In the world of comedy, there are few things that are off limits.
People have made jokes about the President of the United States, race relations and just about anything else you can think of. However, there are limits to when and where you can say such things. The rule of thumbs to follow is "if you are not a professional comedian, then certain things may be off limit to you" and "even if you are a professional comedian, there are still things that are off limits."
This didn't stop a few individuals from making jokes when they were not at all appropriate. This article will touch on some of the biggest comedy blunders of the past.
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Gilbert Gottfried is a very accomplished comedian and actor, having acted in dozens of films and commercials. He also has an accomplished stand-up career. His has a very vulgar style of comedy, touching on things from racism to politics. After a tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Gottfried decided that it was a good idea to get on Twitter and send 12 tweets joking about the natural disaster. The backlash was tremendous, with Gottfried hearing it from the public for weeks and eventually losing his job as the spokesperson for Aflac. He was the voice for the Aflac duck, the company's mascot and star of its commercials. Aflac does the majority of its business in Japan, which was a major factor in Gottfried being fired. He had the role for 11 years before his firing.
Michael Richards, better known as Kramer from Seinfeld, was one of the stars of one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. His role as Kramer was influential enough to help him land gigs performing his stand-up in clubs. Everything was going fine until one night in 2006 where he took the stage and got into an argument with a heckler, which resulted in him going on what can only be described as a racist rant. The tirade was videotaped and leaked to the Internet within hours, which prompted Richards to issue an apology. While the argument may have landed him some temporary fame and a few appearances on talk shows, it may have ceased any hope of him becoming a major name in stand-up comedy.
In what might be the most shocking firing of the group, radio show host Howard Stern was fired for being exactly what he was hired to be: offensive. Howard Stern's show was about saying the most offensive things possible, and it was seemingly what the fans wanted. There seemed to not be a line Stern couldn't cross and come out unscathed. That was until he did a segment titled "Bestiality Dial-a-Date." The segment angered fans and NBC executives so much so that he was fired from radio station WNBC in New York City. Stern currently hosts his show on Sirius XM Radio.
Charlie Sheen was at one point on top of the world. He was on "Two And A Half Men," one of the highest-rated and most-watched shows on TV. He was also the highest-paid actor on television. Everything was smooth sailing until his personal life started to get in the way of his work, which caused several problems for him. It all came to a head in February 2011 when he went on the radio and slandered "Two And A Half Men" creator Chuck Lorre. He told several jokes about the creator, some of which were anti-Semitic, which caused a big enough stir to get him fired from the show. Sheen currently stars on FX's "Anger Management," which is one of the highest-rated sitcoms on cable.
This story is the most recent instance of a joke that ended a career. Voula Papachristou, a triple jumper for the 2012 Greece Olympic team, took to Twitter to make jokes about Africans and the West Nile virus. The public berated her saying that she was a disgrace and the idea that she should be dismissed from the team was almost unanimous. The Greek Olympic Committee seemed to agree and it removed her from the team stating that her comments were "contrary to that of the Olympic movement."
The Bottom Line
If there is anything that readers should take away from this story is that you should always be careful of what you say. Just because you may think something is funny, doesn't mean the next person will. Even if you're known for being a joke teller, some jokes are not worth a few cheap laughs.