What is funny? What is offensive?
Where is the line that separates the two, and who decides when that line has been breached?
Questions like these are probably running through the minds of Opie and Anthony, a pair of Manhattan-based shock jocks who achieved super stardom over the past year.
Opie and Anthony were recently fired, and their nationally syndicated radio show (aired here on 94 WYSP) was canceled in the aftermath of a segment gone awry.
In August, the duo aired a contest in which a married couple sneaked into a New York City cathedral and had sex live on the air.
Naturally, herein lies the problem.
But did Opie and Anthony deserve to get fired for the segment?
Sure, you can question their moral values, but anyone who has ever listened to the program, especially those who hired the pair, knows that Opie and Anthony were never a pair of choirboys.
In fact, in all likelihood, they were fired for doing what they were hired to do in the first place — shock.
Maybe they did cross that invisible border, that line that separates what is funny from what is disgusting.
But who makes that decision?
Over the years that line has been stretched and bent so much that it is almost impossible to determine what is taboo and what isn’t.
The fact is times change. People change.
Twenty years ago, a television show featuring a man living with two women was considered risqué.
Today that same show is groundbreaking.
Usually the deciding factor comes down to whatever group reaches the conclusion that it is somehow offended, hurt or scarred by the incident.
In the case of Opie and Anthony, the Catholic Church made that distinction.
The Catholic Church was offended.
Scores of practicing Catholics were offended.
That’s fine, they have a right to be.
Opie and Anthony disgraced a holy place of worship and, coming from a practicing Catholic, what they did was not right, noble or moral.
But one would have to be dead to not smell the layer of hypocrisy that has reared its ugly head during this mess.
Turn back the hands of time and persuade Opie and Anthony to run that segment from a Jewish synagogue or a Muslim temple.
Then use your soul as collateral on the wager that Opie and Anthony would still be on the air the next day.
They might have been suspended, they probably would have been fined, but they’d still be on the air and they’d still have their jobs.
So why don’t they?
Because the Catholic Church is a majority.
It has a thunderous, booming voice that most people listen to and obey on a daily basis.
And when that group is wronged, their cries are heard.
The wrath of Catholicism may have been what caused Opie and Anthony’s termination.
Or maybe the church needed to be the good guy in a sex scandal for a change.
Or maybe the bosses at Infinity Broadcasting didn’t want to pay millions of dollars in court fees for Opie and Anthony’s mistake.
Or they could have been fired as a message to other shock jocks that times are changing, and that these types of segments will not be tolerated.
Whatever the reason, Opie and Anthony are off the air.
Perhaps one day they’ll be back, at a time when less sensitive ears are listening, and that pesky line is finally etched in stone.
Tim Wiseley can be reached at Knock220@aol.com