There’s a maxim in show business that dying is easy, comedy is hard. And in comedy, nothing is harder to gauge than where to draw the fuzzy line between what’s outrageously funny and what’s deeply offensive.
The latest film to find itself on the wrong side of the funny fault line is “The Dilemma,” the upcoming Ron Howard movie that took a big PR hit late last week after CNN anchor Anderson Cooper complained about its trailer’s use of the word “gay” in a joke. The trailer, which Universal pulled from theaters Friday, opened with Vince Vaughn’s character making a presentation about electric cars in which he says: “Electric cars are gay. I mean, not homosexual, but my-parents-are-chaperoning-the-dance gay.”
Cooper, who had been hosting a weeklong CNN series about bullying against gays and a series of suicides by gay teens, appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” where he said that he was “shocked” to see the trailer in a movie theater. Although the joke probably falls into the category of mildly amusing and not so horribly offensive, Cooper said he was disturbed that “they thought that it was OK to put that in a preview for the movie to get people to go and see it.”
My first reaction was shock that Cooper was shocked. After all, “The Dilemma’s” gay gag hardly broke new ground. “The Hangover,” 2009’s biggest comedy hit, made a gay joke using a word so offensive that I can’t repeat it here. In 2005’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” Seth Rogen’s and Paul Rudd’s characters swap insults, calling each other gay for such cultural offenses as liking the band Coldplay and wearing macramé jean shorts. Gay jokes are lobbed back and forth all the time on network TV and in comedy clubs.
WATCH: PALADINO UNDER FIRE FOR ANTI-GAY COMMENTiframe src=”http://widget.newsinc.com/single.htm?WID=2&VID=103076&freewheel=90046&sitesection=dailycaller” height=320 width=425 frameborder=no scrolling=no noresize marginwidth=0px marginheight=0px>