Was I surprised that the funniest part of "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane's live comedy special on Fox was also its most politically incorrect? No. Check out this clip about deaf actress Marlee Matlin, and feel bad about laughing.
Click to viewFamily Guy's jokes frequently rest on so-called "offensive" humor, and this was on full display during "Seth and Alex's Almost Live Review," which featured MacFarlane and Alex Bornstein (the voice of Lois) playing to a live audience in front of a big band. The musical numbers, sketches and karaoke-like live performances to Family Guy clips almost universally pushed the very hot buttons of race, class, gender and disability in ways that should guarantee Fox an inbox stuffed full with angry letters for the next few weeks. But "Seth and Alex's Almost Live Review" managed to do something Family Guy doesn't always accomplish: Be funny in an "offensive" way while avoiding the sense that to cause offense was an end in itself.
The best "offensive" jokes are those that comment on the very concept of being offended. They spoof the arcane rules of political correctness that dictate what certain people can say about other kinds of people, and how they can say it. The bit above is probably the purest form of this kind of humor: What could have been the worst sort of caricature was deftly turned into a meta-joke on viewers. The realization that Matlin's in on the joke prompts (at least in me) a sense of relief so strong that it makes you question what the hell you were doing laughing in the first place. The reveal is a judo move that uses our own highly-honed sense of political correctness against us, and, basically, is just really funny! Good work, Seth and Alex.
This bit from Family Guy, on the other hand? Meh.