Yes, There is Such a Thing as Too Far

I like to think I have a sense of humor. My kids would probably disagree. Mr. Wordtabulous gives me props for being funny, but usually not when I am trying to be. Still, I have my own humorous take on things and for the most part that serves me well enough. The one area where I fully admit to NO sense of humor AT ALL would be the area of practical jokes. I have made it very clear to Mr. W, and am now making it clear to you as well, that if I ever get “Punk’d” the person punking me and Ashton Kutcher will be eating a camera. Each. There would be lawsuits and probably jail time, but mark it, that would be the straw that would break this well-behaved, good sport, camel’s back. Word. Are we clear? Good.

So now I am reflecting on the debacle with the New Zealand radio show hosts calling Princess Kate Middleton’s hospital staff and the horrific turn this tale has taken. If you are not up to clicking to for the story, and don’t know what all has gone down, here it is as I understand it: Princess Kate was hospitalized for severe morning sickness during a pregnancy which has galvanized the UK, and as a joke the hosts of a New Zealand radio show called the hospital pretending to be Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth and asking for information and to speak with Kate. The nurse who spoke with them, Jacintha Saldanha, actually gave them some information and transferred them through even though the hosts were not convincing at all. There was a huge uproar over this and the hosts claimed they never expected the prank to work, which I find completely plausible, but the upshot was that nurse looked like an incompetent idiot. Reportedly, this woman who fell for the prank, a wife and mother of two, has now taken her life. In response, the radio hosts have been fired and the station has lost advertisers. Today, The Onion tweeted, “The other nurse thought it was funny.”

Normally I enjoy The Onion, but this was gross. Irreverence is one thing, but this is NOT FUNNY. The problem with many practical jokes is the unknown quantity; the mental state of the people involved. PEOPLE. Not cast members with scripts, who go in knowing they are being compensated for playing the loser, and are glad to do it. Real unsuspecting people who make mistakes and have problems. Maybe they have long-standing issues of inferiority, or addiction issues, or are facing loss and grief. Maybe you don’t have to have a ton of issues to hate life when your entire country turns on you. Now, I don’t believe anyone suspected suicide was a possible outcome when this gag was put to play, but I also think a certain lack of empathy is a job requirement for the industry. Do I think the radio show hosts should have been fired? Maybe not, but I have trouble caring about their situation. There are probably worse characters in this sad story scapegoating the clever and amusing radio personalities. There are much worse characters at The Onion, making a joke out of the dead woman’s extreme response and putting it out into the world to provoke a ripple of mockery. Killing yourself, even when faced with what seems like universal condemnation and ridicule, is an unreasonable response. So would be forcing some self-satisfied jerk to eat a camera, yet I still can’t see why people insist upon provoking these kind of reactions.



10 thoughts on “Yes, There is Such a Thing as Too Far

    1. lynnettedobberpuhl Post author

      Thanks for commenting! What really put me over the edge was The Onion headline. It is what they do, of course, but that struck me as particularly cold. Did you change your blog name? I like “rhymeswithviennea”!

  1. kerbear


    I am definitely one of those inferiority persons who would crawl into a hole if punked in that manner. Not a reflection on my upbringing, just a general case of bemusement and naivity (even though my brain says I’m being rediculous my heart tries to convince me its not) concerning such things. I don’t do well with any practical joke – I own the embarressment all too much. My issue perhaps but I despise being anyone’s butt. Or maybe that’s just having good standards?

  2. Carrie Rubin

    This was such a horrible tragedy. I’m with you–not a fan of practical jokes. Don’t like playing them and don’t like being on the receiving end of them, other than a mild April Fool’s prank here or there.

    1. lynnettedobberpuhl Post author

      Yes, a mild prank is totally fine–and these people didn’t intend harm I am sure. The nurse’s mistake in handling the call was unfortunate, and I am sure the backlash was horrific. For some reason it seems people feel a need to pile on and contribute once the humiliation begins. Unless it is their own humiliation.

  3. Kelly Thompson

    This situation troubles me on so many levels. As a 23-year radio professional and morning show host, because of the irresponsibility of the Austratlian announcers’ actions. As a former journalist, because of the Onion’s blatant disregard for the family and its desire to further fan the flames for the sake of sensationalism. And as a human being for the senselessness of the incident in general. The sad truth of it is that even though there is now talk in the industry of pulling the practice of prank calling, it will never happen. Tune into any syndicated morning radio show and you’ll find the majority of the programming is based on insult and humiliation and that’s why people tune in. It’s always funny when it isn’t you.


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