A case for raunchy jokes

I got into an argument with someone recently who insisted comedy can go too far.

Graphic by Lena Yang
Graphic by Lena Yang

I got into an argument with someone recently who insisted comedy can go too far.

We’ve seen this trend recently over the past few years where social media activists have to prove a point by nagging people into meaningless apologies.

Of course, comedians have been one of the prime targets of these tactics.

The controversy always plays out the same way: the comedian makes a joke — almost always a funny one — the social justice types complain that “X is not funny” or “there’s nothing funny about X” and as my favorite comedian Bill Burr puts it, “You end up on the nightly news doing a split-screen with some blogger” trying to defend yourself.

These protesters fundamentally don’t understand what comedy is.

The craft is supposed to offend and it’s supposed to cover touchy issues. Not to mention it’s the comedian’s show. The stage belongs to them, not the audience and certainly not to people who watch a joke on YouTube. This irony is obviously lost on people whose job it is to be perpetually outraged at every opportunity, who have begun to actually destroy what has historically been one of the most progressive occupations in history.

That’s not to say that jokes can’t go too far, but the ones causing controversy almost never do.

The bottom line is a joke shouldn’t be considered offensive unless it’s a sincere thought from the person making it.

These are jokes being told, not statements being made. If we don’t look at the intent behind the joke, we are left with just words, which can be taken out of context or misconstrued to mean anything.

It’s like if someone who hates you makes a joke about your looks and your best friend makes the same joke.

The words might be the same but the intent is different. When we isolate 12 seconds of an “offensive” stand-up routine and leave out all contexts, we aren’t accurately presenting the situation.

One of the strangest things about all this is that the most horrific topics never receive backlash. Jerry Seinfeld, the world famous Jewish comedian, actually does jokes about the holocaust. And he’s not the only one.

Louis CK, Gilbert Gottfried, Jon Stewart and even Joan Rivers have all made fun of that topic and it never causes a stir.

Instead, it’s jokes about identity politics that spur the anger.

I think that basically sums up how inconsistent these bursts of outrage really are.

When mass murder is being joked about regularly, finding anything else to be offended by is extremely petty.

So let’s stop getting riled up every time someone says something we don’t like, grow some thicker skin, go down to a comedy club and have a good time.     

Leave a Reply