I've always been a huge MST3k fan, and I've been pretty excited about the future reboot of the series. I've never listened to the Nerdist and am not someone who follows comedians or watches standup, so while I did a little happy dance when they announced Felicia Day, everyone else I'm learning about for the first time.
I first heard some rumblings about Patton Oswalt a bit after he was announced as The Son Of TV's Frank. I did some research about why, and what I found wasn't pull-my-kickstarter-backing bad, but I'm a bit more nervous than I was before.
My impression, from what I read, is Patton Oswalt gets very prickly about people being offended by comedy. There was a 52 tweet tirade defending some offensive tweets made by the person thrust into the limelight as the new Daily Show host. I'm not going to really get into the sticky area of an expiration date for offensive tweets - people don't owe anyone forgiveness, but I've surely been grateful for the forgiveness I've been given by people I've grown up with when I've screwed up.
I also don't want to delve too deeply into the sticky area of offensive comedy. If you are a comic who punches down - that is, you make fun of disadvantaged people, you will always have an audience of people who will enjoy it. But, you will also have a group of people who will want to tell you why it's not funny. Some of those people will be patient and explanitory, others will be tired of having to go through the explanation of why some things are hurtful, not funny. For the marginalized, jokes are easily twisted with violence. Some are repeatedly asked to put aside the pain and trauma of themselves or people they know to provide education to someone who really doesn't want to hear it. I am thankful for people who can calmly educate when the situation needs it, but even the calmest educators eventually get fed up.
Anyway, not one to back down at all, Patton Oswalt then went onto make fake apologies to troll people into getting more upset, which again he laughed at.
My favorite thing I read about everything was this, where a former Onion writer details his embarassment about getting humor wrong. The writer took the criticism the right way - evaluated the other person's perspective, and changed something about his thinking. Luckily for this person, every instance seemed to be semi-private with someone who reacted very calmly, so it was the ideal environment for processing a mistake.
I compared this to a more public incident that happened three years ago with a former MST3k cast member, Bill Corbett. Bill made a couple of transphobic tweets, and upon being called on it, doubled down and gave a non apology, saying that it is inevitable for humor to offend someone. It was that point that I stopped following him on twitter and tumblr, because a response like that is a firm leap into asshole territory. A friend linked me to a later post where he did better - offered a sincere apology, talked about ignorance as a reason, not an excuse, and correctly identified that the problem of balancing comedy and empathy fell on his shoulders.
As a cis person, it is absolutely not my place to say he deserves forgiveness for being transphobic. But for me personally, I don't understand doubling down and I don't understand further dismissing someone's hurt. I do understand screwing up, getting called on it, and the thought process on wanting to do better. I'm not going to give Bill Corbett cookies for eventually doing the right thing, but I do think better of him than I did after that first post.
I'm sure the people involved in Bill Corbett's incident are now side eyeing Patton Oswalt quite a bit. I really hope Patton Oswalt takes the lesson Bill Corbett learned to heart.
Mystery Science Theater means a lot to me, and Joel did a fantastic job articulating the seperation of what he wants to make with the nostalgia me and other fans have. I was right on board with a lot of people looking for a reunion episode, but absolutely it makes much more sense to start fresh.
MST3k is an older show. There are jokes made once in a while that make me cringe, but I'll chalk it up to people empathizing more with others now as we've been able to share our lives more easily. While I was watching the same episodes over and over, I made mistakes, I learned from them, and I grew up. I just hope Patton Oswalt can too.