It’s safe to assume that anybody pursuing an actual career in live comedy is going to offend someone (or an entire group of people) at some point in their lives — determining an “appropriate” filter and owning up to wildly offensive mistakes comes with the territory.
But some comedians, as we’ve seen more frequently with the rise of social media, take the joke way too far and wind up stepping on the toes of people that fire back with the kind of wrath that can destroy a comedian’s entire career.
Sure, everyone enjoys a good gay joke in context, but where do we draw the line?
Scroll down for comedy’s five worst LGBT offenders:
Chevy Chase was universally known for being an asshole after he suddenly made an unannounced decision to sever ties with his former SNL producers in the mid-’80s.
But it wasn’t until years later, in 1986, when he returned to host the show that he was labeled a raging homophobe. He was widely recognized as “a viciously effective put-down artist, the sort who could find the one thing somebody was sensitive about…and then kid about it, mercilessly,” Jeff Weingrad and Doug Hill write in Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live.
That probably explains how he justified joking live on-air about Terry Sweeney, SNL‘s first-ever openly gay cast member, and how he should be weighed every week to see if he had AIDS. “He was really furious that he had to apologize to me,” Sweeney later noted.
Though Eddie Murphy wasn’t officially recognized for playing an ass until 2001 (get it?), he began acting like one decades before that. In the early ’80s, the trailblazing entertainer dispensed a few less-than-funny gay jokes of his own:
“I’ve got some rules while I’m doing stand-up. Faggots aren’t allowed to look at my ass while I’m on stage. That’s why i keep moving while I’m up here, because you don’t know where the faggot section is.”
At the time, Murphy also joked that AIDS could be contracted through dancing with and kissing gay men:
“And now they got AIDS, that just kills motherfuckers. Kills people! It petrifies me ’cause girls be hanging out with [gays]. One night they could be in the club having fun with their gay friend, give them a little kiss. And go home with AIDS on their lips!”
SNL alum Tracy Morgan ruffled gay feathers at a stand-up show in 2011 when he said he would “stab” his son “to death” if he was ever spoken to “in a gay voice,” and went on to describe Lady Gaga‘s “Born This Way” mantra as “bullshit.”
The self-professed “equal opportunity jokester” later apologized to fans and the LGBT community specifically for being “misunderstood.” “I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others,” he said. Tina Fey later wrote the incident into an episode of 30 Rock if only to call Morgan an “idiot.”
Despite being openly embraced and overwhelmingly welcomed by the LGBT community, stand-up comic Lisa Lampanelli has made distasteful jokes at our expense on numerous occasions.
“Faggots do a sexual practice called fisting,” she says in this video, taken at an unidentified live comedy show. “This is a sexual thing where one faggot sticks his fist up the other guy’s poop chute.” “So I said to my faggot friend Taylor, ‘How do you get that whole thing up there?'”
Most recently, Adam Carolla brought his unabashedly anti-gay and transphobic views back into the spotlight, this time suggesting that the LGBT community has “turned into a mafia” that demands apologies and retractions for jokes they’re taking the wrong way.
Back in 2011, Carolla came under fire for an eight-minute rant he had about transgender people, during which he demanded an apology from anyone “wanting to have their cocks cut off and a vagina put in their place.”
“Can the gays shut up? Just get married and please shut up? You’re ruining my life and what’s the, what does the ‘BLT’ stand for again? Oh, OK. They’re not “gonna save many worthy lives” [by marrying Bert and Ernie]. Yeah, Bert and Ernie butt-fucking are gonna save a lot of lives; it’s gonna be awesome. ‘Can you spell felch?’ What are we doing?! What is going on?”
You tell us, Queerty readers. Who has gone too far and who’s just “misunderstood?”