This article shows the text of comic Artie Lange’s tweets from November 4th. They are offensive, demeaning, misogynistic, vulgar, and gross. There are also people who probably think they’re funny.
His tweets were directed at ESPN sports talkshow host Cari Champion. She did not solicit them nor has she responded to them. She is an innocent professional who was the target of Lange’s profane rant.
It’s probably responsible to mention that Lange has a history of drug and alcohol addiction. He has been in recovery in recent years, but I would not be surprised if the next article we read about him indicates that he is back in a rehabilitation program.
As a social worker I want Lange and Champion to get whatever help they need. If Champion feels threatened and attacked, then I hope she receives the appropriate care to return to her job in a safe and productive way. I also want to see Lange be successful in recovery from his addiction.
But this situation had me thinking of several more questions. Where is the line between humor and gratuitous vulgarity? As advocates for social justice, how do we reconcile the fact that Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and yes, Artie Lange can be inappropriate – and hilarious? Champion is under no obligation to respond, but should it matter if she does? If she says that it was no big deal shouldn’t Lange still suffer some consequences? If so, who is in a position to level them?
There are times when humor is the vehicle for tremendous progress and discourse. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Last Week Tonight are evidence of this. There are also times when attempts at humor do more harm than good.
It is my opinion that Lange crossed a serious line. He was wildly inappropriate and offensive, and he wasn’t funny. There are times when these attempts at shock humor actually do help us make progress in the landscapes of social and popular culture. People like Howard Stern, and the aforementioned Richard Pryor come to mind. At this point I hope this situation leads to a conversation on public verbal attacks of celebrity personalities. No one deserves to be treated the way Champion was.
The writers of The Simpsons and Family Guy seem to deftly walk the line between humor and hurtful impropriety. Lange missed the mark badly, and I’m guessing his career will suffer for it.