny than somebody who isn't the least bit funny lecturing funny people on how to be funny.
By the way, last week a lot of people had a conniption because somebody at Esquire magazine's website accidentally posted the following image on the anniversary of 9/11:
I covered 9/11 from Ground Zero and the Armory at 25th and Lex where the families of the missing and dead had their information processed immediately following the disaster. I knew people who died in the attack. I comforted those who'd lost loved ones. Very few take 9/11 as seriously as I do. And you know something? As awful as that mistake was, I laughed my ass off at it.
And nobody gets to take that away from me.