I Forgive You, Joy!


The View‘s Joy Behar has “sincerely” apologized publicly for comparing Mike Pence’s Christianity to “mental illness.” Finally. 

Joy’s public mea culpa came after The View played a clip of Pence recounting on Hannity his private apology from Behar. 

I said to Joy, ‘Of course, I forgive you.’ That’s a part of my faith experience. I did encourage her. And I’m still encouraging her to use the forum of that program or some other public forum to apologize to tens of millions of Americans who were equally offended.

Behar responded: “So, I think Vice President Pence is right. I was raised to respect everyone’s religious faith. I fell short of that. I sincerely apologize for what I said.”

The Stream‘s Dr. Michael Brown predicted earlier Tuesday that should Behar take vice president Pence’s advice she would receive an “outpouring of forgiveness.”

I can’t speak of an outpouring. (Though that is happening.) But I can speak for me. Apology accepted.

I’ve Got Her Beat, So I Have to Show Her Grace

Dr. Brown’s subtitle quotes 1 Peter 5:5: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Given my background, I have to show Joy grace, even more than most. I wrote comedy professionally for 20 or so years. I wrote somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 one-liners. My funny bone has arthritis. 

Sometimes I crossed the line. In fact, a couple times I soared past the line like a mad bomber, landing in a field called “What in the World Were You Thinking?!?!”

The worst example is indelible. I actually wrote jokes about Columbine … the day of Columbine. All together now: “What in the World Were You Thinking?!?!”

Made perfect sense to me at the time. This was the height of shock jock Howard Stern and I thought it possible some of our DJ clients would go there. Most obviously wouldn’t. I, personally, wouldn’t. But, I figured, somebody might. My rationale was not rational. 

I can’t even use the excuse of gallows humor in the face of overwhelming grief and horror. (I’ve definitely been there. Ask my wife about the jokes flying between my nephew and me when a man died behind us at a baseball game … three days before my mom’s funeral.)

No. The day of Columbine my brain was thinking, “Two guys armed to the teeth with guns and explosives walk into a crowded cafeteria and scores and scores aren’t killed? We got off lucky.” Somehow, “only” 13 dead was good news.

And out spurted the jokes. Sure, I added all sorts of warnings about inappropriateness and offensiveness, but that’s no excuse.

So unless you’ve got footage of Joy wise-cracking about the Parkland shooting while the wounded are still being dragged out of the school, I’ve got her beat. Who would I be to reject her apology for mocking my faith?

Except I Don’t Accept Her Apology for Making Fun of My Faith

Actually, though, Joy’s jokes were not the problem. I understand that most people feel different, but I wasn’t horribly offended by what Joy actually said. And I say that as someone, who, like Pence, does hear the voice of God. 

Here are Behar’s jokes: 

It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.

My question is can he talk to Mary Magdalene without his wife in the room?

A few word changes, more context, different set up, and I could see even a Christian comedian saying something in the same ballpark. In fact, some denominations would even agree with the first joke as a statement of fact. 

What really offended me is the malice behind Joy’s words. This was no lighthearted riff on religion. A thought that popped out of her head. This was an attack meant to draw blood. As her daily dose of bitterness towards anything connected to Trump or Pence attests, she was out to damage.

Behar was not using her humor to bring understanding and healing. Or even levity. She wasn’t using her God-given gift to amuse. She was using her God-given gift to hurt. And that effort to injure extended towards those who share Pence’s faith. 

Malice. Disrespect. That is where Joy “fell short.” 

And that is what needs to be forgiven. She has sincerely apologized. Apology accepted, the injury forgiven.

Loss of Humanity

Now the forgiveness needs to be turned to prayer. We need to pray for Joy Behar. Pray that she can embrace the humanity of those she disagrees with. 

When Joy mocked Pence, she mocked a target. When she apologized to Pence, she spoke to a person. 

She was forced to recognize his humanity. There was a soft-spoken human being on the other end of the line. Do what she and the late nights guys do on a daily basis, and people stop being unique beings fearfully and wonderfully made by God. They become mere set-ups for punch lines or punchlines themselves. Props.

Ask Monica Lewinsky. 

Ask me. I said earlier I wrote over 150,000 jokes. It feels like 98% of them were about the Lewinsky scandal. (Stop right there. It was not the “Lewinsky” scandal. It was Bill Clinton‘s scandal. She was a kid who fell under the charms of an older, powerful figure. If you haven’t read her new essay, you should.)

I doubt I was ever mean to Monica. Certainly I never felt any malice. In fact, I was always struck by how much she was like Clinton’s mom. (Think I’m nuts? Look it up.) However, I did write countless jokes involving her. Even as a Clinton supporter that was the job.

However, somewhere along the way, Monica stopped being a flesh-and-blood young woman caught in a dreadful situation. Most days, she was as human to me as the banana peel on the sidewalk in all the old gags. Scarier, it wasn’t just her humanity being lost.

Back to Columbine

Back to Columbine. That experience shook me to the core. I remember being in my boss’s office the next day. Larry was more dumbfounded than angry. I was actually frightened. Not for my job, but for what I had become. In the non-stop search for the next funny line I’d lost a chunk of my humanity. 

I see that in Joy Behar’s “mental illness” schtick. I see it in the toxic spew from late night. I see it in my Facebook feed. I see it hundreds of times a day on Twitter. So today I ask God, “Forgive us, father. For we know not what we’ve become.” 

Joy, join me in this prayer. You don’t want to become what I became. 

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Author: Al Perrotta

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