10 Apr 2010

Mock the Weak?

I like a joke as much as the next household goddess, but this really ramped up the anger factor for me.

But then I reflected on my own behaviour.

I have laughed my head off at Frankie Boyle on Mock the Week in the past, but I do find some of his jokes very near the knuckle. I have not spent much time thinking about how people who have direct experience of the things comics joke about must feel.

When Jimmy Carr joked about our Paralympics team being fantastic because it would be full of injured ex-servicemen, there was uproar. But if you check out the team, there WERE ex-servicemen competing. I'm in no way defending the joke - I was appalled.

But he was factually correct. Is that what made his joke so shocking - that it was factually correct? Did we not want to look at the fact that our lovely sons and daughters are out there getting blown to bits for no good reason?

Frankie Boyle is a comedic loose cannon. I can well understand how people find him offensive - certainly at points - as long as the joke is not aimed at you or your loved ones.

What makes something funny and what makes something offensive?

Is it the intent? Is it intent that makes all the difference to EVERYTHING in life?

Boyle's intention was not to make anyone deliberately feel bad. He even concedes in the articles published that it was the 'worst moment of his career' so no one would deliberately do that.

His facts were wrong. His intention was to make people laugh. Is it BETTER that Boyle's facts were wrong and he thus provoked laughter? Would it have been more offensive to poke fun at Downs Syndrome children/parents with correct facts.

The truth of this instance is that there would have been NO humour if he had used facts. What made it funny to the theatre was, perhaps, the knowledge that he WAS wrong? I don't know. I wasn't there.

Do we have to leave something of our moral compass outside the theatre when we voluntarily pay money (or tune in on TV) to see comics? Are they, by their very nature, people whose work SHOULD cause offence - somewhere? Can we voluntarily put ourselves in a position and then claim to be outraged when the humour goes against us?

I have loads of questions, but there are no easy answers and while I truly sympathise with these lovely parents who was hurt and mortified I can't help but wonder if they had laughed once at something cruel that he said about someone else that night.....?

Maybe we should stop pointing the finger at people like Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle and point it at ourselves. Why do THEY think WE will find it funny? Is it because we DO find it funny? Does 'anything go' when it comes to humour?

Man, it's a moral minefield!

I'm sticking to Eddie Izzard and his ilk :-)


  1. Ali -

    This has been my thought for years now. hy do we laugh at comedians that are poking fun at things that are not inherently funny? Where is that thin gray line, and why do we put up with it?

    Intention is indeed everything - people int he comedy field need to keep this in mind when writing and presenting their material.

    And yes, we do need to stop and have a Four of Swords moment about our part int his.


  2. We laugh at this kind of thing for a number of reasons. First, it is human nature to laugh at those less fortunate because, basically, it's not us. Second, the old adage "You've gotta laugh". We find humour where we can - it makes life bearable. It's not usually cruelty, just the need to find humour where we can - complex and witty jokes are beyond most and take thought, talent and time, slapstick is quick and easy. There are other reasons we laugh or don't, like shock or to cover discomfort.
    Generally, it stops being funny when it becomes personal. For example, seeing someone falling on their arse is funny, but if it's you that falls, it isn't.

  3. I liked Jimmy Carr and only saw him now and again on the TV ( I'm always CSI every night!) and we got the chance to go & see him live - I was shocked at some of the things that he said! He was so racist & so rude! I'm going to stick to Peter Kay!

  4. I think their humour is another facet of the black humour we are so fond of - we make fun of things that scare us, things that we are unsure of, because in some way we are at least dealing with it. How many times have you heard someone joke about someone dying, or the circumstances?

    I think intent is very important, I think we are more likely to laugh if we consider the person to lack prejudice, and ourselves to lack it. I also think it'd quite hard to actually assess what they say that oversteps the mark and what doesn't because we live in such a politically correct world. For example, it is no longer acceptable to use the terms 'spastic' or Mongloid' which are medical, descriptive terms, because of the inferences society have placed on them.


I'd love you to comment, but I get a phenomenal amount of spam comments on here for some reason - so everything is moderated. But only for spam. Any other comment will be posted :-D

Explore the ruined citadel of m'blog: