Punching up

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In comedy there are two rules, often at odds, that we strive to live by: 1: always try to punch up, and 2: political correctness is a humor killer. When I first heard the phrase “punching up,” I had to Google it. Basically, it means, you must only make fun of those in power – when you laugh at people less privileged than you, it’s not humor – it’s bullying. Fair enough.
However, the idea of punching up can also become mixed up with political correctness, and before you know it, the idea that everyone has an essential humanity and, therefore, feelings to be hurt, leaves you staring impotently at a blank page, afraid to laugh at anything for fear of alienating anyone.
That’s why so many humorists go after politicians – they are, by virtue of their occupations, powerful people, so therefore they are fair game. But when you write for a small-town newspaper, even those public figures have a human face to go with their powerful roles, and you can still take some heat for making fun, and invariably be accused of the worst crime in comedy: punching down.
For instance:
I thought about making fun of our Representative Ray Canterbury this week. But, then I realized, by heckling our favorite Roncevertian, I’m making fun of short people. You can’t do that.
How about George “Boogie” Ambler? you ask. Hey, he’s an easy target. I mean, look at his name. But here’s the thing: an attack on Boogie is an attack on funny looking people everywhere, and that’s just not going to fly.
Another easy target is Jimmy “The Wallet” Justice, but the fact is, when you make fun of the way he turns a phrase (“A snowball’s chance on God’s green earth” comes to mind), then suddenly you’re laughing at everyone who never got beyond the third grade.
And so on and so on. Commissioner Mike McClung? He’s a farmer and a Baptist. You can’t touch him. Attorney and constant candidate Steve Hunter? Oh come on, you can’t make fun of old people! John Manchester? Lord, can you imagine the outcry from the Hair Club for Men? (I’m not only the mayor of Lewisburg, I’m also a client!)
The only local person I can think of to laugh at is Judge Robert Richardson. He’s got it all: he’s tall, trim and white with a full head of hair. But, let me tell you something: I ain’t going there. That man puts people in jail, and my mama didn’t raise no fool.
In fact, as I went down the roster of potential comedy targets, the safest one I could come up with is Congressman Evan Jenkins. He’s rich, he’s white, he’s educated, he’s Republican and he probably doesn’t read this newspaper.
Jenkins has an all American smile, dimples and a nice head of hair. I met him once when he first ran for the Senate. He was well spoken and nicely groomed in his khaki pants and navy blue blazer. He defended the coal industry and railed against Obamacare with carefully chosen words. He told me climate change hasn’t been scientifically proven with such articulate assurance, that I almost bought an International work truck and tore off the muffler as soon as I left the meeting.
He told me about his role as an administrator in the health care system. He’s a numbers guy. He’s a stuffed shirt. He’s dry as a bone. In a word, he’s a snore.
Bless his heart.
To that end, the only thing I can tell you to do with Evan Jenkins is print out a picture of him and then color in a couple of his teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See? Hilarious.