Headlock Press

Writing That Grabs And Holds

Opinion Essays

Standards and Practices
Paul Agostino
This past week, a number of concerned citizens have tried to tell me what I can and can't laugh at. They have lectured me, sternly, about making "inappropriate jokes" regarding current and past events "that are not funny." Well, to those people I say this. One of the biggest plays in Broadway history is The Producers. (They made two major motion pictures of it, too.) It's a comedy. The production centers around a highly inappropriate musical entitled, "Springtime for Hitler." Question: Is that what you mean about something being "not funny"? If so, you'd better let all the people who bought tickets know, because they were all laughing. You should tell Mel Brooks, too, and soon, because he's getting pretty old and won't be around much longer for you to give comedy tips to. Furthermore, the TV show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, written, directed, and starring (if that's what you want to call it) Larry David, deals in inappropriate humor of all types. In one episode, Larry is at a dinner with two "survivors": One from a World War II concentration camp, and one from a "reality" network TV show. During the dinner, the two "survivors" wind up getting into a shouting match about who is the real McCoy. Question: Is that what you mean by "inappropriate humor"? On a personal note, two of my favorite movies are Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas. There's a lot of violence and murder and in both those pictures. Still, to me, both movies are, as the English say, "bloody funny." Literally. One of my favorite scenes in Goodfellas is when a bunch of guys are in a car and this pain-in-the-ass wig salesman, Morrie, keeps jabbering on about "doing the right thing." Until someone puts an ice pick through the back of his head. Morrie dies instantly. Then someone in the back seat says, "I thought that guy would never shut the fuck up." That's how some people deal with annoying critics. And, frankly, it's as good a method as I've heard of.

Bradley  commented on August 18, 2017 :
You're bull headed. I remember we were in a parking lot at Jax and a deal went sour and a musclehead punched you in your head. You looked slightly dismayed. Things went the way they should have. And we all walked away.
Adam OConnor  commented on August 21, 2017 :
Interesting piece.

I think strangely enough people do better with "offensive" material when it is done through a character driven, visual performance.

Created characters provide people the comfort shield they need to feel like it is okay to laugh because what they are seeing isn't someone's actual view on a particular issue.

We have seen countless examples of comedians on stage or recording artist write/perform material that offends others because audiences have trouble with the personal aspect of the "performance."

Larry David was not really successful and adored until he created the George Costanza character. As a comedian in the 80's he was seen as abrasive and nasty. That character has earned him some wiggle room on Curb, but even on that show he is still technically playing the character Larry instead of just being himself.
Paul Agostino  commented on August 23, 2017 :
This bit is a logical argument dressed up in an entertaining way. (I do it a lot on Facebook.) Most of the people who wrote in on Facebook agreed with the post, laughed along, and added something of their own to the mix. The dissenters, for the most part, stayed away. I had made an air-tight case, and they knew it. But a small gang of critics decided to attempt an attack I had never heard of before. They began giving me unsolicited advice about how I might make personal improvements in my life and become a more sensitive, evolved person -- or maybe just someone more pleasing to them. And they were serious. I found it kind of funny, frankly. Still, I have to give my critics some points for originality.
Michael  commented on October 10, 2017 :
"I had made an air-tight case, and they knew it."

Please. There is no air-tight case, as Columbo well knows. He had the bad shoes, the dented car, and a raincoat on a sunny day. What he did have is a full head of hair, unlike . . . well, let's say, some of us.

What's funny to you might not be funny to someone else. They can't all be idiots, no?

The line between pretentiousness and people who like dogs better than people is thin. You are an avacar for thoughtfulness, so getting pissed off when readers don't get what you're trying to say makes you as bad as them.

It's the world we live in now. You might be deified 100 years from now, but you won't know it, because you'll be dead. Relax, for goddsakes.
richard peters  commented on October 14, 2017 :
dear michael i think maybe you skipped over a part in the comment because you did not write about it. it is the part where he said the people who did not like what he wrote told him how to be a better person by changing his life and even though that is criticism that is not criticism about what he wrote that is criticism like your mom gives you. is that the kind of criticism you are giving about this story too??
Paul Agostino  commented on October 14, 2017 :
Michael: It was a gang of two "advisors" that I talk about in my comment (above yours). That comment of mine was excerpted from an email I wrote to one of them after her remarks about this post on Facebook. (She's a good friend of mine.) I was trying to make my point in a funny way by using an over-the-top arrogant tone. But maybe it doesn't come across here in the writing. In any case, she found it funny--and got my point--even if you didn't. So I agree with you when you say: "What's funny to you might not be funny to someone else." I also agree with you when you say: "Relax, for goddsakes."
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She Said, He Said, 1: Sexist Arithmetic - Paul Agostino - November 20, 2017
Hubris Comes Home to Roost, 3: Cost and Value - Paul Agostino - October 21, 2017
Hubris Comes Home to Roost, 2: The Monster in Dreamland - Paul Agostino - October 17, 2017
Hubris Comes Home to Roost, 1: Hollywood Formula - Paul Agostino - October 14, 2017
Standards and Practices - Paul Agostino - August 18, 2017
Armchair Heroes - Paul Agostino - August 16, 2017
Holiday Doubleheader - Paul Agostino - May 31, 2017
Bad Commercial Community Theater - Paul Agostino - April 02, 2017
I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally - Paul Agostino - December 17, 2016
Collective Genius - Paul Agostino - December 09, 2016
Imperative Case - Paul Agostino and Sister Say-So - December 08, 2016
Beelzebub's Bunch - Paul Agostino - November 28, 2016
Unbound Language - Paul Agostino - November 17, 2016
RODEO CLOWNS ASKED TO TAKE "SENSITIVITY TRAINING" - Chipper Clown <{;o) and The Sad Clown <[:@( - November 16, 2016

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