In this Age of Outrage, we've become accustomed to stand-up comics grousing about the various college students and others who just can't take a freaking joke anymore, but veteran comic Norm MacDonald is in the midst of a mini-outrage tear of his own. MacDonald is one of three judges on NBC's Last Comic Standing, and for the past two weeks, he's had oddly stern reactions to some innocuous-seeming jokes. First, on the August 12 episode, contestant Harrison Greenbaum made a crack about the Bible and Harry Potter, and MacDonald offered Greenbaum a stern scolding:
I don't think the Bible joke was brave at all. I think if you're gonna take on an entire religion, you should maybe know what you're talking about. J.K. Rowling is a Christian and J.K. Rowling famously said that, uh, if you're familiar with the scriptures, you could easily guess the ending of her book...I didn't like it.
What I loved about MacDonald's reaction is that it wasn't immediately clear if he was offended for Jesus, or for Harry Potter. Now, Greenbaum couldn't have telegraphed that punchline more clearly if he'd told it in Morse code, but as blasphemy goes, it was pretty mild.
Then, on this week's episode, Harrison Greenbaum told another joke that got MacDonald's Irish up, this time about the NAACP:
"The NAACP joke, there is a reason that the organization is called the NAAcP, and you can research it and find out what it is, and then not do the joke anymore."
Again, it was a predictable, unoriginal joke, but as transgressive humor goes, barely a blip. It certainly didn't come close to another comic who said she wanted to be the "art school rejection letter that turns you into Hitler," a joke that MacDonald loved.
Greenbaum, who was eliminated this week, had this response to MacDonald on Twitter:
MacDonald's judging on this season of Last Comic Standing has been more entertaining than many of the comics, as he appears to be performing in an improv sketch that only he knows is going on, but his lecturing of Greenbaum put me in mind of all the recent comedy outrage cycles.
Who is Norm MacDonald to judge? Well, he's one of the judges, and so are the people that Jerry Seinfeld, et al, constantly gripe about. Just like Harrison Greenbaum, other comics can listen and take the advice, like Amy Schumer eventually did, or ignore it, or be funny about refuting it. Whining about it, though, is a weak move.
Update: It must be Gripe at Tommy Christopher on Twitter Week. Harrison Greenbaum wan't happy with my commentary about his two jokes, but we talked it out. The conversation was too long for me to reproduce here, but go check it out if you like. I stand by those remarks, but Harrison's right, anyone reading this piece would get the impression I didn't like his act, which isn't true. In the interest of fairness, then, I'm posting video of his religion chunk:
As for Macdonald, here's what Greenbaum had to say: