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Susan Estrich
5 Feb 2016
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3 Feb 2016
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29 Jan 2016
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Funny and Not Funny


The president was funny at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Wanda Sykes, the host, was not.

I hate to say that, because I have enjoyed many good laughs watching Wanda Sykes, the actress. Maybe she just got her lines from the wrong person this time. Maybe someone with more of an ear for the world of politics and media should have reviewed the script. Then again, how difficult is it to figure out that calling someone out as the 20th hijacker and wishing him kidney failure and torture to boot, all because you disagree with him about politics, is neither acceptable nor funny?

In case you missed it, the someone was Rush Limbaugh. And she really did say just that. "I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker. But he was so strung out on OxyContin that he missed his flight. ... I hope his kidneys fail. How about that?" How about that, indeed?

Of course, acceptable does not equal funny. If anything, the opposite is true. You get laughs by taking "it" — whether "it" is your annoyance at your mother-in-law or your dislike of Rush Limbaugh — to the extreme. And many people in the audience of liberals (except the Fox table) did seem to laugh. Did they laugh because they are especially evil Rush-hating liberals who really do wish him ill, or because they're regular Rush-hating liberals who just wish him bad ratings?

President Obama's laugh lines have been much scrutinized thanks to the Drudge Report's prominent placement of them. If I had to write the bubble above his head, it would say, "I can't believe she said that," but who knows?

Asked to comment about the president's reaction to Sykes, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs essentially said that while he had not talked to the president, 9/11 should be the subject of serious reflection and not comedy.

I'm happy to leave comics to find humor where they want.

I'm happy to leave politicians and media types free to laugh at what they want in their off hours. The problem with events like this dinner is that they are extravaganzas put on for the attention. They look nothing like private, off-limits events. The politicians work the press, the press work the politicians, everybody works everybody else, and the celebrities get attention. In those circumstances, it hardly seems unfair to pay attention. And when you pay attention to Sykes, the problem isn't that she was making fun of 9/11 (that was Ann Coulter). The problem is that she and the audience who yukked with her were engaging in the kind of vicious personal assault on someone you disagree with that most of them would condemn as the worst tactic of the right wing, going back to the days of Lee Atwater. And if it was wrong then, why is it OK now?

I'm not worried about Limbaugh: He has enough stations to defend himself. My guess is that he almost enjoys the attention. I'm worried about what's come to be acceptable political discourse in the most elite circles of media and politics. I'm worried about what people watching at home think when they see a dinner like that. And I'm worried about how many of my friends are going to feel when it all comes around, as it surely will.

An eye for an eye will leave all of us blinded.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



