Thomas Wictor

“I can’t do this to me!”

“I can’t do this to me!”

One of the funniest cartoons I ever saw showed Senator Joseph McCarthy as a spider all wound up in his own web—trapped, struggling, shouting, “I can’t do this to me!” I wish I could remember the cartoonist’s name.

That’s one of my favorite lines. I’ve used it for years whenever someone self-implodes.

Alec Baldwin’s TV show Up Late has been canceled. He blames “the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy” for killing his show. What actually killed the show was Baldwin’s mouth. He opened it one time too many and fell right in.

I’m not surprised. Back when I was shuttling from party to party in Los Angeles as the guest of independent publicists, I met tons of actors, directors, producers, and screenwriters. When they got relaxed enough, they told three kinds of jokes:

1. Gay jokes.

2. Black jokes.

3. Jew jokes.

There was never even a hint of self-consciousness, and the assumption was made that of course I’d yuck it up with the joke teller. Why wouldn’t I? I mean, these were gays, blacks, and Jews we were talking about!

What was remarkable was the crudity and raw hatred expressed in these jokes. They weren’t even funny. I’ve heard some really funny racist and homophobic jokes; the funniest always come from members of the targeted group.

The reason that members of a group can make jokes about themselves but outsiders can’t is because the target of the joke gets to decide if it’s funny or not. This is really basic stuff. Racist or homophobic jokes can be potentially toxic. An outsider doesn’t get to dump a truckload of poison on someone and then say, “C’mon! Where’s your sense of humor?”

I was once close friends with a Jewish woman. As we drove through West Hollywood, I told her that I’d just learned that a world-famous comedian had built a perfect replica of an airliner bathroom in his mansion.

“What the heck is up with that?” I asked rhetorically.

Instantly she said, “Because he’s such a neurotic Jew that he can’t pee on airplanes, knowing that there are other people right outside or waiting in line. He built himself a replica airplane bathroom in his home so he could practice.”

Her words, not mine. What I loved about her was her sense of humor. We once went to some horrible David Schwimmer movie in which he was an author. It was so awful that the audience started yelling and groaning, and then this skinny Asian guy a few seats in front of us stood up and broke wind for about twenty seconds. It sounded like a tuba.

“OH MY GOD!” I screamed. “STOP THAT!”

My friend leaned forward until her chest was on her knees, made a series of clicking sounds, and then sucked in a huge gulp of air and shrieked with laughter. I’d had a massive crush on her for years. Making her laugh like that was one of more gratifying moments of my life. She looked exactly like John Singer Sergeant’s portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw.

But in the nearly ten years I knew her, I never once told her a Jewish joke. She was free to tell me as many Jewish jokes as she wanted. That was her privilege. I didn’t have that privilege. To assume that I did would’ve been presumptuous and disrespectful. It’s never once bothered me that groups can joke about themselves while outsiders can’t. It’s not a double standard; you have no right whatsoever to decree how others should react to what you say about them.

One of the reasons I fell out of love with my Jewish beauty is that she revealed herself to be rabidly, psychotically anti-gay. I have no feelings one way or the other about sexual orientation, and gay people don’t need me to stick up for them. But her hatred was frightening and repulsive. Invariably, when someone hates an entire group of people, it bespeaks of serious problems in other areas. There’s no such thing as a kind, humane, well-balanced person who hates a group so much that she wants them exterminated.

Alec Baldwin’s outbursts are indicative of a mindset that’s all too common in the entertainment world. My brother Eric nailed it when he was out here for Mom’s funeral. Eric notes that lots of people insist that others think and act in a certain way; imposing a code of conduct and belief system on everyone else makes this self-proclaimed aristocracy so morally superior that they allow themselves to behave swinishly.

What I discovered in my ten years in Hollywood was that there was tons of lip service paid to ideals, but few people bothered living up to them.

What you see is what you get. Entertainers really do think they should face no consequences for their choices. In 2007 Lindsay Lohan carjacked a vehicle full of kids, ran over someone’s foot, and went on a drunken, drugged-up, high-speed chase down the Pacific Coast Highway, blowing dozens of red lights and endangering maybe hundreds of lives. When one of the kids yelled at her that she’d get arrested, she said, “I’m a celebrity. I can do whatever the fuck I want.”

And she was right! The car chase ended in the parking lot of a police station, and Lohan served no time, even though it was her second DUI in three months.

Looking good, LiLo. Looking real good.

Baldwin will learn nothing from this experience, and he won’t modify his behavior. He’ll continue to blame “the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy” when the reality is that he’s just a has-been entertainer who let his fame go to his oinking head.

His sacking is a good thing. It shows a shred of normality in these highly erratic times.

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