Steve Martin said something in the history-of-Saturday Night Live coffee-table book Live From New York that I always found interesting. Something to the effect of, when comedians are young, they don't have as many taboo topics to talk about as when they are older, since as you age, you begin to lose people to things like cancer, and you realize that some topics really aren't all that funny, and that boundaries, even in humor, do, in fact, exist.
Yesterday I was watching a Saturday Night Live rerun from earlier this year. On the 'Weekend Update' part of the show, Horatio Sanz did a little piece about a clown that was going around to local hospitals in New York, cheering up children, making them laugh, leading experts to prompt that laughter really was the best form of medicine.
"Unless, of course, you have cancer," he said. "For that, you need chemo."
Big laugh from the audience.
I sat there next to a person with no hair, no eyelashes, no eyebrows, the two of us, only moments before, trying to figure out the logistics of dates and times and prices of her sixth chemo session, her last chemo session, after four months, set to begin Tuesday.
We listened to the joke. I looked at her. She looked at me. We didn't say anything.