Hanging Ellen On The Gallows Of Humor

It was maybe ten years ago, sitting in a Greek restaurant on the west side of town, eating lunch with Radley Balko, when we talked about how one keeps one’s sanity when one’s job is trying to survive a system that’s stacked against you.

“I make jokes about it.”

“Gallows humor,” Radley replied.

“Exactly. What else can you do? Crying about it won’t change it. You just keep fighting, and so I make jokes.”

You can’t do that anymore. You can’t make jokes about taboo subjects that aren’t funny, which may well be why too many young lawyers are filled with anger, are depressed, and struggle to cope with the life they chose. They sometimes put on brave faces, pretend they’re winning the fight and present themselves as fierce warriors for the cause. But then, someone twits about how they cry in their car, and a thousand others chime in. “Me too,” they admit, to the emotional approval of their clique.

Whether they’re good lawyers, an iffy question as their self-assessments often differ markedly from those of their supervisors, who knows? But that they’re emotional wrecks in desperate need of validation is clear. But when this happened, they locked arms in outrage. How dare Ellen make a joke about something so horrific.

During her show on Monday, DeGeneres revealed that she was now filming from the comfort of her home that she shares with wife Portia de Rossi. After thanking first responders, emergency workers, doctors, nurses, and other essential pandemic workers, DeGeneres pivoted to talking about her experience self-isolating with de Rossi and their dog (around the two-minute mark).

“One thing I’ve learned from being in quarantine is that people — this is like being in jail, is what this is,” DeGeneres said, adding, “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days, and everyone in here is gay.”

Ellen is female and gay, which might have given her the bona fides to make the joke. After all, was she not the bold comedian who came out at the height of her career, which cost her a sweet sitcom gig? How much more could she do to earn her cred to make a joke?

But that was then and this is now. Not even comedians can make jokes if they touch a sacred subject, and this one touched prison rape. Prisons alone are no longer subjects of humor; there’s nothing funny about prisons, about caging people. Rape is no longer allowed within a hundred miles of humor. To add yet another level of outrage, the usual suspects were churning out a constant stream of twits about prisoners dying of COVID-19, which makes them doubly disapproved for jokes. The unduly passionate lost their shit.

Prison inmates are disproportionately vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 during the current pandemic, with experts warning that prisons and jails could become “petri dishes of infection.”

Even during normal times, inmates face incredible challenges if they become ill or injured during their incarceration, and many fear the coronavirus could wreak havoc on prisons if left unchecked — leading to the release of some prisoners considered to be at a higher risk for contracting the virus.

Whether Ellen’s joke was funny, or would have been funny but for the pandemic, isn’t the point. You don’t have to think any particular joke is funny to appreciate that it was a joke and just a joke. It struck me as fairly obvious and banal, but then, I was never a big fan of Ellen’s comedy. Still, even if the joke was something of a groaner, it was just a joke. What it was not was a reflection of some malevolent intent on Ellen’s part, some hatred of the beloved prisoners, dismissal of homosexuality or approval of prison rape.

And no, sitting in her mansion making jokes about prison while prisoners are suffering isn’t insensitive toward the most vulnerable in society. It’s just a friggin’ joke, and making jokes about horrific things is one of the best ways to cope with the bad in the world, not to mention being far more effective in making a point about wrongs that need fixing than the constant shrieking by the usual nutjobs to their insipid followers.

It’s unclear whether the unduly passionate really hate jokes that touch on their taboos or feel compelled to be outraged because they’ve been carefully taught that their virtue is tied to their hating the things they’re supposed to hate. I’m regularly informed that my inadequate outrage in accordance with the strictures of the scolds makes me a bad man. And my joking about subjects that are no longer permissible makes me much worse. Of course, those who inform me of this seem to believe their disapproval is important, because how could anyone not want their approval? I hate to burst their baby bubble.

But as I explained to Radley years ago, it’s the ability to laugh at it that keeps us fighting, that keeps us from hating the system and crying in our cars after another crushing defeat. Call it gallows humor or just terrible jokes about subjects that are not funny, but humor is one of the most effective and useful survival techniques in the criminal defense lawyer’s arsenal. We laugh because crying helps no one.

Maybe the woke wouldn’t suffer such crushing depression if they allowed themselves to have a sense of humor, to tell an off-color joke, to laugh at awful things because it’s better than the alternative. Of course prison rape is horrible, so tell a joke about it.

37 thoughts on “Hanging Ellen On The Gallows Of Humor

  1. Skink

    Ripped from Headlines:

    “It’s Not Over–Virus Meets Hurricane Season–Swamp Says It’s Fucked”

    “Report: Trump Has Virus–Aides Say It’s Just Ball and Ass Cancer”

    “Virus: No One Gets Laid. Latex Makers Glad To Make Gloves”

    “Elected Game-Show Host. Survivor?”

    “Virus Fallout–Traffic Tickets–Cops Say No Stops Unless Multicultural Body Parts Smeared On Windshield.”

    “Parking Garages Say Cars Properly Social-Distancing, Despite Reports”

    “Study: 2M to Die. Biden: I Never Study”

    “Domestic Violence Rises. Cops Ponder”

    “Homeschooling–Kids Can’t Count, But Can Name All Porn Stars”

    “Judge, Virus and CDL Seen In Bar, Drinking”
    This can’t be real. Even the virus won’t be seen with a CDL.

    1. SHG Post author

      Q: What do you call 137,000 domestic violence abusers?

      A: Officer

      Q: What do 137,000 domestic violence victims have in common?

      A: They just don’t fucking get it.

      Swamp humor.

