Religious leaders and politicians should learn something from Dan Quayle. There isn’t much one can learn from the intellectual giant from the Hoosier State who was President Bush Sr.’s Vice President, particularly not spelling or who deserves to be compared to John F. Kennedy, but one can learn what not to do: Don’t mess with comedians. In case I’m just old or some have forgotten the Vice President’s attack on the popular television character of the 1990s, Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen, who had such brilliance she could have beaten a debate with Quayle in her sleep. Murphy Brown decided she would have a baby, although she didn’t happen to be in the wedded state, and Quayle condemned her for “mocking the importance of fathers.” The result, of course, was a storm of ridicule heaped on Quayle.
What’s the point of this prolix analogy? Well, first of all, religious leaders and politicians should avoid attacking people who are a lot more popular than they are. When people want a rousing speech, they will go to a political convention. When they want an inspiring sermon, they go to a church or a synagogue. But actors, comedians and artists deal with areas far more grey and all-t0o-real. And anyway, if they are more popular than you, the best thing to do is to pray for them, but just shut up.
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We saw this with the Rabbi who wrote the criticism of Sarah Silverman’s decision not to have children in the Jewish Press. I’m sorry that her father responded to the comments that needed no response, because Silverman’s father gave this guy his 15 minutes of fame, which he wanted by writing the open letter. But he was being an honorable father defending his daughter. And as usual, I digress.
Okay, to get to the point. WABC News Talk Radio co-host for “Religion on the Line, ” (not exactly a late-night talk show) condemned Howard Stern’s eulogy of Joan Rivers as degrading the “holiness” of the occasion. But if the occasion had been holy and pious, it would have been degrading to the person in the casket, who said that she wanted a showbiz paparazzi funeral. If the eulogies and the ceremony would have been reverent, people present would have forgotten who was in the casket, which would have been the ultimate insult to the deceased.
Rabbi Potasnik was adamant, “The issue was the type of humor that was brought to the Temple by Howard Stern. In my eyes, it crossed the line. Extensively crossed the line.”
The funeral of Joan Rivers wasn’t filmed, but apparently he made some lewd remarks, alongside this, “Joan was like an aunt or a best friend who could make everything better … she would crack a joke and you didn’t feel so alone.”
On his radio show, the shock jock had a message for Rabbi Potasnik, “Don’t criticize something you didn’t hear.” Then he got upset, “This guy’s a fucking creep. Who even cares what rabbis have to say.”
Well, the truth is some people care what rabbis have to say, but they really aren’t at their best when they are throwing mud at celebrities. And it is too bad this Rabbi was given his 15 minutes on of fame when he should be happy to get a minyan.