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Too Soon?
By Thomas John

It was once said that comedy equals tragedy plus time. A great quote but one that leaves out the most important piece of information: how much time? We all can identify tragedy: plane crashes, school shootings, burnt bags of popcorn. So how long do you have to wait until burnt popcorn is funny again? Wait too long and you end up with a perfectly crafted joke about the War of the Roses that nobody wants to hear. Undershoot and you'll be met with a chorus of "too soon"s, and you'll be labeled as insensitive.
As a comedy writer my job (I've decided) is to be less concerned with the "too soon"s and more concerned with the "not soon enough"s. I've often found myself in a situation where I've spent a considerable amount of time crafting a joke about something topical only to find out that someone else had already arrived there first. With a lot of subjects the race to the punchline is leisurely. We will all have enough time to write out our perfect Olympics joke. However when tragedy strikes or a celebrity dies there is a undeniable rush to be the first to get to the "too soon". That's true in the comedy community and I feel confident that most people enjoy being a part of the "most-offensive-thing to-say-about-something-tragic" game. As soon as the door is opened people often can't help themselves. It's fun and it helps to express the complicated feelings surrounding a princess crashing into a tunnel or a ruined microwave.
I've grown weary of trying to be the first to write a great joke about something that just happened. It's a lot of stress, and often I end up putting sub par material out into the world just to have gotten there first. I would like to note that I understand that it's weird to be so invested in being the first to write a joke about a tragedy...but I am. Also: I'm not the only one. It only took 6 seconds for someone to post a joke about the Challenger disaster on the internet. So in order to get ahead of the curve in 2014 I've imagined some celebrity deaths and then after an appropriate amount of make-believe mourning I wrote some jokes about them. That way if any of them buys the proverbial banana peel farm, I will be ready with the perfect one-liner. Here are some of the better ones:

Steve Buscemi died but it's not a total loss: he donated his eyes to science fiction.

Sue Grafton left this world last night...D is for Diabetes.

The owner of the Home Shopping Network was murdered this morning. See pictures of the crime scene for only $9.99 and the first two hundred callers will receive a free evidence bag valued at $29.99 that's over $30 in value for just one easy payment of $9.99.

Bad news: Angelina Jolie died. Good news: Africa is back up for adoption.

Meryl Streep's death nominated for Oscar.

Robert Paterson died on set while filming a new movie. It took six takes for anyone to notice.

Too soon?