Sunday, December 12, 2010

Maybe Funny is Not the Way to Go

"You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?" -- Tommy DeVito, "Goodfellas"

It starts out perfectly fine in a journalistic sense. But then, as usual, it degenerates into a jab, couched in humor and ends up as insulting.

I'm speaking of this article in the San Francisco Appeal Online Newspaper.

Why do reporters always try to be funny when writing about Italian-Americans? Do they think that this makes it acceptable to slap on the mob cliches and no one will notice?

It's a story about city Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier taking offense at a "joke" made by the city's Planning Commissioner. The joke involved Sicilians, payoffs, and mobsters. All because the Planning Commissioner was asked if he planned to vote to permit a local restaurant to play amplified opera music.

Alioto-Pier may be a bit more sensitive to mob cracks because she is the granddaughter of former San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, who in 1969 was accused of having mob ties.

The article is written very straightforward and starts out respectfully enough, save one crack about the Planning Commissioner being on Alioto-Pier's "hit list" because of the joke.

OK. That's innocent enough. You knew that in a story about Italian-Americans, there had to be at least one stupid crack.

But then, right at the end, there's this:

Irish jokes, French jokes and Canadian jokes may still be told with impunity, mostly because those cultures don't boast of scary-looking men in expensive suits (we kid, we kid! But that's why we don't tell Russian jokes.)

Totally unnecessary. It's not funny and it manages to disparage four nationalities at once.

If I was this reporter's editor I would have cut the entire sentence. That would have made it a much less insulting story.