I appreciate the existence of poor taste/offensive humor, even when I don’t find it to be particularly funny. I don’t find the above example to be offensive because I cared about Amy Winehouse one way or the other, or because I have strong opinions about how drug addiction should be handled. I find it offensive because of the public’s tendency to turn celebrities into non-human caricatures. Winehouse has friends and family. They’re real people. She was a real person. If this sign in Austin TX was about some random chick from Austin TX who’d ODed, the sentiment would probably graduate from ‘insensitive’ to the level of ‘despicable.’ Local would make it ‘real’, but Winehouse was a celebrity—a distant abstract representation of a person, so apparently it’s okay to kick the corpse. I could delve deeply into the topic of the increasing lack of empathy in this world of ours, but I’ll keep it short and just say that this sign is pretty shitty.
Now, putting that aside, let’s look at the joke itself: it’s an excellent example of sarcasm. Friggin’ drenched in it. It caught me off-guard, it’s unrepentantly mean, and it plays very nicely off of the expectations of a congratulations roadside bar/liquor store sign. For some reason, I love that the ’10’ is a different color.
It made me laugh, then made me feel bad for laughing, then made me think the bar owners are a bunch of cocks. Which is fine. I assume that was the point. Maybe that even qualifies this as effective targeted advertising? “We’re a bunch cocks,” the sign seems to say. “We wish to let potential patrons who are also cocks know that we are like-minded. A celebrity has shuffled off this mortal coil. Come in and enjoy an alcoholic beverage. “