      1. B. McLeod

        Lots of media lamentation about how COVID-19 isolation is feeding domestic violence. The bright side is that as their breathing becomes impaired, the beatings are increasingly feeble.

  2. Jeff

    Wait… Doesn’t Ellen have the right to make a joke about prison rape and get away with it? As far as I can count, she’s likely got more privilege points than the complainers: she’s a woman AND gay. But neither of those involve being a rape victim. Maybe it’s a special rule.

      1. David M. Nieporent

        I think you’re overlooking one very important point in your ignorant defense of Ellen: she sat with George Bush and – *gasp* – watched a football game. While smiling. And had the audacity not to apologize for it.

  3. B. McLeod

    Maybe it was insensitive toward the most vulnerable in our society, but so what? What’s the point of being filthy rich and living in a mansion with a celebrity lover if you can’t issue the occasional, “Let them eat cake” utterance? (Cue “The Ringing of Revolution”).

    1. Black Bellamy

      The most vulnerable members of our society are hedge fund managers, traditionally the most brittle and frail as proven by all the help they’ve been given.

  4. David Meyer-Lindenberg

    A gent with a penchant improper
    for coping with sickness and slaughter
    by laughing will see
    that the worst of the three
    is offending the minister’s daughter.

    PS: What’s a restaurant?

    1. SHG Post author

      Imagine Hofbräuhaus, but it serves food with the beer and there’s no Brunhilda standing at the door to crush your head if she catches you stealing a mug.

  5. CLS

    A bitter old man hated by all is at the end of his life. He meets separately with his physician, priest, and attorney and hands each an envelope full of cash.

    “I want to die with all my money,” the man tells each party. “At my funeral you’re to take this envelope and place it in my coffin. No one gets my money but me.”

    During the man’s funeral the priest, physician, and attorney are all seen depositing envelopes into the casket.

    The three get to talking during the wake. The physician asks the priest “Father, you can’t lie since you’re a priest. Did you take any of the money that old bastard gave you?”

    The priest sighs. “Yes, I took some of the money. We needed improvements to the parish and we’re behind a payment on the building fund. How about you, doctor?”

    The doctor looks relieved. “Yeah I took some too. I was late on an alimony payment and my son needed tuition for summer camp.”

    Both men turn to the attorney, who stares at them with a look of utter contempt.

    “The nerve of you two,” the attorney says. “I want you to know I wrote that man a personal check for the entire amount!”

        1. Skink

          You hit the waitress. Since this here Hotel doesn’t have work-comp, hit the orange button above and to the right.

  6. Hunting Guy

    Long ago I was a Titan II launch officer.

    At the completion of a successful simulator ride, where we launched a 9 MT weapon that would kill millions and end civilization as we knew it, the crew commander would reach under his console and pull out an empty 6 pack of Miller beer.

    The crew would then shout in unison, “It’s Miller time!”

  7. David

    Alot of the people on Twitter criticizing rape jokes were retweeting gifs of guillotines and joking about murder, they’re hypocrites

    1. SHG Post author

      Some find it weird how murder has morphed into a socially acceptable offense (as long as it’s not the wife).

  8. Hunting Guy

    From an anonymous UPS delivery driver…

    5 types of customers since the “rona”:

    1) Steve: He has been waiting for this moment his whole life. He has been drinking boilermakers since 10:00 am in his recliner and his AR is within arms reach. He has 6 months provisions in the basement and a bug out bag due west buried in the woods. Steve demands a handshake as I give him his package. He’s sizing me up as I deliver his ammo.

    Steve will survive this, and he will kill you if he needs to.

    2) Brad: He is standing at his window wearing skinny jeans and a Patagonia t-shirt. He is mad because there were no organic tomatoes at Whole Foods today. He points at the ground where he has taped a 6 ft no go zone line from his porch. I leave his case of Fuji water, organic granola bites, and his new “Bernie Bro” hat at the tape.

    Brad will not survive. Steve will probably eat him.

    3) Nancy: She has sprayed everything with Thieves oil. Bought all the Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, meat, and bread from the local grocery chain. She has quarantined her kids and sprays them with a mixture of thieves, lavender, & mint essential oils daily. She has posted every link known to man about “The Rona” on her social media. She will spray you if you break the 6 ft rule. I will leave her yet another case of toilet paper.

    She will last longer than Brad, but not Steve.

    4) Karen: She has called everybody and read them the latest news on “The Rona”. She asked for the manager at Food Lion, Walmart, Publix, McDonalds, Chi-Fil-A, and Vons all before noon demanding more toilet paper. Karen’s kids are currently faking “The Rona” to avoid her. I’m delivering “Hello kitchen” to her.

    Karen will not survive longer than Brad.

    5) Mary: Is sitting in the swing watching her kids have a water balloon fight in the front yard as she is on her fourth glass of wine. She went to the store and bought 2 cases of pop tarts, 6 boxes of cereal, 8 bags of pizza rolls, And a 6 roll pack of toilet paper. There is a playlist of Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, and Post Malone playing in the background. I’m bringing her second shipment of 15 bottles of wine in 3 days.

    Mary will survive and marry Steve. Together they will repopulate the earth. May God have mercy on us all.

    1. SHG Post author

      I didn’t know UPS delivers toilet paper. On the other hand, I have a very well-stocked wine cellar. Not a fancy one, but a full one.

  9. Eddie S.

    So all of a sudden this blog is getting politically correct. When did Ellen have a sex change? Ellen is not a comedian unless she’s had a sex change and in that case she wouldn’t be a she,. She’d be a ze, no? She is a comedienne (or at least purports to be one). She’s not gender neutral.

    1. SHG Post author

      Sometimes people just try too hard to be unwoke. It’s no different than woke, just the other direction.

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