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Lighten up on Keenan Revue

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, January 30, 2004

The barrage of indignant letters arrives every year, complaining and protesting – both before and after – the Keenan Revue. Various groups hem, haw and rant by highlighting insults and demanding retractions. They cry discrimination and disrespect, and they shamelessly bash the Keenanites involved for material deemed vulgar and irreverent. The critics are correct in their complaints: It is vulgar and irreverent. It’s also clever and hilarious. The Revue is a tradition of comedy and wit, affectionately satirizing all we know and love about Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. It’s time to stop complaining.

Thankfully, the snaking ticket lines and insanely fast sellout times indicate that the majority of the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s community have largely ignored the criticism leveled by a select few. Most people realize there is a difference between good-natured comedy and mean-spirited ridicule, and the Keenan Revue is unquestionably characterized by the former. Yes, the Keenanites make fun of Saint Mary’s students. They also pick on Notre Dame girls and Zahm Hall. Even The Observer is often one of their favorite targets. Do we care? No.

Most correctly understand that the jokes in the Revue should be taken with a grain of salt. The show, while exploiting common stereotypes, simultaneously rips apart the stereotypes themselves. People don’t just carelessly throw around deep-rooted, malicious prejudices. If Keenanites really believed the insulting claims they toss around, it is highly doubtful that they would publicly flaunt them. Legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko poked fun at various ethnic groups for years and invoked waves of hate mail campaigns and protests. What many failed to understand was that Royko’s political incorrectness was an indirect indication of acceptance. If Royko made fun of a group, he believed they were truly part of the Chicago community, and it’s usually OK to make fun of your own ilk.

In the same strain, if Keenanites taunt a specific group or institution, it’s only because they know they can. Their material focuses on aspects considered integral to Notre Dame, and mocked groups should feel more honored than insulted. It’s good-natured banter, highlighting and teasing elements of the Notre Dame community. It’s Saturday Night Live, South Bend-style.

So when attending the Keenan Revue, sit back, take it lightly, and laugh out loud. And to those in the Revue, have fun and good luck.

And please try not to be too hard on The Observer.