Damon Wayans Jr. is a very funny man who crosses the line to make a point. Damon Wayans Jr. is an insensitive race-baiter who ruins his image by taking a joke too far on Independence Day.
Which one is he?
So What Exactly IS Humor?
George Bernard Shaw once said, “New opinions often appear first as jokes and fancies, then as blasphemies and treason, then as questions open to discussion, and finally as established truths.”
American author Max Eastman long ago intoned, “It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humor.
The somewhat droll and dry American comic Steven Wright perhaps put it best when he noted, “If you tell a joke in the forest, but nobody laughs, was it a joke?”
When did we as a Nation become so attentive to something as formerly innocuous as a joke?
Humor and Your Personal Brand
Jokes, the telling and accepting of same, have long been a part of personal image. However, it is fair to say that what was a joke 20 years ago is not necessarily considered one today. For that matter, 10 years ago. Perhaps even 10 minutes ago.
What was once humor in many cases is now an insult. In both our personal and professional loves, we must separate what we think is funny and how it will impact someone else. We must also be very careful in using humor when it comes to a professional setting. This in large part because a generation or two ago, things were said in a workplace that were by any stretch demeaning, distasteful, and meant to belittle someone, many times purposely in front of others for the purpose of gaining an edge or exerting overbearing authority over someone else.
Perhaps, when it comes to our personal and professional brand, there is nothing to be more careful about than seeking to garner a laugh. And if there is a line to be drawn, that line may be the instant you decide if what you are about to say will in any way insult or demean the person or persons in attendance.
In the case of Damon Wayans Jr. and his Independence Day tweet, let’s consider the context and the timing.
July 4th is when every American celebrates the birth of this Nation. Truthfully, America was not born without warts and without making what were then and what are now numerous mistakes. Those are the growing pains of a Nation. America has spent much more time in recent years coming to grips with what forged this Nation, and in many cases finding themselves willing to apologize for what they had no control over to begin with.
Yet it always falls to current generations to apologize for the actions of those that preceded them.
Damon Wayans Jr.: Ribald Bard or Race Baiter?
Perhaps jokes such as these are a good thing, revealing how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in understanding where that line is not to be crossed, and when it can be crossed to educate or entertain. Perhaps jokes such as these should no longer be told or tolerated as they inflame passions of those who see nothing funny in it at all.
Yet, are we not a Nation of free speech? Does this cross a line where his image is permanently damaged by seeking to make slavery funny? And are there not plenty of others who do make such jokes in other settings and, while some people may groan in the audience, others find it amusing, some perhaps even poignant.
Where IS that line, and should there even BE a line? And how do we create that line? Who gets to make the decision on what is too far and what will brand someone for life as being hateful. spiteful, nasty, insulting, or racist?
Is There a Lesson here for a Personal Brand, or is it all just one big joke?
Here’s the payoff. How should this impact your image, personally and professionally? How careful should you be, and should jokes always be a window to the soul….or just something funny to some and not so funny to others?
What should be the difference between having a healthy sense of humor and pushing the occasional boundary, and inciting someone to violence or getting yourself fired?
Are we all simply too sensitive and, in the immortal words of Sgt. Hulka from “Stripes” we should all just “Lighten up, Francis”, or have we reached a point in our societal evolution where we need to understand there is no place for such humor because it’s hurtful, derogatory and insulting?
And should we move that line if someone is a professional comedian???
Where do YOU draw the line when it comes to your personal brand, and what does your decision say about your level of integrity?
No joke. In today’s society, you need to have an answer.