How Soon is Too Soon?

Elizabeth HillContributing Writer

Chris Rock returned to his roots at Saturday Night Live to host with musical guest Prince on November 1. The landmark comedy series jump-started his career back in 1990 and this was his first time back in 18 years. However, his recent performance was not all roses and sunshine—many Americans believe that Rock crossed a line by making jokes concerning the Boston Bombing and the Freedom Tower.
Rock started off by comparing the events that transpired at the Boston Marathon to the fact that the New York City Marathon was due to happen the next day: “But don’t worry, New York City will be fine, just like Boston is fine now.” He did, in my opinion close out with a funny joke inferring that the Boston Bomber was the most sadistic terrorist ever.  He painted the picture of runners, sweaty and tired, reaching the finish line of a 26-mile race only to be told, “run!”  After one year and seven months, how soon is too soon?
Rock went on to criticize the building of the Freedom tower, saying, “Who is the corporate sponsor? Target?”  Rock certainly isn’t the first satirist to shed some comedic light on 9/11, however, it seems as if his entire routine was hinting at future attacks.  He joked about renaming the building “I ain’t ever goin’ in there building… cause I ain’t ever goin in there.”
I believe that it showed a sense of strength to build a huge tower in the same spot the United States was attacked on 9/11.  To me it displays that we are not going to be held down by terrorism. We will get back up and be stronger than ever. Of course, that being said, I still found humor in Rock’s joke. It has been 13 years and two months since 9/11. Again, how soon is too soon?
In a recent informal survey that I conducted with current college students, post-grads and middle aged adults it seems that most people agree Rock had a very tactless opening to his monologue, but was able to recover later on.  Those who thought that it was too soon believe that Rock is a public figure and should realize when a joke is appropriate and when it is not.  It all comes down to your beliefs regarding freedom of speech: whether you are an absolutist, who considers all opinions valid no matter how harsh, or if you are a balancing theorist, who believes that certain topics are off-limits and should be respected through silence.
I believe that there is a certain finesse that has to come with making jokes about national disasters, tragedies and attacks.  As the great filmmaker Charlie Chaplin once stated amidst controversy of his own: “The world needs to laugh, laughter is the safety valve to our sanity.”  Time allows healing.  It’s a matter of personal preference but I believe after a year you should try to laugh, so you do not continue to cry.

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