There comes a point in every comedian’s career when he has to stop worrying about offending people. Worrying about offending people while performing stand-up comedy is like worrying about getting bugs on your windshield while driving a car. No matter how slowly or carefully you drive, you’re still going to get bugs on your windshield. You don’t want to kill the bugs, you may feel bad about killing the bugs—especially if your kid is watching A Bug’s Life in the backseat—but, unless you want to stay parked in the driveway and get bird poop on your windshield, you’re going to get bugs on your windshield. You can always ride your bike, but then you’re going to get bugs in your teeth. You can always Rollerblade backwards naked, but then you’re going to get a bug up your ass. In which case, you’ll wind up on my cruise ship complaining that I offended you with one of my jokes.
Whenever one of my jokes accidentally hurts somebody’s feelings, my first impulse is to apologize. My second impulse is to duck. Whenever one of my jokes accidentally offends somebody, however, my first impulse is to offend them again—on purpose. My second impulse is to run away like a little girl. (Sorry if I just offended any of you little girls out there.)
What’s the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and offending someone? Well, someone who’s easily hurt is less likely to laugh at the expense of others because she knows how bad it feels to be the butt of a joke. Someone who’s easily offended is more likely to laugh at everyone else but himself because he actually thinks he is more important than everyone else. So hurting somebody’s feelings with comedy is like crashing into the car in front of you because you’re not watching where you’re going, whereas offending somebody with comedy is like crashing into someone who doesn’t stop at intersections because they believe stop signs don’t apply to them. Either way, the other driver thinks you’re at fault.
Let’s say you’re sitting in the front row of my comedy show and I start making fun of some guy’s shirt. If you’re the sort who’s easily hurt, you might think, “Why are you making fun of that man’s shirt in front of all these people? That’s not nice! I think that’s a lovely shirt he’s wearing—what’s wrong with purple polka dots?!” If, however, you’re the type who’s easily offended, you might think, “Yes, that is one goofy looking shirt—get him, Fun Dude—get him! Make sure he never sets foot in T.J. Maxx ever again! Ha! Ha! Ha!” But then as soon as I move on and start making fun of your tank top, you might think, “Hey, watch it, Buddy! This is America! The Second Amendment gives me the right to ‘bare’ arms! You better start making fun of that fat lady next to me before I kick your Ellen-DeGeneres-looking butt!”
Sometimes, when an audience member takes offense to a comedian’s material, he’ll try to ruin the comedian’s set by heckling. Guests on my ship have asked, “Well, if the First Amendment gives a comedian the right to say whatever he wants on stage, doesn’t it give me the right to heckle him while he’s on stage?”
The short answer is “No.”
The long answer is “No, Jackass!”
The really long answer is “Your First Amendment rights during a live performance which other have people paid to attend and seem to be enjoying are limited to either laughing or not laughing; remaining in the showroom or getting the hell out. Although the First Amendment does indeed give you the right to your own opinion, decorum still dictates that you express your opinion in the proper forum, using the proper medium, at the proper time.
Such as, waiting until the comedian gets into his car and then crashing into him.