Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of June 27, 2005)

Late Night Mayhem

  By John Martin

It’s been years since I’ve had the time to kick back at night and watch the late night television hosts; Leno, Letterman, etc.  But one of the bonuses of living in the internet era is a person can log onto and get a summary of the previous night’s monologue from all the shows.

I took the opportunity to browse the last couple of months and noted a particular trend.  Criminality, even the most heinous of acts, is staple fodder for late night jokes. 

Of course a twisted freak like Michael Jackson; serious allegations of pedophilia notwithstanding, is ideal material for the late night crew.  Following the acquittal, Leno delivered this zinger, “After the trial last night, Michael finally got a chance to relax. He went out and had a little Mexican. I believe it was a 14-year-old named Ramón”.

Not to be outdone, Letterman got this one off, “I hate to talk about people when they’re not here but last night’s audience was dumb! Just awful. They were so dumb I thought they were an L.A. jury.”

And over at the Conan O’Brien show, this got the biggest laugh, “According to Michael Jackson’s father, Joe, if Michael is found guilty he will take care of Michael’s kids. Joe Jackson went on to say, "I might be old, but I can still dangle kids from a balcony.”

Ridiculing an oddity like Jackson is one thing.  What’s somewhat disturbing, is mocking Saddam Hussein; one of the most sadistic mass murderers and tyrants of the ages, in much the same way. 

Making the link between Jackson and Hussein, Leno threw this one out, “As I’m sure you know, over in Iraq right now, they’re getting ready to put Saddam Hussein on trial. You know, I didn’t even know he liked little boys.”

The comics also had a blast with reports from Saddam’s guards that he was quite fond of Doritos.

David Letterman got things rolling with “Did you hear that?  Saddam Hussein loves Doritos. You can’t buy publicity like that. If you’re a snack food company, you would want that endorsement.  Apparently Saddam got hooked on Doritos at Chemical Ali’s Super Bowl party.”

Child abuse and genocide aren’t the only acceptable topics for late night stand up.  Spousal violence, sexual assault, infanticide, prostitution and just about everything else is fair game these days.  The same applies to kidnapping, assisted suicide and terrorism.

This speaks volumes to the manner in which we have become resigned to, and grudgingly accepting, of criminality and deviance in our midst.  They’re part of the landscape so we may as well have a little fun with them.

Part of this is a consequence of fatigue.  We can only be aghast at horrific acts of violence and abuse for so long.  We soon become numb to them and what we’re left with is a feeding frenzy in the entertainment business.

Pedophilia and mass murder are now as topical subject matters for comedians as politicians and fad diets.

As Conan recently noted, “Today was a big day. The day Martha Stewart got out of prison. Those close to Martha say that today while on a walk she said she craved a cappuccino. Coincidentally Cappuccino was the name of her cellmate.”

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

Prime Time Crime current headlines

Contributing Writers