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Just a week after the mass shooting at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, comedian Dane Cook made several jokes about the event during a standup routine at Los Angeles’s Laugh Factory on Thursday.
“So I heard that the guy came into the theater about 25 minutes into the movie,” Cook said during his set, caught on a video obtained by The Daily Caller, “And I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, but the movie is pretty much a piece of crap. Yeah, spoiler alert.
“I know that if none of that would have happened,” he continued, “pretty sure that somebody in that theater, about 25 minutes in, realizing it was a piece of crap, was probably like ‘ugh f—– shoot me.”
Cook later apologized, tweeting, “I am devastated by the recent tragedy in Colorado & did not mean to make light of what happened. I made a bad judgment call with my material last night & regret making a joke at such a sensitive time. My heart goes out to all of the families & friends of the victims.”
The joke will inevitably spark a debate over whether it’s OK to laugh about tragic events, and if so, whether there’s a specific amount of time between the event occurring, and when jokes can be made about it. Such a conversation happened after September 11, which to some is still — and forever will be — off limits. Others believe in the catharsis of gallows humor, though how a joke is constructed and delivered often determines how it’s judged.
In any event, Cook’s joke is the latest moment in the ongoing debate over a bigger comedic question: is anything off-limits? A few weeks ago, Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh made several rape jokes at a club in L.A., which caused a national outcry and prompted him to apologize.
Cook, for his part, has had his fair share of controversies; some in the comedy community hav accused him of stealing jokes (which led to an infamous spat with Louis C.K., and then his appearance on Louie), and, earlier this year, a set in Los Angeles in which he berated the audience, to severe criticism.
Whether this impacts his new series at NBC, Next Caller, remains to be seen.
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