If we don’t laugh, we cry. That’s often our justification for making light of some of the world’s more serious problems: War, the unemployment rate, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Domino’s Pasta Bowls. It’s why we tune into The Daily Show every night. It’s why we enjoy Saturday Night Live during election years. Heck, it’s why we here at PopWatch have a category titled “Politics as Entertainment.”
But when are we enjoying politics a bit too much? Today, embattled New York Congressman Anthony Weiner announced his resignation amid cheers and cries from an audience that had the audacity to interrupt the politician to inquire about the size of his well-documented anatomy. (You can watch video of the conference embedded below.) Perhaps I’ve got a severe case of the wet blankets, but it was tough to find comedy in that moment. Yes, we had spent the past week making plenty of “weiner” jokes. Yes, we have ribbed him behind closed doors. (Don’t even think about it.) And, yes, the politician did an immoral thing. But heckling the man publicly at a press conference, during which he addressed such serious issues as how he’s hurt his own wife, is immoral in itself.
We aren’t talking about a fourth-rate comedian at a sleazy comedy club. We’re talking about a man whose life — and family — is currently in shambles. I’m all about Schadenfreude, but a man’s humiliating downfall is simply not entertainment. Not even when his resignation is deserved. And not even when his name is Weiner.
Can we blame the bystander who yelled “Goodbye pervert!” during the conference? After all, we’re a society who is now encouraged to regularly share our thoughts, however vile, via comment boards, Facebook, or Twitter. (Heck, it’s that kind of oversharing that got Weiner into trouble in the first place.) Still, there are times when we can’t view the political world as a place created solely for our entertainment. There are situations in which our live commentary is not welcomed. And a press conference is one of them.
I know it’s unavoidable: We will continue to laugh at this scandal. Undoubtedly, even Weiner’s good friend Jon Stewart will poke fun. But for at least a few minutes, we should sit back, realize the severity of the domestic situation, and understand that we’re witnessing first-hand a lot of hurt. If anyone can laugh at that, then I feel like crying.
At least wait a few minutes to finesse the jokes, right?
Follow Kate on Twitter @KateWardEW