A funny and not so funny week

Tim Conway was one of the funniest guys ever – right up there with Ronald Reagan. OK, not really, but there is a connection.

When Conway died last week, various TV channels showed clips from his career. He specialized in confident ineptitude. One of his most famous was when he played a dentist who kept shooting Novacain into himself instead of his patient. As he numbed his hand, arms, and legs, he became capable only of hanging onto to the dental chair.

According to KYW-TV old-timers, Tim Conway started there in 1961, when the station was still in Cleveland. He got fired because he had told someone high up in management he was a TV director. He was, instead, a technical director in Master Control, where they switch in and out of commercials and network shows. Not much creativity there. But that didn’t stop him. When I worked at KYW in Philly 10 years later, the crew would still talk about the pranks he pulled. 

The day after Tim Conway’s passing, I was flipping channels when I stumbled on to a clip of his appearance on a 1980’s Johnny Carson show. He did a sketch as a PA announcer in a stadium with a strong echo. He ignores the echo until it starts correcting him.

At another point in the show Carson joked about Joe Biden’s thin hair and the Republican President wanting a crown. Not as funny as Conway’s announcer, but funny.

You know what is funnier? The Biden joke and the Republican President joke would get the same laughs today… well, the laughs about Reagan would be less bitter.

The point is: history does repeat itself. Nearly 40 years later, for example, some of the same issues are still being debated.

Take women’s rights…Please! (Sorry. Henny Youngman, another humor icon from the 80’s. Couldn’t resist).

Roe v Wade supposedly settled the abortion issue in 1973. Yet, last week it was brought back again by Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi state legislators. They are convinced that the Supreme Court, now comfortably packed with conservatives, will overturn Roe v Wade.  

There are three good reasons abortion continues to roil the nation; two are debatable, one isn’t.  

First is when life begins.

Is it when the sperm and egg join and a new zygote (unique cell) is formed? Or is it when the now fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube and attaches to the uterus? But that attachment can fail 50% to 80% of the time. And the embryo can still split into, say, twins. So an embryologist might say life begins when the embryo can no longer split. A neuroscientist might say life begins when brain waves can be measured.

If scientists don’t know when life begins, what are the odds of the Supreme Court knowing? 

Second, is religion.  Genesis 9:1 from the Old Testament: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’” 

But the Old Testament was passed down verbally long before it was written down, so it’s not exactly verifiable. 

More important, there weren’t many humans in those days, so procreation was needed for survival from attack by disease, natural predators, and other humans.

But humans did more than survive. By the 800’s the world population was estimated at 1/2 billion. In 1803 it was 1 billion. Today, it’s approaching 8 billion. 

Overpopulation is the worry today, not under-population. 

Third, is authority. Who wrote the Bible? Men. Who ran the world for the first 2000 years? Men. Who controls the Supreme Court and most governments – not to mention any other organization? Men.

But who has the babies? Women. Who carries them for 9 months? Women. Who, in most cases, raises the babies? Women. And who’s been left outside holding placards while men decide what women can do with their bodies? Women.

Yes, this is a complicated issue. Yes, it’s based on religious beliefs as much as science. Yes, there are two sides. Yes, it isn’t easy. 

But leaving women out of the decision about their own bodies is not debatable.  It’s stupid, mean, arrogant, and ludicrous.

And there is nothing even remotely funny about that.

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