Boldly Going Over the Edge

I watched the rerun of the William Shatner roast on Comedy Central last night–I had been on an island when it aired originally. I had forgotten just how rude and incredibly raw roasts were.

The ageist, sexist, racist and gay jokes came thick and fast. Some were decidely on the uneasy-making side, but that just may be my Southern gentility talking.

Certainly, even with the bleeps, it is the sort of fare that would likely not live long or prosper on broadcast TV, even though it could air with impugnity after 10 p.m.–or after midnight, as it did on Comedy Central.

Remember, full frontal nudity and language that would make a sailor's parrot blush is protected after 10 p.m., though I wonder sometimes whether some regulators know that.

Anyway, the jokes at the expense of Shatner as well as newly uncloseted gay man George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Farrah Fawcett–all in attendance–were often crude to the nth degree, but their purpose was to make people laugh, and that is an overwhelming public interest in these dark days, if you ask me. Still, I have to say that the racist jokes aimed at Nichols were gratuitous and, I thought, unfunny, and the incessant gay sex jokes wore out their welcome pretty quickly.

Even so, just to stir the pot, I would like to see some independent TV station–does Pacifica own any TV''s?–one day boldy go and put something like this on at midnight, when indecent speech is protected, and see what happens. All h— would break loose, as the FCC might put it, but why should only TV viewers who can afford to pay for it get edgy. crude, rude, adult humor?

I have to admit that my favorite joke of the night, among all the slurs and slams, was one of the cleanest. It was at the expense of Betty White, who has increasingly, and wonderfully, worked against her squeaky clean 50's TV image as TV has gotten less squeaky and clean, most recently on Boston Legal, where Shatner has managed to pull off an Emmy-winning second act to his career. Where were Leonard Nimoy and Boston Legal's David Spader, both of whose absence stuck out like a Klingon at a Finnish nudist camp.

But I digress.

The joke went a little something like this: Betty White is so old, said one comic, that on her first game show, the prize was fire.

Ba-dum, pshhhhh.

By John Eggerton