Only In America . . . TM

Copyright 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.


The California legislature has passed a bill making comedy, laughter, and the telling of jokes crimes.

"Any time somebody tells a joke, somebody else has to be the butt of that joke," 27th district Legislator Patrick McMarvin said in a speech immediately before the final vote was taken. "That means that every joke that is told offends at least one person; that every joke that is told HURTS at least one person; and that every joke that is told humiliates at least one person.

"An enlightened society can not tolerate causing one person pain for the sake of another person's pleasure. And, since we are an enlightened society, it is our duty to stop this heinous practice in order to protect the feelings of our citizens."

The state legislators apparently agreed with McMarvin; they passed the new law with only a single dissenting vote. The bill was then hand-carried to the governor's office, where it was immediately signed into law.

"Laughter is pleasure for some built on the pain of others," the Governor said in a press conference held immediately after signing the bill. "This simple fact has been ignored by the government far too long. It is the duty of government to protect the weak and the delicate and the easily-offended, and I can assure you that this administration intends to see to it that the government does its duty."

The bill was strongly opposed by the Comedy Writers of America, the Organization of American Comedy Clubs, and the National Association for the Advancement of Stand-up Comics. The publishers of Reader's Digest also opposed it because passage of the law would force them to publish one edition for California and another one for the rest of the nation.

"Comedy is one of the staples of the entertainment industry," Ben Jolly, President of the Organization of American Comedy Clubs, said in a press release. "If you eliminate comedy from TV, movies, books, magazines and night clubs most of them will go out of business in a very short time. And if you cripple America's entertainment industry, you cripple America," he said.

Representative McMarvin disagrees.

"Comedians are responsible for most of what is wrong in this country today," he said. "Especially stand-up comedians. They poke fun at our presidents, show irreverence for our established institutions, and lampoon lawyers and other professionals mercilessly. And they do this from a variety of national forums without regard for who may be in the audience."

"Is it any wonder then that our young people grow up without respect for their parents, the government, or any other of our sacred institutions? I say it is high time that we removed this destabilizing and immoral influence from our midst and get down to the more serious issues confronting our nation."

The new law, commonly referred to as the LAUGH LAW, goes into effect immediately. Penalties range from a $100 fine for first-time offenders to a $10,000 fine and 10 to 20 years in jail for repeat offenders.

The National Association of Trial Lawyers hailed the new law as "one small step for the law, and one giant step for justice."

Copyright 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.