Michael Ian Black is a fantastic comedian and a supporter of President Obama. When a person at his show compared Obama to Hitler, MIB lashed out at him with a tirade of "fucks" and a little regret.
It's the late show on a Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio. I'm halfway through my set and I mention Barack Obama. Some scattered boos. Which is normal. Somebody always hates the president, no matter who that president might be. In this case, the president is Obama and I am a fan, so I always ask they are so mad at him.
"Why are you mad at the president?"
Some common responses:
"Because he's an idiot."
"Because he doesn't do anything."
"Because he broke his campaign promises."
That's usually as far as people are able to go. They're mad but they don't know why. Which is always funny, at least to me. In fact, now that I think of it, nobody has ever given me a specific policy reason why they do not like our current president. I try to be polite about it while simultaneously making fun of them, then I give whoever I was making fun of a dollar, and we move on.
Last night, as I was talking about how much I love the president (because I do), somebody yelled out "Heil Hitler."
My immediate reaction was to crumple to the floor, which I did. I don't know why, except that it seemed to me in that moment that the show had now gone south very quickly, and if bottles were going to be thrown, I didn't want to get hit.
But then I stood up and asked the person (shrouded in darkness, as people who scream "Heil Hitler" often are) why he yelled that, thinking maybe he thought it was funny in some obtuse way, like maybe he though shouting that would be interpreted as clever satire. Or maybe he was being ironic. Grasping, I know, but I honestly had no idea why somebody would yell that outside of a Klan rally.
But I am still being polite.
The guy in the dark says, "Because when you say you like Obama, that's the same thing to me as saying ‘Heil Hitler.'"
The audience, predictably, starts booing. I ask them to please calm down, that I will handle this in a mature way. While I am saying this to the audience, I am thinking, How do I possibly handle this in a mature way.
So the audience settles down, and I turn to the gentleman and say, "Sir, I say with this all due respect - you are a fucking moron."
And then I kind of lost my shit.
I just started screaming at the guy. Screaming. I don't even know what I was screaming, although the gist was, "How dare you compare Hitler to this president or any president? How dare you equate what he did with Obama is doing? Do you have any idea how insulting that is? Do you know anything about history? Do you have any idea what Hitler did? He killed six million of my people, which is six million more than Obama has killed. You're a fucking idiot. You're a fucking moron. You're the fucking problem with this country. You and your reflexive retardation. You're a fucking this-and-that…" and then I just basically started yelling "fuck" a lot at the guy. Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
Then he stood up and left.
It felt really, really great.
But now I feel bad. I feel bad because, in retrospect, that guy didn't deserve that. Yes he said something incredibly stupid, but my response was just as stupid. I could have made my point a million different ways without screaming into a microphone in a room filled with drunk people. I wasn't clever, I wasn't thoughtful, I said nothing that would move the conversation forward. I just yelled because Nazis push my Jew button (my Jew button is located right below my tail).
It was a purely emotional response, the kind that I get upset at other people for making when talking about the mosque they want to build or gay marriage or gun violence or any issue that people use to piss each other off.
Hitler is just a buzz word. Which is actually part of my problem with him saying it in such a blithe way. In a weird way, by equating policy disagreements with a genocidal egomaniac, you're actually disrespecting Hitler. You're actually bringing his evil down to the level of the mundane, which we should never do. Obama is Hitler because he created a consumer protection agency? C'mon.
So yeah, I kind of lost my shit last night. And to that guy who shouted out "Heil Hitler," I apologize. There was no reason to meet your idiocy with my own, even though you are a fucking moron.
Jason Diamond of Jewcy reached out to MIB for a follow up, asking him four questions about the incident and giving MIB the chance to expound a bit on some of the larger issues at play here - specifically the question of Jewish guilt and becoming an angry comedian:
Do you really feel bad? He heckled you, didn't he deserve it?
I do feel bad. Not because he didn't deserve a response, but because he didn't deserve the response he got, which was more or less an inarticulate string of profanities. It was easy and cheap, and I could have found a way to make the incident funnier instead of just upping the vitriol. To be fair to myself, after I screamed at him, I did ask him if there was anything he wanted to say to defend himself, but by that point he was gone. (I couldn't see him because, as I said in my piece, he was shrouded in darkness.)
Is this an example of "Jewish guilt"?
No. My guilt has more to do with being an American. I'm the first person to bitch when people start screaming past each other over political/social/religious disagreements in this country, and yet what do I do when presented with an opportunity to lose my shit? I lose my shit. Not good. I definitely don't want to come off sounding all high and mighty, but I don't like what's going on in my country, and I don't want to make it worse.
Is this just a new routine for you? Are you going to plant people in the audience to ask moronic questions like this so you can become an "angry comedian"?
I should ask that guy to go on the road with me. That's a great idea. Before this happened, I was thinking about developing a long piece about the nature of being offended. What does it mean to say "I'm offended?" Why are people so offended all the time? This incident made me think I should try to figure that piece out because I think there's something worth talking about there.
If the same situation happened, except it was on "Celebrity Poker Showdown", and Hank Azaria (also a Jew) said Obama was like Hitler, would you tear into him?
It would never happen. I mean, I would have to believe a Jewish comedian saying that would be saying it as a comment on people who say stupid shit like that. However, if I pressed, and it turned out that person was actually expressing that sentiment, I would zero problem tearing into him, even if that celebrity was as ripped as Hank. I would just try to do a better job at it.
Incidentally, although I love Obama, I hope my reaction would have been as vehement if the heckler had said the same thing about W, who I did not care for. Here's something I believe that nobody else seems to believe: people are doing the best they can. They're trying to make good decisions, and instead of seeing everybody who disagrees with us as the enemy, we should first take it at face value that they are doing their best. Even when we think they're fucking morons.