When the sexual abuse scandal first broke at Penn State in early November, almost immediately I started receiving texts with “jokes” about child molestation. At first, I wasn’t sure how to react, but the more jokes I saw that were insensitive to the victims, the more I realized that child molestation is no laughing matter. In my post on the subject, I wrote, “As a comedian, I believe that no topic is entirely off-limits if it’s done well, but it’s so hard to talk about child sexual abuse in a way that’s funny unless you’ve been through it yourself.”
Since then, similar allegations of sexual abuse have emerged at Syracuse University, and assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was fired on Sunday, November 27. This weekend, Saturday Night Live decided to weigh-in on the controversy at both schools, after scoring big with their devil’s take on Penn State sketch that aired during November 12th’s Weekend Update. After this weekend’s show, former SNL cast member Colin Quinn tweeted that he thought the Penn State/SU sketch “Coach Bert” starring Steve Buscemi as a mustached potential pedophile belonged in “the garbage disposal.” He wrote, “I’m ashamed I was ever associated with that show …. When I was on the show yeah we got a little ‘edgy’ sometimes. We like to ‘push the envelop but never to where it made people go ‘whoa’!”
Here’s the thing: despite my reservations about the types of jokes covered in my November 9th post, I actually think this weekend’s episode of SNL got it right. “Coach Bert” somehow found a way to use humor to address a difficult situation in a way that was funny and yet doesn’t mock victims of sexual abuse.
Take a look and tell me if you agree with me or if you think Colin has a point: