Saturday, June 11, 2011

How funny?

It's not "offensive" humor that bothers me, it's spite and malevolence that I'm against. Humor is a bit like sex: it's fun when it takes place between two consenting adults but if one party has power over the other, or one party is under the age of consent or simply not capable of consent than the sexual conduct becomes rape. Making fun of someone who has power over you is bold and edgy, but there is nothing courageous, edgy or iconoclastic about mocking someone with less power or authority.
Erika, from The Flight of Our Hummingbird

It's very rare for me to put together a blog post just to suggest to anyone that they should go straight over and read a blog post on another site, but in this case I felt compelled.

Erika writes with extraordinary clarity and precision about why saying, "but it's just a joke" is no excuse for laughing at people less able to defend themselves.

It also reminds me of a superb routine by the comedian, Stewart Lee, about another comedian, Russell Howard (a young, hip, cool comedian in the UK, known for his appearances on a TV show called "Mock The Week"). For more on that, follow this link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HElBqek9Ybc.

You only need to watch the first 2 minutes 36 seconds to get the point. Stewart Lee is not for everyone. His comedy routines are often deconstructing and undermining comedy routines - not only of other comedians, but of himself, while he's doing it. He makes me laugh hysterically, but I'm aware that most struggle with him, so don't feel obliged to watch any further than 2 minutes 36 seconds.

Meanwhile, if you've ever struggled with why some jokes make you laugh and some just make you feel uncomfortable, then pop over to Erika's for one of the best pieces of writing I've read on the topic

http://ourhummingbird.blogspot.com/2011/06/retard.html

17 comments:

TalesNTypos said...

Kim, I think you're lovely.

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you, Adila. I shall allow myself a brief *smug* moment... :)

Carole said...

It was a very worthwhile post to read. Thanks for the heads up.

Jyoti Mishra said...

Nice read !!
Loved it.

Eryl said...

I often think mocking – when directed at personal traits that can't be helped such as height, skin colour, disability – highlights the weaknesses of the mocker more than it does any faults in the mocked.

Stewart Lee is one of my absolute favourite famous people. Did you see him interviewed about art fund cuts, brilliant?

Jayne Martin said...

We're experiencing a big controversy over a comedian who went on an anti-gay rant during a stand-up routine. People are calling for him to be fired from the show "30 Rock" and others are defending his right to free speech. I say just because you can say something hateful, doesn't mean you should -- and then try to pass it off as humor.

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

As my buddy Jayne commented, is interesting to read and view this during our Tracy Morgam homophobic rant controversy. Bottom line is just because you are allowed to say it doesn't mean you should. Hate is not funny.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Humour is quite a tricky thing.

If I am brown [which I am] and I make jokes about brown skin, it's considered okay. Or if I'm from the 3rd world...and I am...[though I'm not supposed to say '3rd world' these days as it offends some], it's also considered okay. But if someone from another country comes here and pokes fun at the same things we poke fun at, people can get upset.

I agree about the spite and malevolence, that's when it becomes offensive.

Mimi and Tilly said...

Thanks for that link to Erica's blog, Kim. I read her post and agree with her 200%. I hadn't heard about the cards being sold on Etsy and am absolutely livid that Etsy would allow them to be sold. I also read the comments from "anonymous" underneath Erika's letter , and my blood boiled at the logic in his argument. On a postive note, I'm very glad to have found Erika's blog, so thank you. Em x

Kim Ayres said...

Carole - it's a great post, isn't it?

Jyoti - :)

Eryl - I'm glad to have found someone else who appreciates Stewart Lee - the perfect antidote to Michael McIntyre. I haven't seen that interview - is it on YouTube somewhere?

Jayne - I saw some link about that on Facebook - the guy seems like a complete shithead.

Brahm - hate damages everyone, including ourselves

Guyana-Gyal - I think Erika's point about the power relationship is a really strong one. To mock someone in a weaker position than yourself is not humour, it's bullying

Emma - I'm glad you've found Erika's blog if you've not been there before - she's an extraordinarily good writer :)

Pat said...

I will I will! Why is it that one has a stack of appointments the week after hols?
I have to admit to feeling occasionally uneasy with the lauded comedian of Office fame. What's his name? Very uncool of me but there it is.
Now for the hygienist!

Guyana-Gyal said...

I agree with you, Kim.

I'm just trying to add another dimension.

All writers are in a position of power. How does a writer of the 3rd world write about the people without being seen as 'mean', yet show some truths? Take Naipaul for example...

Guyana-Gyal said...

Here's something I've always maintained, having discovered it for myself, working in the media some years back: with freedom comes responsibility.

Toyin O. said...

Great post, thanks for sharing.

Ron said...

W. C. Fields (whom you probably never heard of) is the only comedian that I have ever found consistently funny. Not everyone "get him" but I do. He mocks the absurdity of life. He's my kind of man.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - I know what you mean about Ricky Gervais. His humour is supposed to be based on the fact he says these appalling things, because no one would really say them, and we're supposed to enjoy a mock shock. The problem is, part of me is not always convinced he is entirely joking, or that the nasty character he portrays is that far from himself. Is it just very edgy humour that I'm not quite getting? I hope so.

Guyana-Gyal - I'm afraid I'm not familiar with Naipaul's writings. I've done a quick Wiki search, but from that I wasn't able to glean whether his writings are meant to be humourous or mocking. I think any writer or comedian can use their influence and skills to draw attention to inconsistencies in behaviour and the fallout from political ideologies. You can write or mock the policies of governments or colonial powers that have created 3rd world countries, but it's not so good to mock the poor and downtrodden who are there as a result of other people's appalling decisions. Not sure if that answers what you were saying... :)

Toyin O - you're welcome :)

Ron - I have heard of the comedian, although I have to confess I've not really seen anything of his. However, around here there's a portable toilet company (providing for festivals and other events), called "W.C. in Fields"...

Eryl said...

Sorry to be so late to get back here: yes, the interview can be found on You Tube, goodness knows what it's called though.