Humour has been a big part of my life especially since the last few years. Actually no, it has been a part of my life since the days of being bullied. Sarcasm helped then, sarcasm helps now. Not just sarcasm, it’s a mixed bag of comments, noticing stereotypes, noticing different patterns, making jokes but recently I’ve been thinking about jokes and the idea of a joke being insensitive and who draws the line or who defines that insensitivity.
Is a joke always insensitive?
Yes. I believe that the very idea that jokes or mockery usually need a subject (as do all sentences in any language) is why there will always be someone; a person, a section of the society, a group of people perhaps, who will feel offended or feel that the joke was uncalled for. These people are usually the subject itself and truth be told, who laughs when a joke is cracked on them?
In stand-up comedy, these people more than usually present themselves as Hecklers. Hecklers are your usual, attention seeking Joes who shout comments, start an argument or cause discomfort to the comedian. It’s not necessary though that the people who get offended are Hecklers. At times, the offended would approach the comedian in a manner that is more than understandable and the comedian might also apologise for the comment/joke. That is how it should be, ideally. Comedy is nothing besides the purest forms of communication because laughter is nothing but a raw human instinct and anything that ignites an instinct cannot be that complex.
Who are funny people and what is their issue with everyone else?
I’ve actually come across this notion more than enough times to not just let it pass now that I’m at it. Funny people do not and I’ll stress on it, they do not have an issue with you or the world. Yes, a lot of funny people have their own stories but so does everyone else. In popular media, every funny/sarcastic person is portrayed with a back-story that has the word broken written all over it but that is not true. Some people have a knack for noticing details. That’s all. They don’t have a problem with you. You’re not that important.
So, should I not be offended?
The question is not about what you should do rather about what you feel. Do you feel offended by a joke? Do you think it’s insensitive? Go ahead. Tell the comedian. He’s human, you’re human. You can communicate. By all means, do not listen to the jokes and ignore them. What you should not do is put the comedian down or do something more violent. As a comedian (or as the class fool), it’s their responsibility to make sure they aren’t hurting those they meet daily but at times, the decision between a letting a good joke slip or not is too difficult to take instantly.
A (rather long) Conclusion
Nevertheless, cases like Charlie Hebdo happen in this world so it’s always good for everyone to be watchful. Although your humour might bring about a big change, you should be aware of this simple rule : The more extreme the joke, the more extreme the response or with great humour comes great responsibility. It’s a direct proportionality.
For example, today, I cracked a joke on a teacher’s limping because she has had an accident. However, the subject wasn’t her, it was the limping. As someone who was cracking the joke, it was my responsibility to make sure that the difference was established (and I might have failed at it). However, after a classmate reacted rather inconsiderately and looked at me like I’m this evil and insensitive person, I became more than angry and instead of responding to his issue, I reacted with a “So what?” Had he said that the joke was insensitive and I should think more about what I’m saying in a calm, handled way, I might have even apologised.
It’s not about what the joke is or who draws the line, the line of when a joke stops being a joke is a variable. It changes. When morality enters any discussion it all comes down to what everyone believes. So, instead of fighting and taking extreme measures, if people communicate effectively and clearly, it would lead to a better understanding between the funny guy and the people laughing (or not). With this I am not establishing that a joke is necessarily made on people or sections of the society but if it is, there’s not point in taking it way too literally.
That’s all I guess, humour is a brilliant medicine but the idea of today’s society is that we have lives so morose and monotonous that we start to question everything because it adds to the element of change. So, we start to nitpick everything. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. If you read the post till here, a comment would be worth it. Trust me.
Stay tuned for the next post, until then, watch this famous, funny and rather offending sketch titled ‘Achmed, the dead terrorist’ by Jeff Dunham.