Joy Behar’s defense of Gilbert Gottfried: ‘People in concentration camps made jokes about each other’

Many know what they’re going to get with Gilbert Gottfried – a crude, often inappropriate act, but one he has done well with for 20 years.

After making some “mean-spirited” Twitter jokes about victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Gottfried was fired by Aflac, where he had been the voice of the company’s duck mascot. Gottfried has since apologized — but received a curious defense from “The View” co-host Joy Behar.

On the Wednesday broadcast of “The View,” co-host Sherri Shepherd said Aflac knew what it was getting when it signed Gottfried, but wondered aloud whether it was too soon for jokes about the situation in Japan and what they were accomplishing.

“Yes, the company knew that Gilbert Gottfried is inappropriate,” Shepherd said. “But I think there is just this phrase called, ‘It’s too soon.’ And I don’t know if the company would have thought that somebody would have done it right when this was happening. And I understand what Joan Rivers is saying. Comedians — we can get inappropriate to make people feel better. The type of jokes that Gottfried was doing — who is that making feel better? The jokes were mean-spirited, so who was feeling better from the type of jokes that he was doing as a comic?”

That inspired the following response from Behar: In tough situations — during the Holocaust, even — a little inappropriate humor could be a stress reliever.

“I don’t know, maybe people who just need relief from the terror of it all,” Behar said. “I don’t know, but I’m sure people in concentration camps made jokes about each other, about the Nazis, about their situation. That’s the way people relieve stress.”


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Despite Shepherd’s skepticism, Behar held fast. Shepherd said in this instance, the victims should be off-limits because they didn’t have the chance to defend themselves:

SHEPHERD: You said people in concentration camps made jokes? I don’t know if they did or not.
BEHAR: I’m sure they did.
SHEPHERD: That’s people themselves making jokes about what they were going through. When we say kids are off limits, I think we say it for a reason because kids can’t defend themselves. So you’re making jokes about people who — they’re in a situation of terror. They don’t know what’s going to happen. They can’t defend themselves.