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February  10

West Orange Comic Cop: Not Laughing

It was a bad day Monday, for 22-year-veteran police officer John Feder.  Feder, who jokes about rape, child molesting, and other taboo subjects on the local comedy circuit as a stand up comic, was suspended without pay, and may end up not having the last laugh if he loses his job and pension. The Star Ledger reported Thursday:

The suspension places West Orange squarely inside a legal gray area, pitting First Amendment advocates against defenders of decency.

Mayor John McKeon said the town has "zero tolerance for any law enforcement officer or other township employee that isn't racially sensitive or isn't sensitive to victims of criminal activity."

Today's Ledger reported his attorney's statements. Now’s your chance to talk about it – or anything else on your mind...

February 10, 2006 in The Daily Chat | Permalink


Methinks they should lighten up. He's a comedian. Comedians tell jokes. And he's doing it on his own time.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Feb 10, 2006 1:49:55 PM

The key legal question it seems to me is: were the jokes funny?

Posted by: walleroo | Feb 10, 2006 2:01:16 PM

From the Ledger: "The routine, in which Club Soda Kenny jokes about raping a bride at knifepoint and molesting his own 5-year-old son, has, at least temporarily, cost Feder his gun, badge and paycheck."

Posted by: Krys O. | Feb 10, 2006 2:16:50 PM

Cop probably has the right to do this kind of act when he's off-duty. Doesn't mean he's terribly brainy, will be taken seriously even by fellow officers (good grief, he hangs with Dice Clay!) or even felons. But still probably within his rights to act like a knothead, as so many cops do (sorry, Clarice, but as a breed the local versions never impress me much)

Posted by: cathar (8T) | Feb 10, 2006 2:27:19 PM

Yes, his jokes sound tasteless but they are protected under the 1st Amendment.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Feb 10, 2006 2:29:54 PM

Well, I'm a big defender of the first amendment, but in this case I'm not so sure. A cop is a public figure of sorts. It is a grey area. It is seems his superiors could have warned the poor guy before sacking him, or maybe they did for all I know. Was he blindsided by the reaction or was he being defiant?

Posted by: walleroo | Feb 10, 2006 2:50:17 PM

I want to change my name to Elvis.

thankyou...thankyou very much. I'll be here all week.

Posted by: The Iceman | Feb 10, 2006 3:01:08 PM

The real question is,would you want a cop who makes fun of rape victims protecting you? I surely would feel uncomfortable being the butt of this cops jokes if I was a victim. The truth of the matter is rapejokes should not be tolerated anywhere from anyone, but especially a cop. This truly offends me.

Posted by: Margot | Feb 10, 2006 3:15:56 PM

I guess also one of the questions is, does he do his stand up representing a cop? If that's the case, then I agree with Margot. If not and he is doing this on the side, no matter how tasteless the jokes are, then it should not affect his job - I would think anyway.

Posted by: Anne Prince | Feb 10, 2006 3:26:44 PM

I agree with Anne. I would probably not attend his show if the jokes are what the Ledger says they are, truly tasteless. But, that being said, he should not have lost his job over it. I believe the Ledger said that when he does his act, he does not tell the audience what he does for a living.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Feb 10, 2006 3:29:34 PM

This sort of reminds me of Cibella Borges the female officer who posed for a nudie magazine in the 1980's and was fired. If memory serves, which it often doesn't on Friday afternoons, there also was a male officer who was in a similar situation as Cibella.

OK, did a brief search and found this about Cibella: "underwent a departmental trial for misconduct and bringing discredit to the department."

Posted by: Krys O. | Feb 10, 2006 3:49:16 PM

Do cops have to pass any kind of profile/psych evaluation to see if they are fit for the job? I assume that attitude plays some part in fitness for duty.

It seems to me that if you were worried that his tastelessness in his hobby reflected his attitude towards people he serves, that would be the way to fire him.

I do think he has first ammendment rights to say what he wants but does his rights mean that he has a right to be a policeman in a publically sensitive position?

