Nisid Hajari
April 12, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Here’s shocking news: Nothing offends Americans anymore. Or, at least, nothing in the daring comedies now in theaters.

Nobody in Fargo, N.D., is disturbed by Fargo‘s cargo of Midwestern ”good-hearted imbeciles,” says Fargo Forum writer Chuck Klosterman. ”Maybe it’s the Protestant ethic. They almost feel a responsibility to laugh along with the film.” Fargo native Kristin Rudrud, who plays kidnappee Jean Lundegaard in the film, says, ”In that part of the country, you ice-pick your way into your car every morning. If you lack a sense of humor you don’t really last too long.” Not that local audiences quite recognize themselves. ”The people that saw it say, ‘I don’t talk like that, but I know people who do talk like that.”’ Yah, sure.

In what some moviegoers consider the funniest of Girl 6‘s many cameos, an oily Indian news vendor who drools over female customers adds another ethnic stereotype to director Spike Lee’s collection. But, softened up by The Simpsons‘ Apu and Late Show With David Letterman‘s Sirajul and Mujibur, the nation seems not to have noticed the slam. Ranjit Chowdhry, who plays the vendor, defends Lee but concedes that South Asians need fresh roles. ”I feel limited,” he says, ”but I can’t do anything about it until some Indians become serial killers here.”

Two years ago he made the screen safe for mother-son incest. Now, with Mary Tyler Moore flashing her bra and others blabbing about anal sex, armpits, and hypospadias (go ahead, look it up), David O. Russell topples a few more taboos in his freewheeling Flirting With Disaster. And he wanted to go further. According to Russell, a vignette of lovers Tony (Josh Brolin) and Paul (Richard Jenkins) frolicking in bed, then bickering about whether to have sex in front of their adopted baby, was cut from the film’s coda at Miramax cochairman Harvey Weinstein’s insistence. Russell explains that in the end Weinstein ”wanted it out because he didn’t think it was funny enough.” (Another cut segment capped the story of Tea Leoni’s shrink-to-be.) Brolin, who stars next in Miramax’s Nightwatch, is disappointed. ”You see where the other three couples are,” he says of the coda. ”This scene brings it full circle. Without it you rob the audience.”

Comedies with content worth debating can’t last, of course. Summer is coming, and with it Kingpin, from Dumb and Dumber honchos Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Judging from its trailer, the story of a one-handed bowler (Woody Harrelson) and his Amish protegé (Randy Quaid) rolls straight for the gutter of feminine odor, bearded Amish matrons, and every prosthesis joke in the book.

Nisid Hajari, Dave Karger, and Tiarra Mukherjee

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