Dear Ricky Gervais:
Can you maybe start to leave Anne Frank out of your comedy routines? When did the Holocaust diarist become a subject for mirth?
Yes, that Anne Frank — the teenage girl who became a symbol of the Holocaust. The claustrophobic years in hiding. The terrible mystery of betrayal, the horrific last weeks, dying of typhoid in a concentration camp. The poignant way in which her diary was found, its restoration to her father, all that was left of a sensitive, intelligent talented child, all that remained of his entire family.
Good subject for a joke, eh, Ricky?
As you might know, and if you don't, let me remind you: In 2009, the BBC received complaints about a quip by the comedian David Mitchell. “What was the last entry in Anne Frank’s diary?” he asked on a Radio Four game show. “It’s my birthday, and dad bought me a drum kit.”
Funny? You guys probably thought so.
Ricky, you've got your own Anne Frank gag now, too — anyone can view it on YouTube (see video below). True, you were attacking the Nazis' stupidity, but did you have to use Anne for the foil? The Nazis were dumb, you say, because they didn't think of looking upstairs, even with the tapping of the typewriter. They mistook that for rats. Then: “She had time to write a novel, mind you, it ends a bit abruptly. No sequel. Lazy.”
What makes comedians feel Anne Frank is an acceptable subject for humor?
Why did even Joan Rivers once include in her act (and I have the video) a joke about Anne fantasizing about having sex with the Nazis downstairs? Why does a BBC producer decide to broadcast Mr. Mitchell’s witticism when presumably it would censor a more obvious genocide gag?
What has happened to us all?
According to writer Keren David, it's because "Anne Frank’s story has become the accessible face of the Holocaust. Her diary lacks its true ending. Had she written about the reality of the camps, the starvation, cruelty and disease, she would have a different place in the culture, and most probably her book would not have been so successful. ''
David, a Brit, adds: "Maybe because telling jokes is a way of mastering the things which scare us. Watch Ricky Gervais’ body language on YouTube. His flippant voice tells one story, his hunched shoulders and cringing demeanour tells another. He’s not laughing at Anne. He’s laughing at prats who think they can tell jokes about the Holocaust.''
The fine line between funny and offensive, of course, is one that TV comedy show producers should be able to judge. It seems though they sometimes put as much thought into matters of taste and context as a Twittering teenager.
So enough already, Ricky. It's time to grow up and throw your genteel British anti-Semitic snark away. In the gutter. Where it belongs.