Why You Should Have Sympathy for Gilbert Gottfried
He reacted as a comic would, but with awful timing: Mary Elizabeth Williams
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2011 5:58 PM CDT
Comedian Gilbert Gottfried performs at the Caroline's On Broadway 20th Anniversary Comedy Concert at Carnegie Hall March 27, 2003 in New York City.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – If you were shocked by Gilbert Gottfried's Japan tweets, dust off that memory book: This isn't the first time the comic's attempts at humor have been met with cries of "Too soon!" After all, Mary Elizabeth Williams reminds us on Salon, Gottfried was the one who quipped that he was trying to fly to LA but "they said they have to connect with the Empire State Building first" ... a remark he made two weeks after 9/11. And yet he emerged from that one OK, with Frank Rich writing that "at a terrible time it was an incongruous but welcome gift. He was inviting us to once again let loose." Not so much this time.

Williams lists the reasons why: Then, he was an insider. The dead had been counted. The smoke had cleared. "Japan is still very much under siege. They say comedy is tragedy plus time, but how much time, exactly?" Still, Williams has sympathy for the man, whose "instincts were a comic's": to confront disaster with his most trusted weapon. "In the worst moments of life, humor can be a potent force for healing—or salt in a still bleeding wound. And while timing is everything in comedy, for one comic, never might be too soon to start joking about this as-yet-unfathomable disaster." (Click to read about Gottfried's apology.)