Although cannabis has been known to give people the giggles, there isn't exactly an abundance of amusement to be found in U.S. marijuana policy. Even as the nation moves towards a more sensible approach to the drug, our top comedians are still looking for laughs and coming up short.
Last week's news that the medical marijuana market is valued at $1.7 billion and will soon outsell Viagra was destined to become the butt of a late-night groaner or two, but Leno and Conan managed to mangle this one even worse than anyone could have anticipated. Here's Jay Leno's attempt (at 4:20, which I hope is a coincidence):
And here's Conan (at 4:40):
Of course, these guys are just doing their jobs, and I'm sure the combined marijuana/Viagra hook on this one was just too much to pass up. But is marijuana so funny that you don't even need a serviceable punchline to joke about it? Leno's was insulting to sick people, and Conan's didn't even make sense (at least not to me or Andy Richter).
So, at the risk of sounding like a humorless, oversensitive social justice advocate, I'm calling out the purveyors of pathetic attempts at pot comedy. I care too much about both humor and cannabis to let either be degraded any further by the false assumption that jokes about pot are automatically funny. The opposite has been made clear to a cringe-inducing extent too many times now, and I think we could all use a break and perhaps a period of reflection in which to carefully consider what is and is not amusing about marijuana. For example, we all know that it can give you the munchies, but the whole pot-makes-you-eat-twinkies punchline deserves to die. Jokes about glaucoma are lower still.
None of this is to say that comedians can't or shouldn’t ever joke about marijuana, but rather that what passes for a pot joke really ought to be re-examined. In particular, if professionals like Leno and Conan are having a hard time pulling this stuff off, then there's absolutely no excuse for public officials to look for laughs when responding to serious concerns about the harms of our marijuana laws (see here or here for gratuitous examples).
As a culture, marijuana users have survived far worse than a few dumb jokes, but it's gotten old nonetheless, and meanwhile those who've advocated our continued persecution have often escaped the mockery they so thoroughly deserve. I'd love to see Conan take a jab at the Drug Czar one of these days. In the meantime, please share your favorite (or least favorite) pot jokes in the comment section.