When I was still in my early teens I became a huge fan of comic writers such as P. G. Wodehouse, S. J. Perelman, and Stephen Leacock. I loved the way they played with words to get laughs and dreamed of writing just like them. So I tried writing a comic story, a parody of the hard-boiled detective genre which Perelman in particular was a genius at, such as his famous short story Somewhere a Roscoe.
But I quickly realized that once I had given my characters what I thought then were clever and funny names (I recall that Dan Druff was the name of my detective hero), I had pretty much exhausted my humorous skills and so gave up the whole project. The world of literature is richer for me leaving it.
I was reminded of this when I read about the new Adam Sandler film for Netflix that has resulted in some of the American Indian extras walking off the set because they were offended by some of the jokes in the script. The actors had been assured beforehand that Indians would be treated respectfully and were appalled at what they were expected to say and do in the film. The actors were particularly offended by the jokey names given to Indian women, such as Beaver’s Breath, Smoking Fox, No Bra, and Sits-on-Face, names that telegraph the punch lines of jokes a mile away. This is of course the kind of sophisticated humor that has made Sandler a legend in the world of comedy.
Leaving must have been a tough decision for lowly paid extras to make because they need the money and getting an acting job is hard. But they had no choice because when the actors complained, the filmmakers responded in the usual way that clueless people do, by arguing that since they did not mean to be offensive then it could not be offensive and the actors should simply lighten up and take a joke, the same argument that supporters of the racist Chief Wahoo use. (Some good news: It looks like the Curse of Wahoo is working again this year. As of today, the Cleveland team has a record of just 6 wins and 13 losses, have the worst record among the 15 American League teams, and have the 29th worst record out of 30 teams in major league baseball. Only one more notch to drop!)
In my defense, I can say that I realized at age 15 or so that if making up silly names were all I had going for me as a potential comic, then I needed to go into another line of work. I wonder how old Sandler must get before he realizes the same thing.