Offensive Humor: Taking Comedy for What it Is
Have you ever asked if people find you rude or really didn't see the joke? You are, however, not alone. Offensive comedy is intended to be amusing. Why is this so? Since it is amusing. It is made up with the purpose of making people with warped senses of humor laugh out loud or emotionally. In either scenario, mission accomplished. And, let's be honest, we do have a sick sense of humor to some level. There is no reason to take it personally, as most feminists do. Certain incidents must be regarded as amusing. This essay will highlight the reasons that make offensive humor funny and why it needs to be taken for what it is – humor – and nothing more. Anyone can take offense to anything – the key word here is "take." A person is not giving offense but is taking it; so, essentially, they have the option of not taking offense to particular types of humor. They are just choosing to do so. As such, offensive or derogatory humor can be defined as any kind of joke that a person decides hurtful to either him or his community.
Laughing Matters and Sensitivities
There are plenty of offensive jokes out there that are meant to be taken lightly but are not. This intolerance with offensive or provocative humor has only grown stronger with the passing of time. With people everywhere fighting for their rights, from race to gender and body weight, etc., more people are coming out in disagreement of such humor because they are seen to be derogatory comments that can hurt people's feelings: they are considered to be a form of bullying (Carter, "Funny…or bullying"). "What do you call five Mexicans at the bottom of a pool?" – "Sinko." Get it? Was this funny? A little bit. Was it offensive? To some people, yes, if they are Mexicans or pro-Mexican people, who take offense to such jokes because they are racially demeaning, ethically wrong, and in a bad taste, even when they are explicitly meant to be taken as a joke but are not. If any person made this fun for what it is, a light-hearted, friendly attempt at humor, it would not be such a big deal. Yes, it targets a particular race, but it is meant to be funny! No one is trying to demean anyone; the haters are only taking it as a derogatory statement.
"What is the difference between a black man and a pizza?" – The pizza can feed a family of four. Did you laugh, even if internally, while reading a humorous, yet somewhat offensive, the attempt at the prevailing situation of poverty and racism? Congratulations! You have succeeded, yet again, at taking this offensive humorous joke for what it is, a mere laughing matter, an issue that will soon be forgotten within a couple of hours or just a few days. Is it depreciatory? Of course, it is! But should you take it to heart? Definitely not. The joke is only pointing out the obvious situation of the African-American community and their early struggles with poverty. Many black people have now risen to the top ranks in various fields of life, so why take offense to a situation that is the reality?
The Thin Line Between Offensive and Mean
Offensive humor, although hard to define, is meant to make people laugh. There is, however, a fine line between an offensive joke and downright mean, unsavory and foolish comments, which border on the side of bullying (Banas 130). An example of this is Ari Shaffir's Comedy Central episode in which he savagely pokes fun at his colleague's, Damienne Merlina, weight and loss of a limb. He says: "Her name is Damienne Merlina and she is so annoying. Also, she has one arm. I am only telling you this because when you see her, you would be like, the wait is that her or not? She had the fat smell. To wash under her belly fold, you just cannot get under there. I am sure the one arm did not help" (Carter, "Funny...or bullying"). Pure maliciousness. This is not funny in any way, but rather takes the shape of bullying and is plainly mean-spirited. It does not make one laugh out loud, but rather leaves them questioning the comedian's choice of humor. His words can even be psychologically damaging for that woman, who cannot control the circumstances that she has been left in (Weems, "Why offensive jokes affect you more than you realize"). Such lines of humor leave you in a what-in-the-world-was-he-even-thinking-saying-such-a-thing state of wonderment.
Humor as a Tool for Resilience
Humor is meant to be comic. Offensive humor is supposed to be funny with a twist, as it exposes the dark and harsh realities of life while trying to maintain a light environment. Even though it is meant to be taken lightly, plenty of circumstances in recent years have made it almost impossible for comedians to go about without creating a sensation, a sensation that is not necessarily positive, but rather negative and unflattering. When you step out into the real world, you are bound to come across derogatory statements at every corner. Be it at the office, at the coffee shop, at the park, or maybe even at home; people who want to say something negative can and will say it, even if it is behind your back. Offensive humor can, as such, be seen as a way to prepare yourselves for what is to be encountered out there in the practical life (Bekelja 181). In a sense, if we successfully laugh at a joke that targets our insecurities, we are making ourselves stronger and ensuring that we will not let any comments negatively affect us. As was stated in the beginning, we all take offense to a particular statement, be it a joke or a personal remark.
The offense is not being given to us; we are just choosing to turn it into a big deal. Yes, offensive humor is a fine line that can be crossed very easily. Yes, it should ideally be avoided if possible, especially when you know that certain people in your surroundings may not be pleased with your comments. Unless the comment is being directed at friends that you know will laugh out loud at it and will only create a friendly banter, it can be problematic to address people's flaws and otherness, in case they get riled up, which they are most likely to be. In conclusion, there is seemingly no end to the derogatory statements, but such humor could very well end up helping us in accepting what people are actually like in reality, as we gradually learn to go with the flow and not let such tedious matters create an imbalance in our daily lives.
Banas, John A., et al. "A review of humor in educational settings: Four decades of research." Communication Education 60.1 (2011): 115-144.
Bekelja Wanzer, Melissa, et al. "Appropriate and inappropriate uses of humor by teachers." Communication Education 55.2 (2006): 178-196.
Carter, Judy. "Funny...or bullying?" Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stress-is-laughing-matter/201507/funny-or-bullying Accessed on 14 September 2017.
Weems, Scott. "Why offensive jokes affect you more than you realize." Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-s-so-funny/201409/why-offensive-jokes-affect-you-more-you-realize Accessed on 14 September 2017.