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Gottfried’s Emmy Offense: Candor

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Whoa! What social forces have conspired to bring down such a storm of critical abuse on the head of comedian Gilbert Gottfried? He has been the subject of scathing commentary in USA Today, L.A.'s Daily News and numerous other journals.

Even Howard Rosenberg was moved to haul out the heavy adjectival guns (Calendar, Aug. 26). “Tasteless” and “appalling for a prime-time awards show” was Rosenberg’s judgment of Gottfried’s brief Emmy monologue.

Apparently Gottfried’s routine ranks with the kinds of atrocities proscribed by the Geneva Conventions.

And what was the theme of this comedic affront to national morals?

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A crime that dare not speak its name, at least not on national television. We speak here of the dread vice of . . . MSTRBATION.

Rising rhetorically to suppress this dark demon of subversion, Rosenberg labeled the monologue “a sneak attack on unsuspecting Americans who might have been watching this with their families.”

Howard. Please. You’re one of the country’s foremost TV critics. You don’t need to carry water for Jesse Helms.

In your exercised state, you even managed to miss the PNT of Gottfried’s routine: Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman) has been pilloried by the media--simultaneously prudish and prurient--and erased from TV screens by cowardly broadcast executives. And what was Reubens’ alleged crime? MSTRBATION!

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You also failed to observe that Gottfried’s comic turn went over quite well with the live audience at the awards telecast. But then, we were for the most part degenerate denizens of the entertainment industry.

On a less flippant note: Rosenberg and his fellow critics might reply that I misunderstood their criticism; that they were not advocating censorship but only trying to protect children and their parents, who expect something less provocative from prime-time TV.

Nevertheless, the attacks on Gottfried constitute a classic case of overkill. In this instance, these critics may be serving the cause of sexual repression better than the goal of improved communication between parents and children about the early stirrings of sexuality.

We have been experiencing the hysteria of a cynical, politically motivated “war on drugs.” The uproar over Demi Moore’s appearance in Vanity Fair, over Pee-wee Herman and now over Gottfried raises another question. Are we about to experience a new assault in the perpetual war on sex?

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