Never come to a battle of wits unarmed.
Conan O’Brien, a comedian who’s floated on the edge of celebrity since being unceremoniously ousted from his spot on “The Tonight Show” by Jay Leno a decade ago, took a shot at returning to relevance on Sunday with a mean-spirited “joke” that aimed at two favorite targets of the Hollywood left: President Donald Trump and Christianity.
And with one Twitter post, he destroyed anything resembling goodwill among millions of his countrymen:
Trump says Jesus could have avoided crucifixion by taking hydroxychloroquine.
— Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) April 12, 2020
“Trump says Jesus could have avoided crucifixion by taking hydroxychloroquine,” O’Brien wrote.
First of all, it’s not funny. It’s not even close to funny. It has no internal logic, it has no irony, is has no surprising twist. Not even a rim-shot would save it, or Groucho Marx glasses with a fake nose.
O’Brien, a man who’s spent a professional career in comedy, would know that (even if some of his antics would make a viewer think he didn’t). Even if he’s pretty unfunny himself — about the worst thing that can be said about a comedian — he’s certainly not stupid.
The only conclusion to draw then is that it’s deliberately insulting — a sneer from a lout in the back of the room who thinks offensiveness equals intelligence.
Second, nothing says “class” like insulting the faith of hundreds of millions of Americans on the holiest day of their liturgical calendar.
Fortunately for supporters of both, conservative actor James Woods was in a position to strike back and shame the would-be jokester with his own hypocrisy.
In an apparent reference to the 2015 massacre at the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo (which had committed the “crime” of publishing a cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad), Woods implied that Conan – who has made much publicly of being the product of an Irish-Catholic family — wouldn’t have the guts to make a similar “joke” about the founder of Islam.
I remember when comedians in Paris mocked the Muslim faith. Thank God we Catholics just turn the other cheek. https://t.co/JGAMdsHkDi
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) April 13, 2020
And Woods, as usual, had not only logic on his side, but plenty of supporters on social media.
Conehead O’Brien went really low on that one, eh?
— HappyPreppers (@HappyPreppers) April 13, 2020
Making fun of Jesus on Easter to resurrect your career is desperation at its finest!
— Terc 182 (@Terc1821) April 13, 2020
If I made that joke regarding the Muslim faith my account would be suspended immediately.
But hey, only in America, right?!?!
— ELLI EASTWOOD (@redviolet1458) April 13, 2020
Meanwhile if anyone made the same joke about Prophet Muhammad, libs like Conan O’Brien would be the first to accuse that person of racism.. or something!
— MichaelP (@michael_pistis) April 13, 2020
If anyone wondered when Conan O’Brien stopped being relevant…
It was NOW!
— Comic Boss One ❌ (@comic_boss) April 13, 2020
Unfortunately, there were at least a few Twitter users who didn’t seem to understand what the fuss was about. O’Brien wasn’t making fun of Christianity, their argument went — just Trump’s oversized ego.
That’s a position that’s missing the point. First of all, for Trump supporters, his presidency isn’t the step toward fascism liberals like to pretend they believe it is. It’s the first step toward pulling the greatest country on earth back from the abyss of authoritarianism Democrats are determined to take it into.
The relentless attacks on Trump over the years have become, if they weren’t already, attacks on the intelligence, integrity and patriotism of his millions of backers. Whatever O’Brien might feign to think, it was an insult to them more than it was to the president himself.
Second, this is a topic that transcends — or should — political japery. For Christians, the crucifixion and resurrection aren’t just pivotal points in the faith; they’ve pivotal points in the history of humanity, where the infinite God became human and died a tortured death, only to rise again to show mankind that the earthly life is only a transit point, that the true home of the human soul is with a loving Creator.
That’s as transcendent an idea as ever existed, but for O’Brien and the entertainment world – with some notable exceptions — it’s simply the stuff of sarcastic, grade school humor for snot-nosed punks who’ve never grown up.
Meanwhile, the same crowd that would chortle at O’Brien’s malicious stab at humor would be aghast if anything remotely as disrespectful were uttered about Islam. TBS, the network that carries O’Brien’s current show, would be besieged with calls for boycotts, or worse.
As Woods noted, Islamic extremists aren’t known for having a sense of humor when it comes to their faith, nor are they known to scruple at shedding blood over even harmless slights – as the Charlie Hebdo massacre confirmed with horrifying certainty.
But Conan and his crowd can feel perfectly safe insulting the religious faith of hundreds of millions. They can feel perfectly safe insulting the political decisions of tens of millions of their fellow Americans.
Of course they shouldn’t do it. And they shouldn’t insult Muslims or Jews or members of any other religion – not because of fears of retaliation, but because it’s simply indecent to do.
But to the glitterati, decency is for the little people — especially the little people who don’t fight back. As Woods noted back in 2018 when New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a Catholic-themed fundraising bash that mocked the church, “If this kind of group insult toward a religion were aimed at Islam, for example, we would have another Charlie Hebdo on our hands.”
Mockery – in the hollow, ignorant eyes of the Hollywood O’Brien is a part of — is for people of faith.
Except when those people are from a faith that doesn’t turn the other cheek. The Paris massacre five years ago proved that.
Don’t expect Conan to mention it, though. That might take guts.
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