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Comedy, Censorship, and You

2010 April 25

My mamma always told me, “Hon, it isn’t censorship unless the federal government is doing it. So don’t be one of those ignorant fools who screams ‘censorship’ at every little thing.”

Boy, did her advice come in handy this week. First, Apple’s flipflopping on cartoonist Mark Fiore has inspired sarcasm everywhere, as well as accusations not only of censorship, but of inconsistent censorship — even worse!! Apple originally rejected Fiore’s app because it made fun of public figures — he’s a satirist, after all — but reversed its decision once Fiore won a Pulitzer. “I feel kind of guilty,” Fiore admitted to the Wall Street Journal. “I’m getting preferential treatment because I got the Pulitzer.” Well, yes, but it’s still not censorship, kids, because Apple, not the government, is doing it

When Comedy Central declined to show parts of the latest South Park, many cried censorship. But it really wasn’t. Comedy Central is allowed to edit for content — and it does every time it bleeps out a word in a movie or stand-up special, unless you’re watching “Secret Stash.” It’s true that this decision was religiously motivated, more or less, but it’s the same damned thing, and it isn’t censorship.

I love you, Jon, but it’s not censorship.

People can still be upset about it, and Jon Stewart’s rant at Comedy Central and death-threat-issuers is fair enough – I mean, I totally agree that those are the real jackasses — however, his statement that the “censorship” was “Comedy Central’s decision” is exactly wrong. The Muslim group, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone still have the right to free speech; it’s just that Parker and Stone rely on Comedy Central to distribute their product — until they post on their own site, South Park Studios, anyway.

YouTube’s removal of Hitler parodies, based on the movie Downfall, has (unsurprisingly) spawned a more law-savvy discussion. BoingBoing reports that Hitler is pissed about “parodies of the bunker scene from Downfall [being removed] without regard to the fair use provisions of US copyright law.” Ooo, the specificity of the argument is enough to give me chills. And the discussion is quite good too, pointing out that while you can make fun of something as satire, many of these videos used the original product to make fun of other things, which means they are not protected. Still, this response video is good parody in that it takes on the meta-issues of fair use vs. free publicity; public domain vs. copyright; and most importantly, the primitive state of modern law regarding digital media. Check it out for yourselves above.

The whole censorship thing was only part of this week’s comedy explosion. Which I liked, don’t get me wrong, but things moved so fast it was hard to catch up. I’m still grooving on this very silly typeface humor from CollegeHumor — c’mon, don’t you want to know what happens when the fonts get together for a conference? (I’d show it to you, but apparently they don’t want us to embed their videos. Their loss.)

Mel Brooks Gets His Hollywood Star

Go Mel! If I can't have Jon, I'll marry you!

Archie Comics proved Keven Smith downright prophetic by introducing a gay character to Riverdale High this week (remember the conversation from Chasing Amy?) Mel Brooks finally got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s about freaking time! Finally, a double win for comedians of color everywhere: not only will Aziz Ansari host the 19th MTV Video Music Awards, Entertainment Weekly just announced that Mindy Kaling will write a book of comic essays entitled The Contents of My Purse.

TV-wise, I’ve been watching Comedy Central again, and I lurrved Monday’s report on how those lame-ass Brits do their elections. Community was back and in good form. I ♥ Goodfellas, I ♥ Community, but a combination of the two!!?? ♥♥♥♥♥!!!!! (Translation: Be still my beating heart!) And okay, it didn’t hurt that AMC had been running Goodfellas all week, so I could really appreciate the perfection of the synched-up music.

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