Steve Harvey is perhaps the funniest man in America. Funny guys by necessity walk along a sharp irreverent edge, and so are always at risk of slipping.
Harvey did over the weekend, when, while talking trash about sports on his radio show, he launched into a riff about Flint water in an ill-advised try at one-upping a caller from that city.
He concluded with this parting shot: “Enjoy your nice brown glass of water.”
On the long list of things you can’t joke about in America, Flint’s lead water crisis is among them.
So now Harvey is being deluged with calls for his head. A Chicago columnist even suggested the remark was rooted in racism, since Flint is a majority black city. Harvey is black, too, and while his comments were insulting, they weren’t racially tinged.
Still, once you’re down, the kicking is relentless.
Talk show host Bill Maher learned that a couple of weeks ago when he joked he couldn’t do physical work because he was a “house n---ah.”
Do Harvey and Maher and others who’ve said the wrong things in an attempt at humor merit such censure? Does anyone believe Harvey really is insensitive to the plight of Flint’s citizens? Or that Maher is racist? Nothing in the history of either man would suggest that’s true.
So why can’t we just say “Ouch” and move on? They know they messed up, and likely will be more careful with their words from here out.
Tongue slips are just that. They don’t demand the outrage we’ve become compelled to deliver. Nor do they call for anyone’s head — or job.
The comments tell us nothing about Harvey or Maher except that when you’re trying to be funny, sometimes you miss the mark.