A punch line on Comedy Central…

Over the years, I have been criticized –often justifiably- for being tone deaf to politically correct behavior. At times, I go to far with a “witty” observation. I don’t know when to stop a rant, diatribe or whatever best describes these sorts of things. I’m not pleading ignorance, necessarily; rather I just can’t stop playing with nasty, fun thoughts. If something is genuinely funny I have a hard time deeming it genuinely inappropriate. For me, going too far just means passing beyond the mainstream. Too soon means fresh. I could go on but you get the idea.

Regardless of your point of view, the ‘normal’ world is rapidly becoming more open-minded to bawdiness. Ungodly levels of it. Credit transparent yet anonymous social media as well as rampant competition for your entertainment dollars as two of the many reasons for the “ribaldification” of society.

So, are there lines we should never cross? Taboos? Not if you base your opinion on Comedy Central’s insanely over-the-top Roast of Justin Bieber.


Race. Sex. Age. Politics. Religion. 9/11. Isis. No stone was left unturned in this 2-hour orgy of insults, hurled by a motley crew of rappers, ballers and comedians. Women were sluts and whores. Black men were pimps and gangsters. Latinos were gardeners and valets. The N-word was dropped dozens of times. As was “retard” and other slang even I won’t print. Said of guest, Martha Stewart: “She hasn’t been with so many black people since she was in prison.” Or that her “pussy was 50 shades of grey.” Behemoth ex-Laker, Shaquille O’Neal’s “dick is so big he uses it as a selfie-stick.”

I think these jokes are freaking hilarious. And so did plenty of you. Bieber’s roast, like all the CC Roasts, got tremendous ratings.

Given the immense popularity of such bacchanalia, I can’t help but wonder about political correctness in general. Is there a time and place for such things or is it hypocritical to think so? I get confused sometimes, which is why I’m called tone deaf. Yet, one cannot tell me that saying the “N-word” is okay here but never anywhere else. Or that anal rape jokes are fine directed at Justin Bieber but unacceptable toward anyone else.

Comedy Central Roast Of Justin Bieber - Show

Justin Bieber. Portrait of a young man as douche bag…

The best argument for such ethics compartmentalization is that it’s fine if we have a choice in the matter. Therefore, racial and sexually demeaning jokes are okay on a cable TV show but not in the workplace.

Justify it all you want but this is a double standard.

And the more work and home converge the grayer this all becomes. For example, if I want to re-tell one of the above-mentioned Comedy Central jokes at work the next day does that mean I am crossing a line? Or worse yet make me a racist-misogynist? A short time ago I was asked by someone at work to take down a Facebook post I’d made regarding the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Too sensitive a topic, I was told. People at work might be offended. Yet it was fair game on Comedy Central, a show these same people likely all watched. What gives?

Final note: Advertising tries desperately to ride the bleeding edge. But generally it is found chasing madly after it. Some of you may remember how Madison Avenue loved exploiting characters from SNL almost as fast as the show cranked them out. In terms of truly avant-garde, advertising is still bound by the typically conservative conventions of its many clients as well as antiquated ethics and suitability laws created for TV networks in the 20th century.


Let’s start with a compliment. Despite all the Taco Bell and prodigious amount of booze he’s been illegally imbibing since he was 12, Justin Bieber is in shape. Dude is ripped. I’ve got to believe this is on account of good genes, this said despite his built in DNA for stupidity.

Bieber, Bieber, Bieber.

One is hard pressed to find another pop star capable of making so much cultural noise that has nothing to do with his crooning, which, being an adult, I have little awareness of. I am, however, very aware of his many scatological, misogynistic and even racist moments. Who isn’t? My favorite is when he, upon visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, wrote in the guest book: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” Tone deaf. Yet priceless. (Compliment #2: At least he actually went to the Anne frank museum. Name another teen-ager who did, not in a school group or being towed by his parents.)

Regardless of this and countless other boneheaded moves (or precisely because of them), Calvin Klein has made the Biebs their latest underwear model.

A bit of history is in order. In 1992, CK did the same thing with Marc Wahlberg (then Marky Mark), catapulting him and the briefs into damn near iconic status. At the time, Wahlberg was coming off a tour of duty with boy band, The Funky Bunch as well as a series of run-ins with the law. He was in every sense of the word, a hot mess.


One can only deduce that this is exactly what CK had in mind when they cast Bieber for the role. It worked once, right? The photos look eerily similar. Instead of famous fashion photographer Herb Ritts (who shot Wahlberg), CK has enlisted currently famous fashion photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. They do a great Herb Ritts imitation.

The early returns for this work are not good. “Yes, they went there.” One cheeky headline gasps. Yet, the criticism is knee-jerk. Frankly, the same snide comments and negative uproar occurred when the Marky Mark photos came out. People forget that.

But not Calvin Klein. They are probably delighted with the criticism, especially if what comes after is also a repeat. Casting bad boys in tight underwear is a strategy not a mistake. The more people hate on this campaign the better.

Ironically, the only thing that has changed in 20 years is the idea that these images would be considered inappropriate. Back in the day, all kinds of people came out against Marky Mark’s member and the audacity to show off such a thing in mainstream magazines. Bieber’s balls will not capture such attention. For that CK can only depend on his controversial and douche-y disposition.

Controversy? Nah. The buzz grows.