I read a couple of tweets the other day where someone was berating a comedian at the Melbourne Comedy Festival for some unsavoury jokes that she believes were out of line. They were jokes about rape and animal cruelty and something that may have seemed derogatory toward homosexuals. That very night in an unrelated event, I watched Chelsea Handler’s “Uganda Be Kidding Me” stand-up on Netflix. Turns out, I am a very big fan of Chelsea Handler.
I also happen to be a really big fan of myself and Chelsea Handler sometimes reminds me of myself… so….
I am not going to lie, Chelsea Handler’s jokes can viewed as incredibly racist, ignorant, sexist, homophobic – and full of everything that you think a person could say that would be offensive.
I’m going to let you all in on a secret, I can also be terribly offensive. I’m lucky that not a single person has ever taken great offence to anything that I’ve said. My humour is dark, my self-expression is dry and I like to highlight stupidity in people by making fun of offensive stereotypes. If there was a single bone of hatred in my body, I think I’d keep that side of my humour to myself as if in shame and would learn to know my audience.
There were so many things in Chelsea Handler’s stand up that I knew I could take offence to, that the moral panic’s of the world might watch and gasp in horror, but then there’s someone like me who is not easy to offend, who I feel in most cases can remain impartial despite my own strong opinions (but if you want to turn me from normal and understanding to utter offended psycho in seconds, just tell me you don’t plan on getting your children vaccinated).
I feel like comedy is a way of being able to relieve our frustration over things that happen by turning it in to something that we can laugh at. It takes a very skilled comedian to be able to not offend in the process. I sometimes feel that its very easy to tell if someone is being hateful or if they are being a comedian; it is less about the joke and more about the intention.
I thought about the tweet that I’d read from the offended person who attended the comedy festival and I wondered how, if we all took offence to something, then where do we draw the line? How can we say one thing is valid to be pissed about, but something else that offends another person for another reason, isn’t?
Then when do comedians have to start getting concerned about their jokes for fear of ending up the subject of a viral (and equally hateful) campaign on a social media website? And usually the offended party has nothing to do with the community that it is offended for. I don’t particularly have a problem with any of the aforementioned jokes as long as they’re jokes and not personal anecdotes, but I also am neither homosexual, a rape victim or an animal, so it’s hard for me to know how I’d feel in those situations.
However, a quick survey with a couple of gay friends confirmed for me that about 75% of them don’t really give a shit nor take offence to allegedly homophobic jokes as they feel the same as me, they’re poking fun at the stereotype rather than the actual reality. One of my friends said they disliked it because it perpetuated the stereotype, but then if I’m going to be so honest, this comes from a pretty serious and unfunny person (just kidding, I love you, lol).
I don’t imagine as a rape victim that a person would find a rape joke amusing, that’s one thing that I feel like could be or should be off-limits. As I said, it doesn’t particularly bother me, but off-the-cuff comments regarding rape as a joke should probably be something you keep in your head or at least know your audience if you can’t help yourself (?!). However, I would hope any joke like that has ever been made is intended to belittle a rapist rather than the victim, even so, I don’t think its okay.
With regards to the animal cruelty joke, I don’t like hearing anything bad happening to animals, regardless of if its a dog, a cow, a friggin’ mouse — whatever, I don’t want to know about it, but I think PETA is a fucking joke, and so if they’re offended, I’ll make it my business not to be.
I feel like before the buzzword ‘viral’ became a household name like ‘selfie’, ‘kale’ and ‘clean eating’, the art of comedy wasn’t such a risky game. That could be a good or a bad thing — but I’m unsure and I’m curious as to how other people feel about it.
Where do you think someone should draw the line in comedy? What is okay and what is not okay? Do you think people are just being unnecessary wowsers for no reason?
Do you feel like jokes regarding;
race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, sexual situations/circumstances/abuse, animal cruelty, etc are okay as long as they are delivered in the right way? If so, what would or wouldn’t be the right way?
Comment below and let me know, cos I am genuinely curious!