Andy Samberg’s cannibal sketch makes light of murder, brutal attacks

By | June 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm | 13 comments | News, Opinion | Tags: , , ,

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about the trio of gruesome cannibal-esque attacks – one of which resulted in death – that have dominated news headlines for the last week. But as a matter of convenience, let’s review.

On or around May 24, 29-year-old former porn star Luka Rocco Magnotta murdered Jun Lin, 33. Magnotta repeatedly stabbed his victim with an ice pick and proceeded to hack apart Lin’s corpse, performing sexual acts to it and eating pieces of Lin’s flesh. A video of the act was posted online, presumably by Magnotta.

On May 26, a Miami police officer shot Rudy Eugene four times after pleading with him to stop eating the face of 65-year-old homeless man Ronald Poppo. Eugene tore off 75 percent of Poppo’s face, leaving him virtually unrecognizable, with one source saying that only a mess of blood and the victim’s goatee remained. It’s suspected Eugene was high on “bath salts” — an amphetamine-like designer drug – during the attack. As of this writing, Poppo remains in critical condition.

Finally, a man in Sweden was arrested for cutting off his wife’s lips and then eating them (you know, so they could never be re-attached)— because he believed she cheated on him.

Let me know when you’re done holding your vomit and I’ll continue.

Ok, good? Let’s proceed, then.

Last night, newly former Saturday Night Live cast member Andy Samberg guested on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. As part of his sit-down interview, Kimmel tossed to a pre-taped, parody PSA pegged to the aforementioned recent events.

“People. They come in all shapes and sizes: tall, short, fat, thin, young and old. But it’s important to remember that whatever they look like— you shouldn’t eat them,” Samberg deadpans at the start of his message on behalf of the Citizens Are Not Naturally Ingested By Americans League (C.A.N.N.I.B.A.L.). You can watch the entire thing below.

This sketch is horrendous.

Beyond its lazy writing, the joke’s entire premise is based on brutal attacks and the killing of innocent people.

Now, before you start thinking, ‘You run a website that supports comedy, an art anchored in free speech’ or that I’m being too politically correct or self-righteous; and before you throw out George Carlin’s famous quote – “I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately,” you should also remember that Carlin posited that the context of one’s words and actions is at the heart of their meanings; and you should remind yourself that Carlin was a brilliant social satirist and never tackled traditionally sensitive topics without offering valuable commentary.

The only context to last night’s joke comes in the form of one dead man, a man left without a face and one woman whose life is now ruined. No point was made; no artistic boundary was pushed. So, don’t fool yourself into believing your taste in humor is somehow more evolved than those who would be offended by it. I count so-called cringe acts (e.g. Jim Norton, Doug Stanhope, Jim Jefferies) as some of my favorite comedians — a fact well documented the last six years during the course of my comedy coverage — because there’s purpose behind their words. Also, they’re funny. Samberg’s sketch is just plain ignorant, lowest-common-denominator humor.

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor Laughspin.

  • PMT

    You went from bashing Samberg for referencing a bizarre series of unrelated instances in a shitty sketch to defending Dane Cook for making a weak joke that made light of one of the most horrific shootings in American history. Strange priorities, Mr. Gadino.

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  • David J in LA

    Dylan…I like your site and you have the absolute leeway to write whatever the hell you want on it.

    That said, I’ve seen a number of posts written along these lines.  “Inappropriate” art.  This is an unsettling trend in the social media era.  Hardly a week goes by without some sort of comedic art setting off a firestorm (I use this word for a reason, as it is nearly meaningless in 2012) within the social media corners of the web, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  On cue – major old school media pick it up to fill 15 second slots and we’re off.

    The problem is it chills creativity.  The kicking and screaming shuts a creative person down for a while (regardless of their intent, or how decent they may be in everyday life).  In worst cases it significantly effects careers…jobs or gigs get lost.  Somewhere somebody’s very real bill doesn’t get paid.  

    And there’s no winning in the end.  Humanity continues to have its ugly moments and now we’re down a few laughs…which is the entire reason for this site to exist in the first place.

    There is no reaching the feel good mountaintop of wholly-acceptable, culturally-correct – and still funny – comedy.  There will never be a widely accepted standard.  Humans are just too individual and weird.  There is no such thing as a collective taste.

    We should let it all rip.  And try to laugh as much as possible.  Even at the “Chinese Babies” material.

    • Dylan

      hey, David.. thanks for your response; i can appreciate everything you’re saying. i just want to make it clear, however, I am, in no way, saying Samberg shouldn’t have joked about what he did or that he should apologize or that we need to stop joking about such things.

      i’m editorializing on one example and simply registering my opinion that the joke was terribly constructed and lazy and therefore didn’t deserve to have its subject be something even slightly dark. if you’re going to tackle something dark, filled with victims (not to mention, something still currently happening), then you better have something smart to say about it. Again– just my opinion about these types of jokes.

      also, i should note that having covered comedy for so many years and keeping track of trends and what people say online, there’s been a huge rise in comedy goers that believe it’s just plain wrong to be offended by anything. and i think this takes a lot of humanity out of the art. of course a comedian can joke about anything. but that doesn’t mean as a consumer, you’re a spineless, liberal weakling if, by chance, you respond negatively to a joke.

      • David J in LA

        All good.  Your opinion is your thing.  And I do realize that I’m commenting on something of a more general nature, and not this specific Samberg sketch.  This post merely sparked the neurons.

