The Friars Club, a male members’ only club in New York City, was organized to build camaraderie among its entertainment and professional members. In 1950, the Club began its tradition of “roasting” a member. A steady stream of jokes and remembrances were punctuated with fun, spiked jabs. Tolerance for these insults was readily accepted as part of the funfest.
Fast-forward to 2004, when Donald Trump was roasted by the Friars. Now jump to seven years later, when he was roasted by TV’s Comedy Central.
In earthy style of today’s roasting environment, Comedy Central goes beyond those “seven words that you can’t say on television” offer by the late George Carlin in 1972. Carlin was impressed by Lenny Bruce. Bruce was arrested for obscenity during his 1961 standup routine in San Francisco. Likewise, Carlin was arrested for performing the dirty word list in Milwaukee.
In contrast to the days of Red Skelton and Flip Wilson, with their socially acceptable comedic dialogues, today’s sexually inflamed words are embedded in the new world of explicit standup jesting. An example of provocative verbiage being the norm is the sexually laced stories on the Trump-Billy Bush bus interview of 2005. No doubt, President Trump could stand on 5th Avenue and vocalize all manner of lewd, crude and homicidal banter and not lose one vote nor one registered Republican.
Trump learned a great deal about roasting at the Friars Club and picked up the bawdy format during his Comedy Central appearance. Later, his campaign comments were sprinkled with domineering and aggressive soundbites enhanced with bitter name-calling and blistering interruptions. Now Trump’s presidential work is blasting the Twitter waves when the slightest of criticisms and humor are pointed his way.
However, using coarse language on opponents is one thing, and calling down “fire and fury” on North Korea and threatening “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have suffered before” are not only unconventional, it may be a prelude to world annihilation.
The president’s hot-button tweets are not generally for wit. Most tweets are scorching. When one applies the term “hot” to another person, the meanings can, in fact, have a wide array of meanings. For example, fervent, ardent and passionate are all closely related to “hot.”
Which brings me to consider how Trump really feels about our adversary, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s lion-hearted boastings shrivel to a faint-hearted whisper when it comes to all things Russian and Putin. In contrast, consider his praise poured out on Paul Manafort in comparison to the reluctant, muted message about the passing of hero and public servant John McCain.
The greatest sin of this moment is to question the actions, motives and words of the president. Only a lukewarm citizen could fail to realize that the retaliatory barbs spewing forth from the White House are not singeing the press’ First Amendment of these United States and are, instead, building a fire wall around the news media.
The Friars Club’s roasting events were delivered as a jovial occasion. Cheech and Chong were funny in “Up in Smoke.” Dante’s “Inferno” was in no way humorous, even though it is cast as “Divine Comedy.” Nor is the president’s furnace of daily discontentment.
Last week’s Manafort-Cohen-Pecker legal maneuvers have turned the heat up on the administration to the intensity of a California wildfire. There should be no laughter to the president’s current alleged funny business.
On the other hand, before the Republican Party became Trump’s Party, President Reagan told this story: An American and a Russian were arguing about their countries. The American claimed that when he was disappointed about the way the president was running the country, he could march into the Oval Office and pound on the president’s desk and state, “I don’t like the manner in which you are running our country.” The Russian said he could do that, too. The Russian reported, “Yes, I can go right to the Kremlin and enter the office of the General Secretary and say that I don’t like the way Reagan is running his country.”
At least that president could joke about Russia and tear down walls instead of building them.