Earlier this week, we reported on the fact that Jimmy Fallon is being sued for discrimination (for allegedly firing a male employee because he only likes to work with women) and now we are hearing about ANOTHER late night TV host, Jay Leno, being taken to court. What is going on? Is this a case of people being overly sensitive or our TV guys being insensitive and inappropriate?
So, apparently, a man is suing Jay because he is offended by a joke made about a sacred Sikh temple. On Thursday night, Jay told a joke mocking Mitt Romney by comparing his home to India’s Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
TMZ reports that Dr. Randeep Dhillon, a Sikh living in Bakersfield, is suing for general and punitive damages, claiming that Leno “falsely portrays the holiest place in the Sikh religion as a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh.” The monologue joke, which was intended to poke fun at Romney’s extreme wealth, cut to a photo of the temple with a voiceover saying, “Here’s a look at Mitt Romney’s summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee,” after showing other Republicans’ modest homes.
Apparently, many Sikhs were offended by the joke and a Facebook group has been established with the goal of starting a BOYCOTT of Jay Leno. The group now has over 4,000 members! The issue has also extended beyond Facebook and into the higher levels of government… reports are saying that the matter is going to be addressed by India’s Ambassador to the U.S. The Overseas Indian Affairs Minister has also commented on the joke, saying it was “quite unfortunate and quite objectionable.”
Ok… so this issue has actually gotten some legs and pretty senior people in government and official affairs have become aware of it. As I said with the Jimmy Fallon case (which I know is a totally different issue, but they are both late night TV hosts and the law suits have come out in the same week), suing people at a whim has become a significant issue in the U.S. We have many flippant cases going into the courts and then subsequently being thrown out for having no grounds. To me, the Jimmy case seems to be about a disgruntled employee while the Leno case is about a person highly offended by a joke. They are different, but it is interesting to see two cases in one week against late show TV personalities.
I know that comedians are often making jokes that are bordering on inappropriate and politically incorrect, but isn’t this the fundamental feature of comedians? (Every time I have ever been to stand-up comedy, I laugh myself so hard, but very often find myself questioning whether it is wrong of me to be laughing!). I am torn between feeling sympathetic to the Sikh community and wondering whether they have taken the joke too seriously. Cultural insensitivity is not acceptable at all, and the fact that senior leaders of the community have made comments on the issue reminds me of the severity of the issue. Is this a case of being overly sensitive or have stand-up comedians gone too far?
What do you think? Do you think this case has any legs or is it also another attempt at suing for the love of suing?