Short Note: The Rules of Funny and the Power Free Speech

The other night Bill Maher crossed a line that he should know better than to have crossed. He used the n-word in ways that violate every boundary of good taste.  More importantly, he broke the Rules of Funny.  Comedians are required to know the Rules of Funny. Yup, funny has rules too. Maher broke the two most critical rules of funny: (1) don’t mock people less powerful than you are and (2) always tell the truth.
Now, I’m no fan of Senator Ben Sasse who is, in most respects, a genuine jackass on every possible vote of policy for the good of America but in the aftermath of the n-word scenario he said: “I’m a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines.” Well, I too am a 1st Amendment absolutist. This distinguishes the American Experiment. It is damn difficult to restrict speech. Thank goodness. So you can slander and be slandered. You can try to hurt good people with words, skewed and edited to suit you, but the truth, that will endure in the real tests of character. Speech in America is free but freedom comes with costs and consequences. When we shape ourselves around those ideas, well, then words mean something more.

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