Hey, Maher, some jokes are better left untold

November 09, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

Is there a humorous side to adults having sex with minors?

I don't think so. But either I'm wrong or comedian Bill Maher is.

Maher had a show four years ago that aired on network television. It was called Politically Incorrect because its host often was. But Maher's show was canceled when he said, in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon, that the perpetrators of the act had courage.

Bad timing, Bill. Maher has since claimed he is a "First Amendment martyr." He may well be. And he is still trying to be as controversial and cutting-edge as ever, which I suppose every good satirist has to be.

Maher now hosts a program on HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher. Because only cable or satellite subscribers can view his show, Maher doesn't have to deal with nervous sponsors ready to yank advertising and force cancellation.

Which might be why Maher felt comfortable making his joke about sex with minors.

It happened last week. Maher had flashed on the screen pictures of Lamb and Lynx Gaede, two blond-haired, blue-eyed, 13-year-old lasses who sport Adolf Hitler happy face T-shirts.

Oh, I kid you not. Lamb and Lynx form the duo Prussian Blue. They are part of America's white supremacist movement, which has distinguished itself by embracing perhaps the greatest loser of all time: Adolf Hitler.

ABC News did a story on Lamb and Lynx. A recent issue of Newsweek magazine has a small blurb on the pair, complete with them smiling as they hug each other while wearing those goofy shirts.

Aren't parents who allow this guilty of some form of child abuse? Aren't there serious Eighth Amendment issues involved here?

Those are some of the jokes Maher could have made about Lamb and Lynx. They are not especially good jokes, which is why Maher went for this one:

"Where is R. Kelly when you need him to take on a teenager?"

Those of you not into the more recent brand of R&B music might never have heard of Kelly, so a brief bio is in order. Kelly is a gifted singer and songwriter, perhaps the best R&B balladeer around.

Kelly has also been accused of having sex with an underage girl. There is even supposed to be a video of it, which has made the rounds on the streets. Kelly has not gone to trial yet on those charges.

Now you have the context in which Maher made his joke. It was meant to be funny. And many in his audience did, indeed, laugh. Maher was probably trying to provoke the ire of all of America's white supremacists. As a satirist, he probably felt he couldn't pass on the chance.

My feeling is Maher should have passed. Call me old-fashioned. Call me a stuffed-shirt stick-in-the-mud with no sense of humor. But I think there are some things that should not be joked about. Adults having sex with minors is one of them.

Or maybe I'm just still feeling the effects of Quartrina Johnson's murder. And if there is any one thing that shows why sex with minors is not a joke, it is what happened to Quartrina.

She was murdered in the summer 2004. She was 15. Quartrina's younger sister had a sexual relationship with a man in his 20s. The man, Jason Richards, promised to take Quartrina's sister with him to California. The girl asked Quartrina to accompany them.

Richards' plan, it came out in court, was to kill Quartrina and her sister to keep them from testifying against him in a statutory rape case. According to court testimony, Richards ordered two others to kill Quartrina. They did, and then dumped her body in a Baltimore County park. They set the girl's body ablaze to keep her from being identified.

I spoke to William McCoy, Quartrina's great-grandfather, at a candlelight vigil shortly after her body was, indeed, identified. The hurt in that man's eyes will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Maybe that is why I'm opposed to underage-sex jokes at the moment. But what offends one might not be offensive to another. Maher had other jokes about Lamb and Lynx that others might find problematic.

Maher came up with a list of songs he felt the girls might want to sing. One was "Harper Valley KKK." Another was "I Can't Stop Lynching You."

Yet another was "The Lady's in a Camp." Then there was "Don't It Make My Brown Shirt Blue," followed by "Born To Be Heiled" and "Hey, Juden."

Maher's personal favorite was "Once, Twice, Three-Fifths a Lady."

All those might be offensive to blacks or Jews who feel they make light of the Holocaust and the experiences of slavery, Jim Crow and lynching. But I found them much more palatable than the joke about sex with underage girls.

If Maher is indeed a "First Amendment martyr," he should be advised that even martyrs have to show good judgment about when to exercise the right of free speech.


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