Someday the angry masses who seem to make up the entirety of the internet will find something better to do with their time than be pissy over every little goddamn thing. Sadly, that day is not today. The latest target of their wrath: Amy Poehler. Specifically, a joke that turned up in the pilot episode of the new show on Hulu that Poehler executive produces, Difficult People.
Now given the name of the show and the fact that the ads for it feature stars Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner taking a selfie at a funeral, you should probably have some idea what kind of humor this thing traffics in. Klausner and Eichner play the titular Difficult People, struggling New York City comics who bond over their mutual narcissism, cynicism and misanthropy. The very first scene of the show is a series of quick cuts between the two main characters as each runs to meet the other at a movie. They’re both late and so every person who gets in their way on the sidewalk is treated not only to a sidestep but a brutal insult, establishing right off the bat — for those who once again missed that title and ad campaign — that Difficult People isn’t a show aimed at audiences with fragile sensibilities.
But being that this is America circa 2015, everyone — even the fragile-sensibilities people — must at all times approve of the content of any and every bit of entertainment transmitted or displayed anywhere, which means that a show can never be too offensive or inappropriate lest the humor police bust in on behalf of those with easily hurt feelings. Unfortunately nobody told Amy Poehler and the creators/stars of Difficult People this, since less than five minutes into the pilot there’s a blistering little crack on the subject of Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy. “I can’t wait for Blue Ivy to be old enough for R. Kelly to piss on her,” Klausner’s character says.
Now the thing about this joke is that it’s supposed to be horrible. Within the context of the show, Klausner’s character actually tweets the joke out and is subjected to a huge online backlash over it. The joke was supposed to be so offensive that you could understand it provoking outrage against the character, outrage that follows her for almost the entire episode. But again, this is America in the year 2015 and so even a joke about a tasteless joke can’t stand. Scan the internet right now and what happened within the fictional world of Difficult People is of course happening all over the place for real.
Twitter is losing its mind. Some are asking whether the meta-joke — wait for it — went too far. Others want everyone to “remember the victims” of R. Kelly. Still others are accusing Poehler, who reportedly is very hands-on with the show, of racism, since they maintain that her show never would’ve made a joke about a white baby. Many are demanding, obviously, that the show be canceled. In general we’re hearing what we always hear at times like these, the official mantra of the joyless and perpetually aggrieved: “that’s not funny!”
Well, fuck those people. First of all because the joke was hilarious. It was hilarious specifically because it was so shocking and offensive and even more specifically because it was the foundation of such a beautifully self-aware running gag. More than that, because a comedy show that was never intended to cater to the tastes of every kind of audience is somehow expected to adhere to the standards imposed by every kind of audience.
When comedians talk about why they hate “political correctness” so much, while that may be a somewhat tired term, this is what they’re talking about: the notion that they have to make sure everyone is pleased with, and no one is offended by, their material or else they’ll face calls to silence them completely. As I’ve said more than a few times, nothing is more insufferable than unfunny people telling funny people what is and isn’t funny.
The Blue Ivy joke was tasteless. And it was funny. And if you don’t think so, fine. Just shut the hell up and don’t bother watching Difficult People. If you’re complaining about the joke online right now, chances are you weren’t going to anyway.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.