"Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger" - Abbie Hoffman
In 1967, when Abbie Hoffman led protesters from the Yippie movement to the gallery of the New York Stock Exchange and threw fistfuls of dollars down to the traders below, he could not have foreseen that 41 years later, during the current financial crisis, Wall Streeters would descend upon the Yippie Museum and disrupt a comedy show.
The stand-up nights at the former Yippie headquarters on Bleecker Street usually have a loose, hippie vibe about them. But the one last night had all the desperation of our crumbling economy. Interestingly, it wasn't financial material that the Yuppies objected to. It was McCain jokes.
I was warned by the MC that the crowd was right-wing, uptight and pro-McCain, so I might want to avoid the topic. But I'm usually preaching to the converted in New York, so I leapt at the chance to talk about their sacred cows.
I think I got through two McCain jokes: "McCain has some interesting ideas on how to get out of Iraq - none" and "Putting a pro-Viet Nam vet in charge of Iraq - isn't that like putting Danny Bonaduce in charge of the Betty Ford Clinic?"
Then a red-faced gentleman in the front got into the act.
"You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists" - Abbie Hoffman
This angry member of a failed financial institution yelled that I had no right to joke about McCain. Hecklers are usually drunk on booze. This guy was drunk on something else.
"McCain served his country," he bellowed. "What have you done with your life?"
"Nothing!" I said. "Absolutely nothing! And I expect four more years of nothing if McCain is elected president!"
The heckler kept saying that McCain was off limits. Then he talked to all his neighbors, got up and took twelve of them with him. They went to the back of the room and had a loud policy discussion. I don't know what they said, because I was talking about Sarah Palin.
"Free speech means the right to shout 'theatre' in a crowded fire" - Abbie Hoffman
Everybody doesn't "get" freedom of speech. The first time that hit home was when Bill Maher got fired. The second time was when the Dixie Chicks got kicked out of country music. The third was in the new CSNY movie, in which a third of the Atlanta audience walks out on Let's Impeach the President. The fourth was at the Yippie Museum.
Now I wonder - could my heckling friend be right? Was John McCain defending a right that we have no right to use? Should Barack Obama not make any response to McCain's negative campaign ads because he has no right to?
"When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men have is to speak out" - Abbie Hoffman
Thanks, Abbie. Now there was a heckler.