Posted by: max | Feb 10, 2006 3:53:35 PM

that's just plain wrong.

no two ways about it.

and, frankly, i don't think that a cop who makes rape jokes makes him any less of a good cop.

comedians often make tongue-in-cheek jokes in which the punchline is often in the absurdity of the joke itself.

sarah silverman's holocaust jokes come to mind. what makes it funny is that a jew shouldn't be making holocaust jokes.

Posted by: Left Of Center, like Suzanne Vega | Feb 10, 2006 4:00:04 PM

From what I've read online, One of this guy's "routines" captured on DVD is to walk up to people in public and play unsuspecting "tricks" on them - gee, a real sophisticated art form.

I don't call that comedy - I call it harassment.

Posted by: man in the street | Feb 10, 2006 4:03:20 PM

I agree, Man...that would bother me, too.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Feb 10, 2006 4:05:23 PM

There was no "on the side" where I retired-I was on call 24 7-and even while on my honeymoon was expected to return if commanded to do so-but they knew where and how to contact me.

IMHO-and it is humble-for me-

And I'll only speak for me-My career was a "devotion".

While I have found many who's wit could indeed be considered great comedy-the level never rose to a "routine" of laughing at victims.

Instead it was more cutting of those within the system we worked.

I find that people in stressful jobs tend to use comedy as a device to distance themselves from their pain, however in this case I think it demeans the "uniform"-or in Cibella's case lack of "uniform".

You want a career in comedy, fine but retire before getting on that stage and soiling the profession.

Sounds to me like-psych pension-alot of press, and a new career for this person.

Posted by: cstarling | Feb 10, 2006 4:07:52 PM

I meant to say they never contacted me during my honeymoney but I checked in and they knew how and where to contact me.

Posted by: cstarling | Feb 10, 2006 4:10:15 PM

"a new career for this person."

and that might be what he is looking for anyway.

Posted by: Left Of Center, like Suzanne Vega | Feb 10, 2006 4:10:18 PM

honeymoney-lol I made myself laugh.

Posted by: cstarling | Feb 10, 2006 4:11:22 PM

Left of center:
and, frankly, i don't think that a cop who makes rape jokes makes him any less of a good cop.

Hmm, actually a cop who insensitive to crime doesn't make a very good cop. Would you want your Dr. making fun of your condition? And what you said about Sarah Silverman, well she's a full time comedian, not a cop who is responsible for caring for citizens. She can say whatever she wants.

Posted by: Margot | Feb 10, 2006 4:18:27 PM

I don't know the legality.

But I think there are situations in which what one says or does in one's private life can and should effect one's employement.

I don't think a member of NAMBLA sould work at the public schools.

I don't think someone who writes articles for "High Times Magazine" should fly airliners.

I don't think someone who thinks any aspect of rape is funny should be on patrol.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Feb 10, 2006 4:21:37 PM

My feeling is that a policeman who is comfortable enough to tell rape jokes is ill-equipped to respond to a rape call.

Posted by: Chris | Feb 10, 2006 4:22:28 PM

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Both points of view have significant merit.

My guess is that he keeps his job, badge and gun. It's extremely hard to terminate a police officer, teacher, or other public employee for other than criminal conduct, which this isn't.

There's a prior case where a NJ police officer was disovered to be a member of the Klan and kept his job. The town eventually bought him out.

This is a speech issue. People may not like what he says, but he does have a right to say it. Even hate speech is protected in the US and NJ constitutions.

Posted by: Paul from OB | Feb 10, 2006 4:36:21 PM

"Feder... was suspended without pay on Monday, after several township officials received an audio recording of a December comedy club performance in the mail."

In other words, nobody really noticed the guy's act until some anonymous do-gooder took it upon himself to inform. That's pretty low in itself.

Posted by: crank (Any Jeff. Starship fans interested in a FREE front row tik for Sat. night 2/11, please email | Feb 10, 2006 4:37:08 PM

While I find the descriptions of his jokes pretty revolting and I wouldn't go see his act, he was off duty and never mentioned (or at least that's what they say in the Ledger article) that he was a police officer.

Is it tasteless and morally unpleasant? You betcha. Is it illegal? Nope.

It makes me uncomfortable that he could lose his job and pension over something he does on his own time.

Posted by: daniella | Feb 10, 2006 4:40:29 PM

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