To set the scene for a discussion here about an anti-Trump political cartoonist fired this week for going too far, consider the following yarn told in the 1971 book “Comics and Their Creators” by Martin Sheridan. A small boy knelt by his bed to say his nightly prayers, and when a piece of ceiling plaster dropped on his head, he looked up and said, “Come on, God, this is no time for a joke.”

You're fired

You might say that The Butler Eagle, a Pennsylvania newspaper, had a similar message for its editorial cartoonist Wiley Miller after he scribbled “f*** yourself” to Trump in his Feb.

10 cartoon strip “Non-Sequitor.” The expletive wasn't funny to publisher Ron Vodenichar who apologized to readers for allowing “such a disgusting trick” to get by his team. But it would have been easy to miss the vulgarity unless you peer pretty closely to see it; which may explain why none of the other 700 newspapers that the cartoon is distributed to opted to drop Miller. So far.

What's so funny?

All that aside, one may wonder if anti-Trump sentiments is a particular sore spot with Pennsylvania newspaper editors because only last June, Rob Rogers, a 25-year veteran political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was canned for his anti-Trump work. It may be argued that given the dissension that the president has created throughout the land, it's no time for a joke.

The converse may also be true and now more than ever humor is needed. But wait, even before Trump became president, the subject of propriety in political cartooning came up. Fully 11 years ago, The Guardian asked the question, “Can cartoonists go too far?” And the answer was an unequivocal yes. Then came the follow-up question, should cartoonist go too far?

The answer was also yes.

Who's laughing?

Steve Bell, editorial cartoonist for The Guardian, pondered the question – should we or shouldn't we go for broke in mocking our leaders - and decided that there's no such thing as going too far. He cited a New Yorker cover with a cartoon by Barry Blitt showing Barack Obama and a gun-toting Muslim fist-bumping in the Oval Office.

Obama supporters weren't laughing. But Bell said the cartoon wasn't supposed to make you laugh. It was intended to make you ask questions.

Overstepping boundaries

Fair enough. But here's the thing. If the mockery is too venous, the cartoonist chances losing the reader to anger against him or her rather than the subject being vilified. As for Miller's offense, it's not that he went too far using the “F” word, he went too low. It didn't raise questions. It was too mindless for that. Even so, what Miller did pales next to a cartoon from the Tasnim News Agency that portrayed Trump helping Mohammad Bin Salmon dismember Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Talk about going too far.