Retracting an Intractible Position…


I’ve been doing some thinking about my previously stated position on certain types of jokes, that as a blanket condemnation it was too authoritarian, too dogmatic, because it was made without any qualification or nuance on my part.

The act or threat of rape is rightly condemned as horrific, including crude threats of rape disguised as jokes, and on this I still hold firm. Those are not funny. But if a topic is completely off the table for ridicule, even to ridicule those guilty of doing it, such as racism, religious or ideological or political bigotry, and yes, even something like misogyny or physical and sexual assault of any sort, where do we draw the line?

There exist laws in many countries forbidding the offense to religious belief, blasphemy laws, and already there are those who have run afoul of them, like my Indian skeptic bro Sanal Edamaruku, who’s accused of insulting the beliefs of those thinking a statue leaking water from a nearby unseen pipe is a genuine miracle by showing that it’s not.

I hope he’s acquitted of all charges when this is over.

As long as a topic being joked about is “owned” by the one telling the joke (racism for ethnic minorities or homophobia for gay humorists, etc.), and kept in the proper context (it’s done skillfully and is actually funny, which not everyone can pull off — sorry Tosh…that’s why good comedians and comediennes are professionals), and is done to disable the power or threat posed by those guilty or potentially guilty of the act, then I say… joke away.

Ridicule when it’s done well is a great weapon against idiocy, and without merely trying to normalize a deplorable act like rape as poor attempts at or pretenses of such jokes are. It can open the table to further discussion of the problem so it may be overcome.

I would never tell such jokes without feeling sick — I lack the ability needed to do it well, that’s why I’m a blogger, not a comedian — and if done poorly or crudely, such jokes cast a bad light on even discussing the topic rationally at all.

 

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2 thoughts on “Retracting an Intractible Position…”

  1. This is one of my favourite Wanda Sykes bits. I’ve always felt that nothing is so sacred that it can’t be joked about… as long as the joke is FUNNY, which is the cardinal rule of comedy. That’s where both Tosh and Dane Cook failed, they both joked about a sensitive topic and neither joke was funny. Fantastic post.

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