The sudden, sad death of Joan Rivers has brought her work into the limelight. Praised as a comic pioneer, a glass-ceiling buster and fearless -- endlessly committed to her craft and ageless -- recordings of her hilarious appearances on The Tonight Show, Fashion Police, the Red Carpet, and comedy club stages everywhere especially now fill the airwaves.
Probably most people (including yours truly) found her work funny, but very mean!
Elizabeth Taylor is so fat, she puts mayonnaise on her aspirin.
The whole Michael Jackson thing was my fault. I told him to date only twenty-eight-year-olds. Who knew he would find 20 of them?
"Lindsay Lohan said she wouldn't mind being under oath because she thought Oath was a Norwegian ski instructor."
Joan's insults about the rich and famous first stun you, then can make you laugh soo hard because (1) they speak to underlying truth, (2) they’re things you're not supposed to say in public, (3) you can say those things in public about public figures because that’s part of the deal with being a public figure, and (4) you know either implicitly or explicitly that even though Joan says really mean things about these public figures, she is actually good friends with them and whatever critique she’s offering is an actual wish that they would take their charged issue seriously and change for the better.
Of course she was just as hard on herself, which is another reason she could say mean things about others:
"People don't believe I was a fat kid, but I really was. When I got off the carousel, the horse limped."
As we are presently hearing her acerbic wit everywhere, and are invited to appreciate it more than ever, I thought it would be a safer time than most to bring out what is arguably the most acerbic section of scripture: Ezekiel 16. You can read it here if you wish. If you dare!
In this chapter, Ezekiel pulls no punches as he describes Israel as the biggest whore the world has ever known. That’s because the nation has so often chosen to secure her future by making compromising deals with her pagan neighbors rather than relying fully on God for her well-being. Israel has "slept with" so many foreign powers her “lady walls” (if ya know what I mean) are now completely shot; that’s why the Babylonians are going to be able to easily tear down her stone ones and make a ruin of everything.
Some don’t find this satire the least bit funny. Only ugly. Only horribly sexist. Perhaps, however, if you hear Joan speaking the text, you might find yourself laughing at it like you do at her own material.
To get your ear and mind properly pitched, here’s a little something to get you started.
Imho, here are some of Ezekiel 16's darkly comic highlights:
1) Israel is described as a vulnerable, naked child (rejected by others but saved and beautifully clothed by God) who then gladly exposes herself to whatever nations she can entice to bed her. Now that’s irony!
2) Usually prostitutes receive gifts for their services. However, Israel is such a whore she gives gifts to those who come to screw her. Now that’s (bitterly ironically) taking care of business!
3) Israel is noted as a sister to Samaria and Sodom (because indeed the Israelites are related to the Samaritans and Sodomites although the latter two are considered shameful relatives for their immoral and idolatrous practices). Now, not only do Samaria and Sodom now look decent in comparison, but God benevolently promises to restore the fortunes of all – Samaria, Sodom and Israel – so that Samaria and Sodom can return to their sinful ways and Israel can forever look at them and remain ashamed that she acted like them, but worse. Now that's what you call a (razor-sharp bitterly ironic) happy ending! Usually biblical prophecy, no matter how condemnatory, ends with a note of hope. Ezekiel’s here is pitch-black.
Like Ms Rivers, Ezekiel's biting humor is born from his amiable relationship with the subject and his knowledge that he, too, deserves the reprimand.
And although I'm feeling like I should now end this blog by making some clever observation about how contemporary mainline Protestant pastors (both male and female), can, for any number of reasons, feel pressured to "lead from their vaginas," I'll just conclude by saying if you'd like to subscribe to my blog and receive e-mail notices every time a new (and tamer?) blog is published, please click the "subscribe" invitation at the bottom of the right hand column of this page.