The jokes went over worse than you can imagine sexual jokes about a kidnapped and murdered 5-year-old would go. A public mob was actually organizing to go to Woods' house, and he was arrested and charged with a crime I don't think even exists in the U.S. -- "sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive." He got three months in prison for that, and his defense had something to do with being drunk, because of course it did. It's hard as shit to try to explain jokes about sex crimes and dead kids, but it's not impossible.
Stop me if you've heard this one -- Little Timmy is walking through the dark woods at night with a pedophile. There's a strange sound in the distance, and Timmy says, "Oh man, these woods sure are creepy." And the pedophile nods and says, "How do you think I feel, I have to walk back out of here alone."
"I don't care for that at all."
That's a really bad joke, and I laughed at it the first time I heard it. Because it's absurd. I don't want to get into the fundamentals of deriving comedy from tragedy, but it can be done. You need it sometimes, to help break the tension of something so morbid and awful that it'd make you cry otherwise. Part of the fun of those kinds of jokes is actually laughing at yourself for laughing at it. You know you shouldn't, but you do, and you get that wave of shame from it that inexplicably makes you laugh even more.
That said, you can't really market a sexually explicit joke about an actual missing girl and have it generate a lot of laughs. Because probably it's not funny at all. Like in any way. I don't know exactly what this Woods guy said, but it was bad enough that a literal mob formed and was coming to I guess beat the shit out of him or lynch him or something. I've never told a joke that bad. I don't even think Jeff Dunham has told a joke that bad.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"Hey, guess what? Something racist and not particularly funny. Har!"
Woods' joke got him jail time and almost murdered, or at least circle booted. That's one harsh audience reaction. A simple mea culpa would have done nothing here, nor would dragging the joke to a new realm of awful. This situation, unlike the others, had one solution, and one only. It's drastic and can really only be used once in your life. We call it the Shaggy defense. It wasn't me. Deny involvement from the top down. Abandon joke and disavow all knowledge.
Unlike the previous spin doctoring, the severity of the awfulness of this joke required that the joke just not exist. Blame it on Grandpa who has dementia, or this asshole in your science class who hacked your Facebook. Blame it on the Taliban and Alec Baldwin, but for God's sake, never admit it was you. Express shock and horror that your name is attached to it. Grieve with the other people who are upset by it and stick with that story until the day you die. That's how you fix a joke that's so bad, it sends you to prison. Deny it, because it was online and technically no one can really 100 percent prove it was you, and then never, ever do it again.
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