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Looks like Tracy Morgan still hasn't learned where to draw the line between funny and offensive.
Just days after meeting with GLAAD representatives to apologize for his anti-gay comedy routine, the 30 Rock star, 42, returned to the stage -- and made a controversial joke about "retarded kids." Does he owe the disabled community an apology?
"Don’t ever mess with women who have retarded kids," Morgan said during his Sunday night stand-up routine, according to the New York Times. "Them young retarded males is strong. They’re strong like chimps."
Morgan followed the joke with a routine about his teenage girlfriend, a "cripple" who was on dialysis and had a prosthetic arm.
The NY Times writer suggests that Morgan was being deliberately provocative, trying to show that he could still say shocking things in the wake of controversy. If so, it worked: The CEO of disability rights organization The Arc has demanded that the comedian apologize immediately.
"This quote is far too offensive to be excused as comedy, and it is very hurtful to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families," CEO Peter Burns told RadarOnline. "Mr. Morgan has an incredibly powerful platform from which to fix this, and if he's learned anything in the last few weeks, he can't bomb this apology."
What has Tracy Morgan learned in the past few weeks? He learned that hateful comments about the gay community aren't going to be taken lightly anymore. But he also learned that his every word is now going to be monitored carefully for offensive content -- which must be a terrifying prospect for somebody who's made his living, in part, with really offensive comedy. We're not excusing what he said, but it does put Morgan in an awkward position.
Take, for example, the disabled-girlfriend routine described by the Times. This bit actually appeared in Morgan's November HBO special Black and Blue, which is full of I-can't-believe-he-said-that moments. Entertainment Weekly has video of the routine, which we won't embed because it's incredibly offensive. But it's deliberately so. The joke is that the remembered girlfriend's disabilities become more extreme, and Morgan's behavior gets more disgusting and outlandish, the longer the story goes on. Is it funny? That's a matter of opinion. (A New York Post reviewer, for example, said she was "ashamed" to admit that she found it hilarious.) But it's typical of Morgan's comedy, which deliberately pushes the boundaries of good taste and acceptability.
At this point, it seems like Morgan has a decision to make: He can either apologize for every offensive joke that causes a controversy, change his comedy routines so that they're less offensive or simply ignore his critics.
At this point, the comedian has issued no comment. But if Tracy Morgan now has to apologize for being offensive, won't pretty much every other comedian in the world have to apologize for the same thing?