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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Dreiblatt: Atonement

Sometimes I hear comedians talk about offending people in a way that sounds like bragging. They feel like having offended someone is a rite of passage, like it's proof that they have something raw and edgy to say that the world has to hear, and that anyone who doesn't like it is just too weak or ignorant. I never understood that.

Any and every time I've offended, angered, or hurt the feelings of an audience, another comedian, booker, bar owner, friend, stranger or whatever, I felt like an absolute failure and a huge tool. I do comedy because I love laughter, and to know in my bones that there are people whose day was not only not brightened by my words, but darkened, is a terrible thing to know.

This week is Rosh Hashanah, and the week after that is Yom Kippur. In between those two important holidays, it's the obligation of every Jewish person to reflect and take stock of everyone and everything they've done to hurt or offend someone.

You have to ask for forgiveness from people before you can ask forgiveness from the Cosmos.

And you don’t actually have to be Jewish to know that words can really sting, whether we know what we've done or not, and sometimes it feels like I can't go a day without hurting someone. Sometimes I know it, and other times I don't, but the worst is when I know it and allow myself to not care. I want to raise up my standard for myself, but it already feels so heavy.

In this season of asking for forgiveness I can't ask forgiveness from every audience member I made uncomfortable. I can't ask forgiveness from every colleague or friend I've snubbed. Some relationships are permanently broken and it's something I have to deal with.

I won't apologize here because I think forgiveness is won when you show whoever you've hurt that you are truly sorry to THEM, and that you will do your best to make sure that it will never happen again, and I know I won't do that.

I plan on spending the next year the same way I did last year, throwing jokes out into the public night after night trying to see what sticks, which means that it's inevitable that I will continue to offend, and snub, and do things that hurt people’s feelings whether I know it or not. So I won't apologize here. But I am sorry.

Eric Dreiblatt is a stand-up comedian and 2013 graduate of Burlington College.
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