Laughter helps people deal with dark times. Just ask comedian Tig Notaro, who processed her cancer diagnosis live onstage during a stand-up set, or any manner of people who blurt out a seemingly incongruous giggle when they hear some awful news. At this stage, the idea is common knowledge.
I remember, for example, that one of my friends came back from a few days off school when we were kids. She'd been to her nan's funeral, and returned with a story that began with the funeral procession and tears in the hearse and ended with her family members shaking with silent laughter in the church while the priest delivered his eulogy for their lost matriarch. And this wasn't because her family were heartless. Instead, the priest had done such a magnificent job of butchering the pronunciation of both the family surname and the first names of my friend's aunt and uncle, that they couldn't help but laugh. Speaking to her, she said it was just the sort of thing her grandma would have found funny, too.
And now we turn to this group of lads on a stag do, who took a blow-up doll to Ground Zero in New York. When you consider that they did so on the site of the Twin Tower attacks a couple of days before the city prepares to mourn the 15th anniversary of 9/11, things really ramp up a notch.
This is next-level banter. The sort of banter that requires a certain commitment, that needs a group of grown men to sit around in their midtown hotel – patterned carpets and that sharply artificial citrus air freshener smell hanging in the air – and decide that "yes, mate, I certainly would like to pay my respects at Ground Zero. But we're off to that happy hour right afterwards, so let's just bring Esmeralda along with us too."
Naturally, people there weren't in love with the idea. According to the MailOnline, a police officer asked the men to move it along, but not before they were photographed by someone working for Barcroft Media and turned into a story for local New York TV news. A man who reportedly identified himself as the groom-to-be was reported to have said "it's just a bachelor party" when he and his lads were asked what they were doing. They opted for a "no comment" response to further questions.
When told about the stag do, Rosanne Hughes, a 61-year-old member of New Jersey's 9/11 Memorial Foundation whose husband died in the attacks, told the MailOnline: "I'm speechless. I don't even have any words for that - that's a disgrace. That is sacred ground, I lost my husband and I don't even know what to say - it's disgusting."
Honestly, with a display like this, you can't even be angry. This is the next logical step, at a time when people already take smiling selfies at Ground Zero, do handstands for the 'Gram at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin and have to be explicitly banned from catching Weedles on Pokemon Go at a Hiroshima memorial park. It's unlikely the stag do top lads were using their blow-up doll to help facilitate a cathartic release from laughter, but they directly stumbled right onto a blurring line of what's considered acceptable.
This week's also seen a Texas mattress company post a now-deleted ad for a two-for-one sale, complete with two pillow stacks in the style of the Twin Towers being knocked over while a woman screams. Right before the clip ends, she half-smiles and says "we will never forget", after advertising the "twin" deals – the company's since apologised and its owner may have closed the shop for good. Laughter definitely works as a tonic when things are shit, but it's usually all about timing and context. This time, both the stag lads and this company eager to flog a few more mattresses before winter failed to get either right.