        I definitely noticed, sometime around 2005 or 2006, an expansion in the comedy club audience.  Overall this is a great thing for comics, as we’re in sort of a boom again.  But a consequence of this was an entirely new generation of fans who seemed – anecdotally – to be more sensitive than ever, especially when compared to say, the “Sam Kinison 80s” boom.

        It would be easy for me to say that this is some new soft generation of kids, and that America is losing its edge, blah blah.  I don’t think it’s that simple, but it is unsettling.  It might be the super self esteem movement that kicked in with younger parents at some point, or the unwillingness to be away from kids at any time (the “Helicopter Parent” deal).  I really have no idea and one sounds like a huge jag making such broad generalizations about human beings…yet something is out there.

        I have my own moments where a comedy bit lands poorly, on me.  Either I think it sucks or is shoddily constructed, awkward, without merit, whatever.  Maybe it even offends me for a few moments.  But taking it from there to a full-on social media shaming assault just seems completely foreign to me.  Or making a big scene in the club, leaving, and then tweeting the video in anger, or whatever.  

        And it crosses the liberal/conservative spectrum (which is bullshit on its own, but that’s another 3000 words).  One day it’s Sarah Palin or Jesus that shouldn’t be made fun of, the next it’s Single Moms or that day’s particular preferred group, etc.

        Can you imagine Andy Kaufman cutting those “I’m from Hollywood” ‘dumb Southerner’ wrestling promos in today’s social media climate?  Or manhandling women?  These were all pulled off in his “Andy Kaufman” character.  They were pissed in Memphis in 1982.  In 2012 the outrage would be so out of control that I doubt he even makes it to Letterman.  And he would have been fired from Taxi as early as year two in today’s climate.

        To me the whole thing adds up to less interesting people.

        Anyway, thanks for the work you do on the site.  I pop in every few weeks.

  • Piers

    So, no 9/11, WW2, or Vietnam jokes then?

    • Dylan

      hey, Piers. of course you can joke about those things. i believe you can joke about just about anything, including these so-called cannibal attacks. like i said in the piece, it’s all about context and intent. the punch line to Samberg’s joke is simply that eating people isn’t nice. it’s a funny concept, but not pegged to the recent crimes (in my opinion). a better comedian — if they decided to joke about the crimes — i think would have demonized the attackers a bit more in order to win the audience, or would’ve made the joke more about the sensational press coverage of the events.

      To me, a Vietnam War joke equivalent to Samberg’s cannibal joke would be to make light of the thousands of soldiers who died for no reason, like “hey, what’s the deal with young men forced to die in a war?” and then the joke ends. no commentary. no point. nothing. just introducing a concept, and lightly implying that maybe men shouldn’t die in wars because it’s kinda silly for them to do so.

      Again, this is my opinion. And i’m not calling for anyone to apologize. Samberg (or whoever wrote the sketch) and Kimmel have the right to do whatever they want. But then I have the right to think their joke premise and execution was poorly thought out.

      • Michael Covarrubias

        I appreciate this response, Dylan. It’s measured, and very reasonable. I disagree with your conclusion, but it’s just a matter of degrees there: how funny is something, (silly to argue) and how thoughtful is a joke (better to argue, but bound to reveal different opinions).

        Some of the claims in your original piece, e.g., calling the bit “just plain ignorant, lowest-common-denominator humor”, overstate the simplicity of the satire and ignore a lot of the context of a PSA that presumes to educate people on something as obvious as cannibalism.

        There’s the self-congratulatory attitude of a lot of actors/celebrities on issues that are important to them. And there’s the lame attempt at humor that a lot of PSAs lean on cheaply, as comic relief.

        This satirical PSA (combined with the intro) puts a lot of this on display. Then it layers the claim as a direct condemnation of cannibalism, which is unnecessary, or course, and which by being so obviously perfunctory, becomes in essence the opposite: an insensitive indifference to cannibalism.

        Who knows if it’s really funny enough? It could kill with one audience, and bomb with another. But its structure is a bit more complex than you suggest. Instead of “hey, what’s the deal with young men forced to die in a war?” it’s more along the lines of saying “Hey, soldiers, don’t let those bullets hit you. They hurt!” and claiming you’re a front-lines activist in the anti-war/pro-vet movement.

        • Dylan

          well said. thanks, Michael — and, really, the rest of you (except that one guy who’s anti-analysis) — for responding intelligently. 

      • Robby Newman

        Is part of your objection that it’s too soon to joke about it given the nature of the crimes?  That seems a fair complaint to me.  But I dont agree that there’s nothing more to the premise than pointing out the assaults. If a public service announcement discouraging cannibalism is funny it’s because condemnation of murder and cannibalism is so deep and widespread; sane folks don’t need to be reminded not to do it, the way we (or kids)  need to be encouraged to stay away from power lines or not to play with fire. 

        why think it is lazy? maybe PSA parodies have been done a lot in different ways.  


  • brijazz012

    With all due respect, the reason that there aren’t more comments on this story is because no one cares about heavy editorializing from a bloody comedy site.

  • Jake Fogelnest

    I’m sorry, but references to Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals make ANY sketch work. My name is Jake Fogelnest, and I’m important in “alternative comedy.”

  • Jordanscherer92

    I just want to start off by saying, you have a great website. I’m a stand-up comedian, comedy nerd and I host my own comedy based radio broadcast. I would have to respectfully disagree with your stance on this sketch. It made me laugh, and that’s what comedy does. Comedy takes the darkest things and makes light of them. Tragey + Time = Comedy. Why should we be limited on what tragedy we are aloud to make fun of? I don’t know… I love your site, I just don’t agree with you on this.

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