10 Comments | Post Comment
Until people get the spine to stand up and walk out, we will have this happening and probably intensifying. Usually this comedy/commentary at these affairs is directed toward the president and his policies. But with that audience and the media bias, she would have gotten booted off the stage and the critique of her performance would have been less than glowing. So much for the new demeanor in Washington.
Comment: #1
Posted by: jbaugher
Wed May 13, 2009 4:29 AM
Considering all the mean and hateful things Rush Limbaugh has said in just the last year or so, and his hateful remarks about Michael J. Fox, he gets back what he deserves.
As for his kidneys failing, well his gluttoney and drug use will take care of that. so I don't know what the big deal is there. But rest assured that if his kidneys DID fail, he would use his vast fortune to push himself to the front of the kidney transplant line and steal a new one from some less fortunate soul who lacked health care which he so vigorously opposes.
This is a very hateful racist man who lately barely conceals his hatred for blacks and hispanics. He has had a history of making racial remarks going back to his days in Pittsburgh as "Jeff Christie" when he told a black caller to "....stick a bone in his nose and go back to the jungle." He also lost his Job on ESPN for making racial remarks about Donavan McNabb, so for blacks to take an opportunity to slam him back is not a surprise.
I did not think Wanda Sykes was particularly funny but I also realize that some one else wrote her material and she just read it back. Perhaps if anyone really cares about this, they should do some research and find out the writer's name. Wishing anyone dead is a sad comment as we all have so few days on this earth to begin with but Rush Limbaugh, the MASTER OF DISTORTION , engenders his own brand of hatred with his daily diatribes against the less fortunate in our country. Maybe Susan you could write a few columns about his past remarks.
Comment: #2
Posted by: robert lipka
Wed May 13, 2009 6:06 AM
Thank you, Susan, I knew without ever reading your column you would not approve of that shameful performance of Sykes. There is so much hate, like the persons' comments just before mine, so much, it is scary to think we have people in our wonderful country who can spew hate. I might not agree with all of the policies of this admininstation, I am very conservative and believe people should take care of themselves and not sit around and wait for government handouts, but that is my unbringing having lived through the 1930's (and yes, I am very OLD).
Thanks again, you just happen to be my favorite liberal.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Faye Bryan
Wed May 13, 2009 6:20 AM
I'm sorry Susan, this time I totally disagree with you. Wanda Sykes' jokes were brilliant and right on the mark. What's sad is that they were necessary and deserved. She spoke for a lot of people who get it.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Michael Travali
Wed May 13, 2009 6:55 AM
I thank you as well Susan. While I disagree with most of what you write/say, I do know that you play fair as it were.
It is interesting that people that have a hatred for Mr. Limbaugh obviously have never really listened to what HE says but rather listed to what the nay-sayer's(sp?) have to say about him.
Keep up the fight for honesty and integrity !
Comment: #5
Posted by: Scott Myerscough
Wed May 13, 2009 9:13 AM
Susan you are awesome.
I'm a fairly conservative guy who actually thought Sykes was pretty funny, and God knows if anyone should be able to take as much as he gives, it would be Rush. I'm just disappointed that Feherty was pressured to apologize for his joke about Pelosi and Reid by the same liberalati that laughed at this.
Comment: #6
Posted by: junkyarddawg
Wed May 13, 2009 9:21 AM
That is why I like Ms. Estrich. You can disagree without being disagreeable. She is a much needed touch of class in an increasingly low life group of people involved in politics. I can't think of anything I really agree with her on but I still enjoy reading her.
Comment: #7
Posted by: tom
Thu May 14, 2009 6:49 AM
That is why I like Democrat women

Subject: What's worse than two disgusting monkeys that fell down from the tree?

1)A One disgusting women WANDA SYKES that fell down from the tree to preform in the white house dinner.

2)Where was the bodyguard for Donald Rumsfeld,
That women shouting on him all over where was his freedom.

There is no limitation to the left.

Sincerely ,

Miami FL.

Comment: #8
Posted by: Shay Weiss
Thu May 14, 2009 7:05 AM
That is why I like Democrat women

Subject: What's worse than two disgusting monkeys that fell down from the tree?

1)A One disgusting women WANDA SYKES that fell down from the tree to preform in the white house dinner.

2)Where was the bodyguard for Donald Rumsfeld,
That women shouting on him all over where was his freedom.

There is no limitation to the left.

Sincerely ,

Miami FL.

Comment: #9
Posted by: Shay Weiss
Thu May 14, 2009 7:07 AM
If Obama found the remark funny, then is up to him to laugh or to supress the tendency.After all is logical to assume that the terrorists out there as well as others countries that are 'posing as our friends' are laughing at him, for the image he is sending out there is not the very best.
One thing for sure, Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez, and the Castros Brothers in Cuba are just having fun with him at his back. As a corollary, the 'obamanized' individuals that swallowed the 'BAGS OF DECEPTION' during the campaign period ( and still swallowing MORE OF THE SAME) , could be targets of laughing matter too. Just a quick thought.
Good day everyone,
Daniel Cabrera
Merrillville, Indiana
Comment: #10
Posted by: dan9el
Thu May 14, 2009 10:46 AM
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