Sunday, May 22, 2016

Funny is in the eye of the beholder

Comedy and humour are hard to describe, so I won't try.

They are hugely subjective and even within groups that have a following, be it a Stand-Up Comedian or a tv series, the views can change very quickly as to whether something continues to be funny over time or even within a specific episode or routine.

Well that went down badly...
Some comedy has dated, whilst some remains as funny today as when it first appeared, however, even that is subjective. It's all very much up in the air.

As my brother Pat would say, "only 40% of that is true, and even then, that's only 10% the case,"

Oh Pat, you card (Not really Pat)
So back to comedy and funninessness.

For most people, there are some hard and fast rules, those being things like not offending someone, not offending someone's beliefs, not offending someone's know, generally not being offensive. However, these are also relatively new rules and also amazingly subjective.

I will, however, be saying 'however' a lot in all this, because like all rules, there are exceptions.

However, not always.


It's pretty much the case that in the year 2016 (apologies if you're reading this not in 2016, especially if you're reading it earlier), you simply cannot be racist or sexist. It's all about the ists in the current millennium. Comedy tried its guts out in the 90s to be politically correct, but even in calling 'not being racist and sexist' "politically correct", they kind of missed the point.

Let's stroll back to the 60s and 70s for a moment and check on Mr Benny Hill.

Here are a selection of pictures for you to look at and choose which one offends you most.

I used to like Benny Hill. His songs were clever, his comedy was clever, his timing was clever, and I didn't actually think that what I'm looking at in the above images, was offensive to anyone, because I was young and wasn't part of any of the groups being laughed at. 

Benny dropped out of favour in the 1980s when a different kind of TV comedy came along. The Benny Hill Show is now taboo in the UK, probably the US and probably here too, because there are simply too many people offended by the -ist comedy. 

One of the most famous people to poo-poo Mr Hill is another clever comedian, Ben Elton who came out in 1987 to question the sexist nature of Hill's comedy. Elton claimed that Hill's comedy almost incited a 'rape culture' in the UK.

Much better comedy
Elton is responsible for such comedies as Blackadder 2-4, The Young Ones, Filthy Rich & Catflap. Each very clever and favourites of mine, not filled with sexism, but interestingly, quite rife with violence. I guess that's more acceptable.

What about racism?

Racism in comedy largely died in the 1970s.

Can you imagine 'Love thy Neighbour' being shown today? 'Kingswood Country' tried a comeback, but you know, it's was...what's the word...oh yes, shit. 

Go on, say nignog again, I fucking dare you!
Whether a parody or a comedy, being racist just stopped being funny to the general populations of the world when they realised that it was RACIST! It didn't matter if the show was taking the piss and painting Eddie here as a bigot. It didn't matter that Bill could hold his own, the nature of the show was effectively to lampoon a serious issue. It worked then...probably if you were white.

Making fun of people because of their race or gender just isn't funny now, and probably wasn't even funny then!

Be warned - offensive jokes below, used as examples.

When I was in school in the 80s *SIGH*, these were the acceptable jokes in the school yard.

- How do you kill a blonde? Put a scratch and sniff at the bottom of the swimming pool.
- How many black men does it take to pave a footpath? It depends how thin you slice them.
- What's the worst thing about vegetable soup? Getting the wheelchair in the blender.

As a kid, you laughed.
As an adult, you think "holy shit, those are offensive!"

Now what is the point of this blog post?

Good question Special Agent Reyes

The times, they are a changin'. Would make a good song wouldn't it.

Comedy, like life, like everything these days, is a big fucking gelatinous blob of fluidity, changing, adjusting, doing what all blobs do...blob about a bit. No set answer, no set shape, just a ruddy great blob.

So what fits inside the blob? What's "okay"?

Well, making jokes about ethnic groups or women are right out, minority groups too, because really, why would you wish to lampoon those who are already in a position of disadvantage? And not even just disadvantage, but a group that is already under pressure from every day life? That's just not pleasant.

Stop me when I go too far...

Don't joke about race, sex, religion, disability (possibly slots into religion - see, I can't help myself, as I'm told), age, size, health, financial disadvantage, physical appearance, something someone can't do well, stereotypes, lifestyle choices, sexual orientation, seriously, the list could go on.

I understand that the nature of acceptable comedy is changeable...remember the blob from before? What's funny today may not be funny tomorrow, or even later today.

But please, do yourself a favour, for the sake of the world, don't make everything taboo.

Not everything is funny, but not everything is beyond humour.

I absolutely guarantee that something you find acceptable, be it comedy or not, someone else will find unacceptable.

Perhaps we need to stop expecting society to slot into our own little idea of how people should behave and or laugh at, and accept that people are all different. What I think, isn't what everyone else thinks, what I laugh at, isn't what everyone else laughs at...and that's okay.

If everyone was like me, the world wouldn't be a better place, but the same goes for you.

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