I’ll admit. I’m a fan of crudity in comedy. I’m not a fan of insult comedy, but I’ve always been of the mind that it’s better to laugh than cry.
Overt bigotry isn’t funny to me, but pointing out someone’s foibles can be, as long as it’s not done from a sense of ignorance. Pointing out our own foibles is even funnier. Comedy, to me is about the absurd, either pointing it out in the day-to-day things we do, or being just completely out of left field.
It saddens me that over and over again, I see people going into outrage over a joke. It saddens me equally to see someone who uses their stage as a bully pulpit to spew hatred under the pretense of comedy. That doesn’t make it easier to laugh at ourselves or to open up free speech.
Free speech is critical to a free society. Of course, freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences, so if you’re up mocking people because of their race or gender out of hate, well, you get what you deserve.
The problem with constant outrage is its chilling effect on free speech and its insistence on perfection over growth. We can’t crucify everyone for making mistakes, because everyone makes mistakes. We all deserve the opportunity to learn from them, and to question what we’re being told, whether what we’re being told is some statement of bigotry or some politically correct overstepping. We can correct our own thoughts, but there must be opportunity to learn and question, sans the outrage.
Comedy is about absurdism and subverting expectations. Jokes are funny because they go in a direction you don’t expect to go. And sometimes, that means dick jokes or boobs or the word “duty”, which is a running joke that comes up every time someone says it, in my family.
Comedy is often at the forefront of political movements. The ability to speak truth to power in our societies, has since the days of the court jester, always been allowed to those who can do so with wit and humour.
Why do you think the best news shows these days aren’t run by anchor-people or talking heads, but rather, folks like Samantha Bee and John Oliver and Bill Maher? It’s Jon Stewart and Michelle Wolf and Trevor Noah who make the most salient points, not Jake Tapper or Tucker Carlson.
(Of course, Tucker Carlson never even approached a salient point in his life, save perhaps the repeated demonstration that he is, in fact, a human turd.)
See? Crudity. But also funny. Also true.
The question becomes where to draw the line. A lot of people don’t seem to know, on the left or the right. The right would make bigotry common under “lighten up, don’t be so politically correct” rules. The left in its overzeal tends to feed on its own for anything even slightly perceived as “incorrect language”, which is a dangerous precedent to set, given how easily incorrect can become unauthorized or illegal, in the right circumstances.
And I’m not sure that’s easily solved. Viewpoints that no one even thought to question when we were kids are now mainstream taboos.
Stuff considered hilarious only a few years ago is now considered bigoted or inappropriate. And I get it – some of it was hurtful to people.
If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my life however, it’s that being the victim all the time is exhausting. Making things an issue when they don’t have to be is exhausting. What if the way to kill stigma is not to constantly point out how awful it is to point out a stigma, but rather to make it a non-issue? To make it just another thing we can joke about, without the outrage, and without the hate?
Without the stigma?
Maybe by talking about the taboo stuff out loud, and laughing at it, we can break down those barriers more easily than screaming about it. Because yelling in outrage gets everyone’s hackles up and makes them dig in.
Laughing releases positive endorphins, creates a connection and because it’s just “funny”, it can bypass (sometimes) dogmatic thinking to get through to people who might never have listened to an outraged speech.
Comedy and tragedy can be so gruesomely and wonderfully intertwined. The best comedies to me seem to be black comedies, although pure absurdism, subtle in-joking in the style of The Office or Parks And Rec and straight-up slapstick a la Leslie Nielsen works for me as well.
The bottom line is that if we want a better, happier life, wouldn’t that suggest more laughter is a better path than more outrage?