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Lessons learned from ‘unfunny’ column

By From page A2 | April 13, 2014

Too soon?

Too soon. At least for our readers.

Last week in this space, I wrote a satiric column about my “theories” about what really happened to Flight 370, the Malaysian Airline plane that disappeared March 2. The response? It was immediately savaged on the Daily Republic website as stupid, cruel and unfunny. And that was just from my friends!

Here are some real phrases found in comments about it, presented movie-review style:

  • “Low taste and downright poor taste.”
  • “Not funny. Not one bit funny. Actually, I found it rather stupid.”
  • “I’ve never witnessed such complete lack of judgment.”
  • “Sad.”
  • “Brad should resign.”

They were bad enough, but my mistake was confirmed Sunday afternoon when I told Mrs. Brad that I was “getting killed” over my column.

“Because it wasn’t funny?” she asked.

Yikes.

So yeah, it wasn’t funny. It was a misguided attempt to harvest humor out of something inappropriate. Sometimes you’re right and you stand in despite criticism. Sometimes you’re wrong and a unanimous wave of harsh condemnation is right.

I was wrong. The readers were right. The column was a bad idea.

The topic was kind of funny in my brain – it was an extension of all the crazy theories put forth daily in various media about what happened to the airplane. My plan was to come up with preposterous ideas to explain the disappearance – that the Earth is really flat, that they landed on Gilligan’s Island, stuff like that.

I chuckled at the thought – I work in a newsroom, where gallows humor reigns.

The readers hated my idea. In addition to the comments, I received several emails and some phone calls blasting me for being dumb and unfunny.

So . . . I was wrong.

The ironic thing is that in January, I wrote a column about the timing of humor – that you need to know when it’s “too soon” to make gags about events. My conclusion three months ago: That you probably are OK making jokes about the Great Depression, Bing Crosby and O.J. Simpson, but that you should wait awhile before joking about current tragedies.

I included gags about the Black Death from the Middle Ages and the sinking of the Titanic. Trust me, they were great. (No need to check. Just trust me.)

The lesson? What seems funny in my brain isn’t necessarily funny to everyone when it’s on paper or their computer – something I’ve known for a long time. But I also was reminded that what seems “edgy” can be offensive if you don’t put yourself in the position of the reader – who doesn’t live inside your head.

Bottom line: The column offended enough people – even those who defended me in the online comments did so in a position of weakness (“He’s not always this dumb”) – that I recognize the truth. It was offensive. It was too soon. It would have been better left unwritten.

The other bottom line: Readers don’t live inside my head, which in the end is a good thing because there’s not much room in there – with the Good Brad telling me to write about my family or dog and the Bad Brad telling me to write about a plane crash.

Two of us is enough in my brain. I’ll try and let Good Brad win more often.

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.

Brad Stanhope

Brad Stanhope

Brad Stanhope is a former Daily Republic editor. He began his career at the DR in the last millennium. He spent 24 years as a sports editor, associate editor and news editor before leaving the Daily Republic in 2014. Brad lives in Suisun City with his wife, Mrs. Brad, and two sons. He enjoys cheese.
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Discussion | 7 comments

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  • Mayor SanchezApril 13, 2014 - 7:16 am

    Saying " I am sorry" would be real nice.

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  • BaseballmomApril 13, 2014 - 7:41 am

    Uhh Pete dear, he spent an entire column saying he's sorry... Get over it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Passenger7aon307April 13, 2014 - 8:07 am

    I find all of it to be very funny. Maybe because we are related and I also have had to use the phrase "Too soon?" quite often.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Must Have Got LostApril 13, 2014 - 9:10 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWjgKibmQvo

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Couldn't get it right? ( It is OK, Mr Brad... we still Love U.. kiss kiss )April 13, 2014 - 9:20 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS5UwlZv4jI

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BobApril 13, 2014 - 9:10 am

    Like they ( who are "they?") say: " it seemed like a good idea at the time"

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • mike kirchubelApril 13, 2014 - 9:54 am

    I laughed, it was kind of like the Asiana crash and KTVU's announcement of the pilots' names, only not as funny. But i decided that jumping to your aid would release a whole new, politically motivated crowd to attack both of us. My advice, keep exploring the nooks and crannies of your convoluted brain and invest in thicker skin. Ebay sells everything.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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