After January's Charlie Hebdo attack, many satirists responded by rendering pens that were mightier than swords, and ink that flowed like blood sacrificed in the name of free speech. But after this month's shootings outside the AFDI's "Draw Muhammad" contest in suburban Dallas, many humorists homed in on a different target: How to comment on the very act of illustrating the Islamic prophet — without actually showing the Islamic prophet.
"Saturday Night Live," for one, responded over the weekend with a sketch centering on the very apprehension about creating a blasphemous-to-some sketch. In the bit, Taran Killam hosts the charades game show "Picture Perfect," and contestant Bobby Moynihan's prompt is to draw "the prophet Muhammad" (soon sharing his concern is Kenan Thompson as Reginald VelJohnson). What could have been comedically mundane somehow touches a humorous hot-button by depicting the palpable fear of even putting pen to paper.
That sketch called to mind the words of "Pearls Before Swine" creator Stephan Pastis, with whom I co-guested on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" last Wednesday, in a conversation that pivoted from Garland to Garfield. Pastis said on the program that he finds it "absurd" that in America, anyone might tell him what he can and cannot draw. He also said he cared less about the ideology of anyone who shoots a cartoonist, because once you pull the trigger, you only symbolize one thing in his mind: a murderer.