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Chris Warren is a politically conservative standup comic.
Recently, he was threatened with arrest by the Secret Service if he repeated
a joke he told at the Brickwall Comedy Club in Spokane, Washington. I e-mailed
him to find out what the joke was. He replied, “It is not a wise idea for
me to write out the joke online at this point,” though he gladly told me
the punch line. We’ll get to that later, but first the setup, revealed in this
letter from a female M.D. to the editor of a weekly Spokane paper, The Inlander,
which was seen by a member of the Air National Guard who reported it to the
Secret Service. The letter:

“When I go to an adults-only comedy club, I expect to hear
adult humor (including off-color jokes, which are half the fun) but did not
expect to come out completely irate. The night started with the owner, Chris
Warren, getting up and telling a few jokes. His jokes consisted of not one but
multiple jokes about rape. One of them started out by him asking if anyone had
heard about the woman who married her rapist. His ‘punch line’? ‘At what point
during the rape did she think, “Hey, this isn’t so bad?”’ When the
room was silent, he made a comment that maybe his joke was too dark for the
crowd.

“It was not that his humor was too dark but that violent
crimes against women are just not funny. Later he made a comment that Hillary
Clinton should be raped and assassinated. When again the room was silent, he
said, ‘Okay, maybe we should assassinate her first, then rape her.’ This is
supposed to be funny? I don’t care what your political persuasion is, wishing
any person to be raped and put to death is just wrong. Maybe Warren should look
at his material and figure out that there are certain subject matters that are
never funny no matter how you tell the joke.”

And now the punch line about Hillary: “You’d need to shoot
her first, then let the body warm up a little bit.” Warren told me, “Response
was mixed, some howled, some stared. I told the joke several times after that
and got lots of laughs. So I was surprised with the visit by the Secret Service.
I was asked to tell them the joke, and they both laughed! However, I was then
told that if I was to tell the joke again, I would be subject to arrest, charged
with a federal crime, that of threatening a ‘protectee’ of the Secret Service,
then put on a terrorist watch list.”

In 2003, Warren was among the first group of comedians to entertain
American troops in Iraq. In 2004, he appeared with the Right Stuff, a right-wing
comedy troupe that performed for delegates at the Republican convention in New
York, at the Improv during the presidential debate in Phoenix, and before several
dignitaries in Washington, including Ken Mehlman, Bush’s campaign manager, now
head of the Republican National Committee.

“I was told I would no longer have clearance to do any of
these type shows again. No clearance, as they put it, to work for ‘Kenny’ again.
There was no humor in their tone at this point. I was told that they were continuing
the investigation, and I was asked for personal information — height, weight,
Social Security number, home address, phone numbers — information they obviously
already had. It seemed like a subtle threat to me.”

The intimidation worked. He hasn’t told that joke onstage since
then, and won’t until his lawyer and the ACLU confirm that he’s not going to
jail over a joke.

Paul Krassner is the author of Murder at the Conspiracy Convention
and Other American Absurdities.

LA Weekly