I have never really been much of a Gilbert Gottfried fan. Sure, I thought he made an OK , if not slightly annoying duck and a pretty funny parrot, but I don't think I could sit through an entire set of his, mostly due to his trademark screech.
The news of his firing by AFLAC, following a string of tsunami jokes on his Twitter page came as no surprise to me. Not because I think he should have been fired for those jokes as some sort of moral stance or reprimand, but because if, in fact, 75% of AFLAC's dealings are conducted with Japan, then it makes the most business sense.
The internet has been abuzz with Gottfried hate since the announcement. The general consensus seems to be that he got exactly what was coming to him. I too think he did, but only in the way that any employee might lose their job by posting negative quips and comments about their employer on any social network site. Simply put, it's a dumb move. Perhaps AFLAC should not act so surprised, as they did not exactly hire a widely-beloved charming good will ambassador as their spokesperson. Let's face it, Gilbert Gottfried is no Bob Hope. That said, Gottfried should have known the brand he represented well enough to choose his material more wisely.
What has struck me most about this entire situation, however, is how quick the public is to cast the "bad-guy" stone Gottfried's way. It seems we need disaster in this world so that we may allow ourselves to make these distinctions. You made a joke... you're bad. You stood in a crowd of strangers waving a candle... you must be good! I would love to get my hands on a hard copy of "The Guide". Surely there is a guide out there outlining what we are and are not allowed to find humor in. I am especially hoping that it includes charts detailing the proper amount of time per specific tragedy, illness or loss that we must wait before resorting to laughter, either as self preservation or in the interest of soothing others.
I have never subscribed to the "too soon" rule and believe, wholeheartedly, that laughter is never an inappropriate response. It is necessary for me to laugh, not after a given period of time, but right then and there; in the thick of things. I will never wallow in somberness just because someone else dictates that it is the appropriate thing to do. Everyone deals with tragedy and loss differently and no one is entitled to tell the other they are doing it inappropriately.
I grew up in a household that was always filled with laughter. Every day, as far back as I can recall, I have laughed out loud at least once a day. Even through my mother's long and crippling illness; especially then. Irreverence and laughter will save your sanity if you let them trust me. A few days after her death we went to the funeral home to arrange for her cremation. We were led through a room filled with quite lovely but outrageously-priced urns and coffins. After the fourth or fifth candidate I stopped in my tracks and said "She was very laid back. Do you have anything in a Zip Loc?" The funeral director just stood there silent and mortified. After a long pause, my partner chimed in. "He's right. She'd get up off that table if we spent $1500 on a vase with a lid." The director smiled awkwardly and obligingly but Ron and I laughed loudly. Our laughter honored my mother.