Why Larry Flynt Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened To SNL

RealClear Contributor


...Not to mention any other comedians who make fun of a certain high-ranking political figure who might want to sue them for it.

Right to Satire

Today is a day that SNL, and all the NBC lawyers, might want to keep in mind. On Feb. 24, 1988, the Supreme Court unanimously voted that Larry Flynt and Hustler did not, in fact, owe Reverend Jerry Falwell $200,000, overturning a decision made in the lower courts. That was the day the court reaffirmed the right for anyone to satirize public and prominent figures. No matter how tastelessly they might be doing it.

Moral Warrior

The piece that pissed off Falwell ran in an issue of Hustler in 1983, portraying him as a child having an incestuous sexual encounter with his own mother. In an outhouse. 

Falwell was a prominent face in conservatism, and the founder of the Moral Majority political group. It was a huge victory when Falwell won a suit against Flynt, as the publisher of Hustler, for libel.

Free Speech

The victory didn't lasts long. Flynt appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, who heard the issue based on the Constitutional implications involved. In an 8-0 vote, they ruled that while the Hustler piece was certainly in poor taste, it was also protected by the First Amendment. 

Public figures cannot successfully sue comedians, or anyone else, for making jokes about them or even for portraying them in a poor light. And today marks the day that Larry Flynt, famous for being off-color, proved that point. Share this story!



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