Courtesy of The Boston Phoenix, this is the reason I'm a Sarah Silverman fan. This is the reason why I'll see Jesus Is Magic:
When I talk to her about limits and the thin line between funny and offensive, she agrees that it’s always funny for members of an ethnic group to see themselves parodied by one of their own. Jackie Mason, I say, could make me laugh with the simplest observation about Jewish behavior. But, I point out, when he takes on Puerto Ricans, his act goes flat. Silverman interjects, "And yet Don Rickles gets away with that and it’s hilarious."
"I think Andrew Dice Clay was just plain offensive and I didn’t find him funny," I offer.
"Ah, but you just said, ‘I found Andrew Dice Clay offensive and I didn’t find him funny.’ But you found him offensive because you didn’t find him funny. I think the thing is, if it’s funny enough, if it’s more funny than it is offensive or upsetting, that’s the gauge. But of course it’s subjective. So that’s why when people don’t like me or get offended by something, I never try to defend. I just say, ‘I’m so sorry!’, because it’s subjective — everyone’s watching it from the context of their own life experience, there’s just no way to say who it’s going to offend. If someone doesn’t find something funny — and comedy being subjective there always will be someone who doesn’t find you funny — then it is offensive. And that’s why if you don’t find Andrew Dice Clay funny, it’s offensive."
The infamous Conan Chink incident was originally from a bit about trying to get out of jury duty. "I wrote, ‘As long as you write something racist, like "I hate Chinks." I don’t want to be racist, I just want to get out of jury duty. So I filled out the form and wrote, "I love Chinks." ’ Well, before I went on, they were like, ‘Don’t say "Chink." You can say "Spic" or "Jew." ’And I thought, okay maybe I can say ‘dirty Jew’ or something. But you know what? I can’t say ‘Jew,’ because it’s not offensive enough. Because I’m Jewish. So it has to be the most offensive thing I can say on television — for the joke to work. And if you’re saying that I can say ‘Spic,’ then I’m going to say ‘Chink,’ because how could you possibly say one is okay and one isn’t? You can’t possibly justify that. I’m going to say ‘Chink’ because it has the funny ‘ch’ and the hard ‘k’ and that’s why I’m going to say ‘Chink.’ But I’m not going to not say ‘Chink’ and you tell me I can say ‘Spic’ — that’s absurd. And it comes down to who writes letters — it has no moral basis."