The Weirdly Timed Jokes of '22 Jump Street'
When the joke-jammed 22 Jump Street opens this Friday, theaters will be filled with laughter. But a few of its one-liners might inspire winces, as well: In an unfortunate bit of timing, Jump features quick (and innocuous) references to both the poet Maya Angelou (who passed away on May 28) and actor-comedian Tracy Morgan (who was seriously injured in a car crash on June 7). It also includes a scene in which one character chastises another for using the homophobic slur “f——t” — the very word that got Jonah Hill in trouble last week.
The jokes themselves were written long ago. But the incidents are fresh enough in the public’s mind that the Morgan gag was cut for the Los Angeles premiere — a “complicated” decision, says producer Neal Moritz, and one that was done out of respect for the actor’s industry pals. (The joke will remain in the finished film, where it will likely still jar viewers; at a recent New York City screening, the mention of Morgan’s name elicited several groans.)
The Jump source says there were no reservations about keeping the other jokes though, noting that the Angelou reference is a tribute to the poet’s greatness, and that f-word scene is intended as a comically thoughtful takedown of the slur (which Hill has expressed deep regret more than once for using.) Ultimately, says co-screenwriter Michael Bacall, such coincidences are the inevitable result of having such a high gag-per-minute ratio. “It’s such a joke-dense movie — that stuff just kind of happens sometimes,” he says.
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Photo credit: Columbia Pictures