The story coming out of London just gets stranger by the moment. You’ve most likely heard the story by now. Two Australian DJs make what we kids used to call a “phony phone call” to the London hospital where a pregnant Kate Middleton is being treated for acute morning sickness. While impersonating the Queen Mother and Prince Charles, they coaxed some hospital nurses into reporting on Middleton’s condition. When they broadcast the call, humiliation ensued. Then on Friday, one of the two nurses was found dead. . . with the cause of death still pending. The backlash against the DJs and the radio station has been fierce. The show has been cancelled and prank calls banned from the radio company.
This is a news item worth talking about with kids, especially in regards to humor and its proper time and place. Attempts to humiliate through humorous deception is nothing new in the world of morning radio and late night television. To be honest, I’ve often times found it all very funny. . . quite possibly because I spent a good portion of my pre-caller-ID childhood and college years perfecting and even recording “phony phone calls,” some of which have been preserved on cassette tape. Perhaps it’s a sign of our changing times and my own developing maturity that I oftentimes cringe with embarrassment and shame at some of the things my younger and not-so-younger self did (or perpetrated).
I sometimes wonder if my developing ability to be comfortable in my own skin hasn’t yielded a more civil self-deprecating humor, even though I know full well that I still catch myself crossing the line into territory I should never visit. In recent years, I’ve come to realize that while both Lewis Black and Brian Regan can make me laugh, it’s the target of their jokes that dictate what I should and should not laugh at. When humor is other-destructing (individually or institutionally), is it something that can and should be enjoyed? Or, when humor is self-deprecating, is it something we can celebrate and affirm? How do we live the Gospel with our God-given sense of humor? It’s worth thinking about.
And while you’re thinking, give this little self-deprecating bit from Brian Regan a shot. . . .