"It's amazing how angry people are about old tweets. No one can see that time has passed since then, people have changed," the Australian comedian said to set up his punchline. "Like I wrote a pedophile tweet like 10 years ago as well. Last week my girlfriend saw it for the first time. She was really angry, even though I told her, 'Honey, that tweet was written before you were born.'"
The joke elicited uproarious laughter from his audience, proving joking about pedophilia can be funny -- depending on the delivery and the audience's sense of humor, of course.
But the host of "The Jim Jefferies Show" didn't let Gunn off the hook entirely on Tuesday night's episode.
"James Gunn tweeted some pedophile jokes 10 years ago. And guess what? They weren't good. Turns out that James Gunn is a shitty comedian, in the same way that I'm a subpar filmmaker," he said before getting to his larger point -- there's no evidence that Gunn is an actual pedophile.
"What James Gunn said were jokes. That's not how pedophiles do things. Normally they're a bit more discreet," Jefferies said. "Like you know whose Twitter feed isn't filled with pedophile jokes? Jerry Sandusky."
The outrage over Gunn's old offensive tweets came on the heels of Roseanne Barr being fired by ABC (which is owned by Gunn's former employer, Disney) for a racist tweet comparing a former Barack Obama adviser to an ape. Many people piling on Gunn felt it was a similar situation to Barr's, so if Disney fired her, they should fire Gunn, and any other employee who ever made an offensive joke, for that matter.
"It's like a game: 'I'll see your Roseanne and raise you a James Gunn.' But those examples aren't the same thing," he countered. "Tweeting a pedophile joke 10 years ago doesn't make you a pedophile. Tweeting a racist joke after a lifetime of making racist comments is actually racist."
Now that Jefferies sees "bullies on both sides" of the U.S. political spectrum, he asked an important question we're all wondering.
"So where does it stop? We've all done and said something we later regret. If our entire past is fair game, there isn't a single one of us that can claim that we have nothing to hide," he said. "But tearing down people is just too much fun. The world needs a scapegoat. And since casting blame is an age-old practice, maybe we turn to an ancient solution for help."
Thousands of years ago, some societies literally killed goats for their own sins, so Jefferies brought out a goat named Scapey, loaded with pedophile and racist jokes around his neck.
"Anything horrible that's ever said on the internet, it's all Scapey's fault now," he said next to the farm animal. "We can get mad at him instead of each other. And that's why we're setting him loose on Santa Monica Boulevard to get hit by a bus."