powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


Should Last Man Standing and 2 Broke Girls have checked these particular jokes at the door?

New fall series 2 Broke Girls and Last Man Standing. CBS/ABC photos

Some things just shouldn't be joked about, particularly on network TV sitcoms seen by millions.

Humor is subjective, of course. And political correctness can be insidious when taken too far, as it often is. But among the hundreds of one-liners in this fall's new crop of comedies, I'm still wondering about two of them. From this perspective, both easily could be dropped without compromising the "integrity" or varnishing the "edge" off their respective carriers -- CBS' 2 Broke Girls and ABC's Last Man Standing. So I asked about them during mass interview sessions for these shows at the recent Television Critics Association "press tour" in California.

In the pilot for 2 Broke Girls, a greasy spoon cashier played by charter Saturday Night Live cast member Garrett Morris jokes that a new waitress is "workin' harder than Stephen Hawking trying to put on a pair of cufflinks."

And in the opener for Last Man Standing, Tim Allen decides against dropping off his little grandson, Boyd, at what he later terms a "hippie hippie rainbow" learning center. He then tells his single parent oldest daughter, "I just don't think your kid should go to that school. You know how that ends up. Boyd dancin' on a float."

Hawking, the eminent physicist and cosmologist, is now almost completely paralyzed after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as a young man. And the clear implication of Allen's joke is that Boyd might end up gay if he spends too much time in an "unmanly" environment.

Hawking's achievements are both incredible and inspirational. As his disease progresses, is such a ham-fisted joke at his expense really necessary?

And whether he's "in character" or not, should Allen be throwing out a cheap gay joke in times when bullying and hate crimes are still very much in the news?

Allen seemed surprised when he was asked, "Are you going to leave that joke in there?" But to his credit, he took the question seriously.

"Hmm, here's some thin ice right here," he began. "I think it's a funny joke, and I don't think the intent was to offend anybody. So I believe the network will probably leave it in there, but I don't know . . . political sensibilities being what they are."

Allen also didn't try to pretend that the joke wasn't aimed at a particular target. "I don't think we can safely hide behind 'What are you talking about?' " he said. "A lot of people dance on floats. Haven't you seen the Macy's parade? Now obviously if you go to Santa Monica Boulevard, it's a different kind of float. But it (the joke) wasn't meant to be offensive. It was meant to be a reflection on this guy's limited perspective."

At the 2 Broke Girls session, my question about the Hawking joke was handled by the show's co-executive producer, Michael Patrick King. He's openly gay and earlier earned fame and fortune as the principal show-runner for HBO's Sex and the City.

"Yeah, I think it's funny. I'm sorry," he said when asked if it will stay in. "The show will have an edge. And from joke to joke, you will either think it's funny or not. Our job is to make people laugh and be surprised. So if you cannot like that joke (about Hawking), I understand why. But we will always reach for comedy."

Both jokes are a reach, all right. And they should hit the cutting room floor because there's really no defensible reason for either of them.

At least that's how I feel about it. But maybe that's just me. How about you?