If a Straight Comedian Ridiculed Us Would You Laugh?

Did you hear about the new gay sitcom on Showtime? It's called "Leave It, It's Beaver."

Do you know the difference between Christian and Jewish women? Christian women want their husbands to buy Viagra. Jewish women want them to buy Pfizer.

Did you hear about the Latino who threw his wife over a cliff?
When the police officer asked him why he'd done it he said, "Tequila! Tequila!"

If you were straight and white you couldn't say these jokes in polite company without being censured. But if *I* said them people would laugh. Not because I have a better delivery, but because I belong to the three groups in the jokes.

The majesty of political correctness allows me to say jokes other people can't. That's because of comedy's golden rule: Thou Shalt Not Insult a Group You Don't Belong To.

There is one exception, though. You can make fun of groups you don't belong to as long they're above your station in life.

I learned about this hierarchy of admissible comedy from an accomplished comedian. He was teaching a stand-up comedy class I had taken a few years ago. To prove his point, our teacher, a straight white male, delivered the same mean, slanderous joke four times: The first time aiming it at Jews, the second time at blacks, the third time at gays and the fourth at white males.

First he sounded like an anti-Semite. Then he sounded like a racist. And after that he sounded like a homophobe. It was only on the fourth pass, when he directed the joke at his own group that he sounded like a comedian.

From an ideological perspective our teacher didn't care who we made fun of. He was just trying to keep us from dying on stage. "If you're white and you make fun of blacks onstage," he told us, "You will hear nothing from the audience except the ice tinkling in their glasses."

There were other rules, too. The poor can attack the rich, but not the other way around. Jews could poke fun at Christians but Christians could not poke fun at Jews.

Even minorities who want to pick on other minorities are subject to the rules. Blacks can make fun of Latinos, for instance, but not the other way around.

And there are geographical nuances. Latinos can make fun of Asians in San Francisco, but not in Miami. The only clear winners in the politically correct world of stand-up comedy are gay black women. Ladies, you can attack whoever the hell you want and people will laugh.

As someone who has spent his writing career shellacking the politically correct, it pains me to say the language police have a point. It's not often they do, so I've grudgingly honored it.

What these comedy rules reveal about us isn't very funny. What they say more than anything is how unequal we are as a society. You want to know how far down the food chain you really are? Go to a comedy club and see who takes a bite out of you.

Still, it really chaps my ass that an African-American can make fun of me but I can't make fun of him. He can call me a jerk when I'm being a jerk and he's funny. I call him a jerk for being a jerk and I'm racist.

Whenever I want to illustrate the absurdity of the human condition I apply whatever situation I encounter onto my pets.

I imagined explaining to my dogs that they had to adhere to the same rules of attack as humans. They'd be enraged. "Wait a minute," would snap my Vizsla, Zack. "You mean Zoey can bite me but I can't bite her back because she's a black lesbian Labrador and I'm a svelte, straight, European hound dog?"

"Exactly," I said. And with that, Zoey would go over and take a big lesbian bite out of his skinny straight ass and he couldn't do a thing about it.

In some ways, the stand-up stage is the harbinger of equality. The day a straight guy makes fun of gay guys without being considered a homophobe is the day we'll probably have the right to marry and serve openly in the military. The day a Christian can make fun of Jews and not be considered an anti-Semite is the day we'll never have to worry about a temple being bombed. But I suppose there are drawbacks to all that equality, too. I mean, the day Zack can bite Zoey back and not be considered a misogynist is the day my vet bills will skyrocket.

Michael Alvear is the author of the mindful eating book, Eat It Later: Mastering Self Control & The Slimming Power Of Postponement