Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Not Funny, Jeff Ross

UPDATED 09/22/2015: The FUBAR got worse. Unedited footage of Gabriel Hall from the Jeff Ross "special" was used Wednesday as evidence to support the State of Texas contention that Hall should receive the ultimate punishment a government can mete out against one of it's own: Death.

Jeff Ross wanted different shtick.

Jeff Ross wanted to shock,

Jeff Ross wanted to be the darling of media outlets by providing yuks from behind bars.

Little did Jeff Ross know he would become a State's witness in their quest for death.

And the media that feted Ross when he was promoting his "comedy" gig from coast to coast? Where are they now? Well, the silence is deafening.

The link is here as reported by Jake Walker of The Bryan/College Station Eagle.

UPDATED 08/21/2015: The FUBAR that the Jeff Ross "comedy" special, Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals at the Brazos County Jail has become, continues. The State has evidently subpoenaed unedited footage from the Ross and Comedy Central vehicle. The footage is audio and video of Gabriel Hall, accused of Capital Murder (the state is seeking death). Jake Walker of The Bryan/College Station Eagle reported on the efforts of Hall's lawyers to suppress the State's use of the footage during Hall's trial.

ORIGINAL POST: 06/17/2015:

Jeff Ross brought his talents to the Brazos County jail about a month ago. I remember it - there were signs up inside the jail when I was out doing a jail visit - but I did not think much about it. Then Comedy Central aired his show at the jail as a special in early June. I saw media promotion of the show online at Esquire, the Hollywood Reporter, and even The Washington Post. Ross even promoted the gig on Conan.

I started paying attention.

Ross wrote about his experience filming in my county's jail for the Huffington Post, "I Went to a Texas Jail to Roast the Inmates; Here's What I Learned About Incarceration in America."  Among other things Ross writes about is how modern jails and prisons warehouse the mental ill:
I admit I roasted these people for sheer entertainment purposes -- but also to get myself a glimpse into the American prison system...Wayne Dicky, the jail administrator who proudly allowed me access to his facility, told me that American jails are de facto mental health facilities. Back in the seventies many psychiatric hospitals were shut down. Now all those people needing mental help wind up in jail instead. I freely walked around the cells and dorms and saw the insanity first hand. We tuck so many damaged people away and forget about them -- like human dust. 
In his piece for the Huffington Post, Ross writes of the impromptu show he did with female inmates:
Brazos County Jail has about 600 male inmates and about 150 women. The men and women don't mix. So I couldn't resist a last minute invitation to perform for the ladies...I did the whole show impromptu with my regular comedy club swagger. I asked a woman in the front row holding her belly if she was, "stealing for two?" These orange clad ladies laughed so hard with their whole bodies.  
In particular, Ross wrote about one of the females:
I'll never forget Big Mama Joe, Country, and a young funny lady who pulled out her ID and revealed her actual last name was "Hooker." 
I know Big Mama. Big Mama has suffered from mental illness for many, many years. She is one of those individuals to whom Ross is referring when he wrote critically in HuffPo about modern American jails being de facto mental health facilities. Of course, this did not stop Ross from laughs at Big Mama's expense. It can be can seen here (begins at the 20 second mark). Ross brings down the house commenting to Big Mama she needed "boob support" and taking a parting shot of "You're my favorite smurf."  Great humor, right?

Big Mama was a critical state's witness in a capital murder (death penalty waived) I tried several months ago. Big Mama was not nearly as funny then. We attacked her without mercy at trial. It was, after all, our job. I can nevertheless feel empathy for her plight. I can also find it less than funny when she is made a prop in a comedic routine.

Those of you who use Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison album as a comparison? Sorry, much different. Cash had a history of prison performances before he cut AFP in 1968. Cash used interaction with inmates as part of the act, sure, but it was not the primary focus of the "entertainment." Instead it was Cash's music.

The same for those who say stand up comedians use audience members as props all the time. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin all used the impromptu interaction for laughs and social commentary, and, profit. Different still. Audience members PAY to go see stand up. They KNOW exactly what they are in for. They have a CHOICE. Yes, I am sure the inmates in the various tanks in the Brazos County jail had a choice. The jail did not force them attend Ross' show. But after they were told about it, or saw the posters around the jail, most wanted to attend. Most any isolated population whose lives are filled with boredom and bad food would attend such an event and laugh uproariously, even when the "humor" is directed squarely in their direction.

By the way, are any of the Brazos County inmates used by Ross and Comedy Central's profit making enterprise receiving royalties? Just curious. If not, I am sure all the proper waivers were signed. Captively, of course.

Ross appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, and both went off on liberals for killing comedy in the name of political correctness. Call me politically correct. I have been called far worse. Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live from the Brazos County Jail? Not funny.

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