Aurora Tragedy Challenges “Too Soon” Culture

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Three weeks after the Manhattan skyline vanished underneath a cloud of fire and ash, comedians from all over the world gathered at the New York Friars Club to host a roast of Hugh Hefner. Located mere miles away from the rubble still burning from those events that Tuesday morning eleven years ago, the audience sat in an unnerving and awkward silence, wondering when it would be time to laugh again. Or, more correctly, if it would EVER be alright to laugh again. Our world had seemingly changed forever.

The jokes were ones that you would expect given the guest of honor: how Hef had erectile dysfunction, how he had three limbs in the grave, how if Ice T tried to live the same lifestyle, the gangster rapper would be arrested for kidnapping and raping hoards of young white women. And as the comics tiptoed around the line of what was in good taste and what crossed boundaries, all the audience could do was feign laughter, as the elephant in the room weighed heavily on everyone’s conscience.

Enter Gilbert Gottfried.

Gottfried, to many, has the reputation of the creepy old uncle, best known for his voiceover work in kid’s movies. Throughout his career, he has played such diverse roles as parrots, ducks, and other various birds, seemingly as a roués to make it easier to get closer around young children, much in the same vein as an ice cream truck driver or birthday clown.

But to the Friars, Gilbert is a legend, “the comedian’s comedian.” A perpetual line-stepper on the Howard Stern Show, he’s famous for his sharp wit, dirty jokes, and off-hand Holocaust quips that would make even Louis CK think “this guy has some serious problems.”

A nervous unease hushed the crowd as Gottfried took the mic.

“I had intended to catch a plane, but couldn’t get a direct flight because they said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.”

For what seemed like an eternity, deathly silence plagued the room, only to be met with hisses, boos, and calls of “too soon!” Gottfried remained at the mic frozen, his eyes dilated and his hands wet as the Hudson River. Then, almost out of survivalist instinct, he pocketed his prepared remarks, and went into a rendition of The Aristocrats so obscene, so over the line of what’s acceptable, that by the time that the punchline came, it had Rob Schneider literally rolling on the floor laughing.

The amazing thing about that story is how, in one moment, one man made it okay to laugh again. Mere blocks away from the rubble, what had held the audience hostage – the fear of addressing the tragedy had finally been brought out in the open. Fear was released from Pandora’s box. The first joke had been made, we had all survived, and now an emotional road to recovery could begin. We could finally enjoy ourselves again.

I had first heard of the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last night on my commute to work this morning. Without really realizing the gravity of the situation, about three minutes later, I sent a buddy a text message making some throwaway joke about the shootings. He laughed, I put away my phone, walked into my building, and went about my day.

See, I’ve always believed that the best way to address fear – fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of a lost sense of security – has been to dehumanize it, to make jokes about it, to make it seem less terrifying. I always joke about how this is an inevitable result of being a children of divorce, but I think that there’s truth to that. Much like how Herb Brooks would mock the Russians’ facial features and lack of culture in order to transform the 1980 USA Hockey team’s image of the Soviets from machine to men, men who bleed, men who aren’t infallible, I’ve always thought that the best way to confront what scares us is to make that idea less scary.

It was only after I closed the door to my office, and started reading and reflecting about the horrors of last night, that I started to regret that joke text message that I had sent. The image of a random man, cowardly hiding behind a mask, and putting a bullet hole into the head of an infant has a serious way of sobering one’s conscience up. I can’t get that visualization out of my head. It’ll likely haunt me for a couple of nights as I lay in bed trying to sleep.

Carol Burnett once said, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” There’s going to be a time when we’re going to be able to get those images out of our head, and even make light of them. I think it’s healthy for the soul.

But now is not that time. Now is a time to mourn, to reflect, to pray.

This isn’t a regional tragedy. This is a national tragedy. The security blanket that our nation has been protected by since Columbine and Virginia Tech now has a country-sized hole in it. What was once our sanctuary, the freedom to walk down the street or into a building unharmed, is now a reminder that, for all the progress made, the world remains, and will always be, one messed up place.

The day will come when the elephant in the room becomes no larger than a stuffed animal, but we shouldn’t let that day pass too quickly.

Because, while it is healthy to dehumanize fear, we cannot allow us to dehumanize ourselves in the process.




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  1. 4

    Though well written, I have to disagree. You can mourn and pray yes, but the longer you dwell in the dark, the harder it is to find the light. It’s an absolute tragedy but let’s save the negative histrionics.

    ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
  2. 3

    I understand the weapons aren’t that hard to come by these days, but how did this unemployed kid have access to the “maze” of booby traps and explosives in his apartment? I know he’s smart, but google can’t train someone to set that kind of thing up.

    ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
    • 4

      Uh, were you not around in the 90s? There was a book published about everything related to anything dangerous; bomb-making, phreaking (phone hacking), anything illegal you wanted to accomplish you could. Google is the middleman now

      ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
    • 7
      code 3

      Criminals like this are narcissists. They want the death penalty and to be in normal prison because it allows them the opportunities to keep making the press or keep making some kind of impact on others. The worst punishment for this guy would be to send him offshore to Guantanamo Bay for his truly terroristic actions. There could be nothing worse in his mind than to expect all of this fame and notoriety (he dressed like the Joker for Christ’s sake) and then to just disappear only to eat cockmeat sandwiches for the rest of his life. The death penalty is too fast for this person. I’m usually for it, but we’ve got to realistically tailor the punishment for the criminal, not necessarily just the crime.

      ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
    • 1

      Well those pussy liberals can go fuck themselves. He deserves the death penalty for his actions. He fucking shot 71 people and killed 14. I don’t know how anyone can state a legitimate claim that his life should be spared.

      ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
    • -2
      Old Fratsputin

      The death penalty issue isn’t about being liberal or conservative. Hillary Clinton is for the death penalty. Personally, I’m against it because chances are that with life in prison with no chance for parole they will suffer much more and if they’re that fucked up than the other inmates will kill them, just like what happened to Dahmer. Better yet, get rid of lethal injection and bring back the firing squad!

      ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
    • -2

      Look death penalty is not just to get these scum bags off this world, its closer for the families affected. It allows them to see the greatest evil in their world be wiped away, and allows them to begin rebuilding and to start feeling safe again.

      ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
    • -4
      Tallapoosa Snu

      The death penalty is an easy out. Put him in general population and announce on a megaphone what he did. They’ll make damn sure he suffers every single second until they kill him. He thinks he’s depraved? Stick him in MaxSec in Colorado and put him with his friends. He’ll learn very very fast what crazy is.

      ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
    • -6

      I’m a liberal but I completely agree! He deserves more than the fucking death penalty, a little injection is way too fucking easy for that son of a bitch.

      ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
    • -7
      John McClane

      I am all for the death penalty, but that is too easy for this piece of shit. I think that the proper way to deal with this guy is to simply put him in the prison yard in the state penn with the rest of the guys doing 25 to life. Those guys have their own code that he would have to answer to, and the guards would just look away. Honestly, I think that we should go back to public hangings on the courthouse lawn, or as they said, “a short drop and a sudden stop.”

      I just hope he enjoys sodomy, because he will be getting plenty in prison and in hell.

      ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago
  3. 1

    I was in Westminster seeing the showing and none of us found out about it till the next morning. It’s scary what people now-a-days will do.

    ^ ThisTake a lapLog in or sign up to reply. • 4 years ago

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