We weren't sure what to expect before watching Funny or Die's short about Ferguson. The town has experienced a teenager's death and violence in the streets, and it's likely to be mentioned in any discussion of racism in 21st-century America -- nothing that sounds remotely like a punch line.
Yet Missouri native and Anchorman costar David Koechner makes it work.
A parody of a 2010 episode of Cops, the clip stars Koechner as a racist dingbat in camouflage gear who rolls around Ferguson choking old ladies and stabbing basketballs. At one point he remarks to his partner that, "A lot of cities like to use violence as a last resort, but we've found it's pretty fun to just use it as a first resort. Sometimes I just point my gun at anyone walking around."
Koechner and his Funny or Die cohorts manage to hit a strangely effective tone in the video: Sure, it is hands-down hilarious, but it's also easy to detect a hint of earnest commentary behind the absurdity.
That balancing act shows up in other attempts at Ferguson satire. Masters of the trade at The Onion let loose with its trademark bite with articles like "Tips For Being An Unarmed Black Teen" and "Michael Brown Audiotapes Conclusively Reveal Exactly What You Want Them To." Vox got in on the action as well, running a perfectly crafted satire on how American media would cover Ferguson if it was located in a war-torn Middle Eastern county.
Not everyone trying to squeeze laughs out of Ferguson can replicate The Onion's wit or Koechner's charismatic buffoonery. PocketWatch, a sketch group part of the legendary Upright Citizen's Brigade comedy troupe, approaches to the issue of racism and law enforcement with all the subtlety of a jackhammer.
Another Funny or Die short, "Cop v. Black Guy," also avoids the thorny issues specific to Ferguson with relentless, silly escalation -- though the kicker at the end of the video, while silly, may make you feel guilty about giggling.
We found one more clip of attempted Ferguson-related comedy featured on Funny or Die, this time a standup bit recorded in front of a completely dead audience in Peoria, Illinois. Be warned, this is an example of a comic, Brett Erickson, shouting the N-word to make his point about hypocritical old white men.
Though the usage doesn't rise to, say, Michael Richards levels, it's probably a good example of edgy humor that dips too far over the edge.
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