It’s interesting that this should come out this week, in the wake of the Trevor Noah tweets and the subsequent backlash against the outrage to the Tweets, and against a certain brand of outrage journalism in general. And I get it. At a certain point, people aren’t expressing offense because they’re actually offended, but because being offended is an easy way to get attention.
But we’re all grown ups here. Did Trevor Noah’s tweets really offend any of us? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a little disappointing to find out that the guy taking over a meaningful, progressive institution from a guy who is a hero for many of us had made some jokes at the expense of Jews and overweight people in the past (this one was particularly unfortunate).
But disappointment, at least here, was all that it was (although, a friend of ours lumped our very even-handed response — where we clearly said that the tweets “shouldn’t overshadow his career” — in with the outrage mongers, and quite unfairly, I thought. There’s a vast difference between “disappointment” and “outrage,” although it should also be pointed that outraged reactions to outrage reaction pieces are only feeding into the overall outrage that seems to be fueling the Internet).
Anyway, this brings us to Ari Shaffir — who, in a Comedy Central stand-up special aired nationally — made fun of a female comic for being fat and one-armed. And he called her out by name.
“I was talking to this girl in Los Angeles, a comedian, her name is Damienne Merlina, she’s so annoying. She’s the worst. We never have anything to talk about. She’s not even that annoying, we just have nothing in common. Ugh, you’re killing me! She’s so annoying, also, she has one arm. It’s got nothing to do with the story. I’m only telling you because if you ever saw her you’d be like, ‘Wait, is that her or not? Cause he didn’t mention the part about the one arm, so maybe it’s not her,’ That’s the only reason why I’m telling you. That’s not why she’s annoying, if that’s what you think. I knew her when she had two arms. She was just as annoying then. The only thing that changed is one day her arm-to-annoyance ratio just shot the fuck up. That’s the only difference.
She was yapping about something I couldn’t care less about, and I’m doing the look-around at all my friends, and she smelled, she stunk. She had that fat smell, you know the fat smell? Not every fat person has it, but one out of twelve fat people. They’re fat in a certain way, so that when they’re showering they can’t reach under to wash under their belly fold, like, just can’t get under there for whatever reason. I’m sure the one arm didn’t help.
If this week in Internet Journalism has taught us anything, it’s that expressing offense to something that we’re not actually offended by is wrong. And you know what? I’m not one-armed or overweight, so I have nothing to be offended about personally. I don’t even know who Ari Shaffir is. Plus, God knows I’ve seen enough fat jokes in Kevin James’ movies that I am forever inoculated.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad for Damienne Merlina, the stand-up comedian who was the subject of Shaffir’s jokes. It’s one thing for Trevor Noah to make jokes about “fat chicks,” which maybe you can excuse. But it’s another to make a joke about “that fat, one-armed chick Damienne Merlina.”
“No matter what happens to you,” she says through tears, “you should never, ever let anyone make you feel like less. Because all people are equal. It’s not OK to attack people based on their size, or their physicality in any way … you can still be a funny person without being super crappy to other people.”
If agreeing with that sentiment is tantamount to “being outraged,” then I guess you can lump me in with the outrage mongers.