A lot of news has broken since Saturday Night Live’s last episode, from the ridiculous to the sublime, but only one new development had to do with Jeff Bezos’ penis. What were the writers going to do, not make a cold open about it?
I never thought I’d say this, but maybe they should have done an Alec Baldwin Trump sketch, even if he’d just delivered the entire State of the Union address word-for-word. It’s a surprising result, because unlike so many Trump-era cold opens, this one should be bulletproof, at least in theory. Laurence Perrine explained why in this famous passage from his seminal 1956 anthology Dicks and Jokes:
In judging a joke, as in judging any work of art, we need to ask three basic questions: (1) Is this joke about a rich person’s dick? (2) How hilarious is this rich person’s money? (3) How hilarious is this rich person’s dick? The first question we need to answer in order to further our understanding of the joke. The last two questions are those by which we evaluate it. The first of these measures the joke on a scale of significance. The second measures it on a scale of perfection. And, just as the area of a rectangle is determined by multiplying its measurements on two scales, breadth and height, so the hilarity of a joke is determined by multiplying its measurements on two scales, the hilarity of the subject’s wealth (H$) and the hilarity of the subject’s penis (H🍆). If the joke measures well on the first of these scales, we call it a good joke, at least of its kind. If it measures well on both scales (H$×H🍆) we call it a great joke.
Jeff Bezos has the highest H$ value of the modern age by orders of magnitude, which means that almost no level of penile grace or dignity (and correspondingly low H🍆 value) could prevent a joke about Jeff Bezos’ penis from being the funniest joke ever told … in theory. But capitalism works in theory, and Saturday Night Live’s writers should probably have consulted later editions of Dicks and Jokes, where they would have found the following hastily-added footnote:
Absolutely none of this applies in cases where American Media, Inc. CEO David Pecker has been leveraging the hilarious rich person’s fear that the entire country will make hilarious jokes about his hilarious penis as part of a not-very-hilarious blackmail scheme. Furthermore, both Robin Williams and the fictional character he portrayed in Dead Poets Society have gravely misunderstood my work.
As Perrine convincingly argues, it just isn’t very ethical to make jokes about Jeff Bezos’ penis right now, because that kind of national humiliation is exactly what Pecker was threatening. (I am pro-dick-joke and take no pleasure in reporting this.) It would be one thing if Bezos had Anthony Weinered himself. It would be another thing if there were no currently-in-the-news blackmail threats about Bezos’ penis; the Wilber Ross “dick pick” joke in the cold open is highly, highly ethical. But with Bezos, the blackmail letter is public. The loss of a few dick jokes seems like a small price to pay to avoid making Pecker’s threats real. Don’t worry, though: refusing to carry AMI’s water wouldn’t mean SNL would have to stop making jokes about terrible, terrible penises. On the contrary, as one-time SNLers The Lonely Island demonstrated in 2011, ethically-sourced blackmail-free dreadful-beyond-the-limits-of-human-anatomy penis jokes are funnier than the alternative:
Now that’s what I call ethics!