Friday, May 8, 2015

Dear Bigots, Please Get Some New Material


Have you ever been on Twitter the day after something big-but-not-tragic happened? A red carpet event where someone tripped, a hyped movie absolutely bombing, that kind of thing. If you haven't, it's not hard to imagine. Basically your feed is everyone you know clamoring to make the same joke first. Which is weird, because Twitter has reverse reading chronology, so the freshest joke is from the person who made it last, but never mind.

I'm guilty of this too. I stopped trying to make witty observations on Twitter after I realized everyone else was saying the exact same thing. Witticisms aren't my thing, and some subjects just really lend themselves to one certain joke. #askthicke comes to mind. And the trouble with hearing the same joke again and again is that once you stop laughing, your brain takes a moment to amuse itself by actually thinking about the joke, which I'm pretty sure is the antithesis of laughter. Nobody likes hearing the same joke again and again. I have no idea what the process is, but after the third or fourth time, the joke just starts grating. Nobody tells jokes about chickens crossing roads anymore. It's played out. It's not funny. Barring some funny uncles, we seem to have accepted as a society that some jokes have just gone stale from repetition.

I wish the same was true for offensive jokes. In the wider activist community we focus a lot on why jokes are offensive, what makes them that, the concept of punching down, free speech, social responsibility, all that good stuff. But can we take a second to point out that all these jokes are also tired as shit?

Grumble Mexicans something something lazy.

Sexual assault hurk durk Brad Pitt.

Got drunk with lady har har tranny surprise d'oh.

I know for a fact you can fill in the blanks yourself, because chances are you've heard the same joke more than actual chicken-crossing-road jokes. Somehow, people know better with that one, but still think they're being clever when pointing out that Obama something something banana.

Sometimes I hear comedians vehemently defending their humor from the PC police and bemoaning the lack tolerance in comedy. The sad thing is that while they could have a point in theory, once you start looking at the actual joke they're defending, it kind of falls apart.

Hey, did you know that some Native peoples have a tradition of descriptive names? The comedic possibilities are endless! Isn't that right, Beaver Breath?

Of course the big problem with offensive jokes is that they're offensive. Many people have written very eloquently on the subject. But can we take a minute to acknowledge that it doesn't help when they're also completely and utterly played out? It absolutely does matter. I know from experience that sometimes, if a joke is actually fresh and witty while also being offensive, or the delivery is just brilliant, or the form is really clever, the gut impulse to laugh will absolutely bypass my critical functions.

I swear I once chuckled at an honest-to-goodness punching-down rape joke at my personal expense because it was so damn clever, right before I went "heh, good one, get out of my space forever." True story.

As someone who adores comedy (I'm a rare breed, like people who "like music" and whose hobbies include "having fun") I can honestly say that a lot of the times, it's not that the joke is too offensive for me to laugh at. It's that I've heard the joke a million times before, it's the same joke that always comes up when talking about this touchy subject, and while in theory I will go to bat for a comedian's right to tell whatever joke they want, the jokes they're asking me to defend and laugh at make me think they got their material from a fucking minstrel show.

Ever had a good friend riff on you? You gingers will know what I'm talking about. The first time might actually be funny. The next two dozen times you might chuckle along good-naturedly, because your buddy means no harm. A decade later, you are liable to take his fucking head off.

Gendered slurs something haha sandwich.

Female athletes wink nudge dick.

Gay men oh ah hum they're all slutty rapists aren't they?

It doesn't even work as shock humor anymore. It's 2015. Nobody is shocked to learn that some people have the inconceivable guts and glorious balls to make a joke about how [minority] does [goofy shit] and is [the worst.]

You know what those are? Memes. They're not jokes, they're memes. Memes wearing joke armor. Memes that somehow enjoy the same protected status as jokes. The emperor's new jokes. Memes are the runts of the comedy litter, and offensive memes are what happen what that runt gets eyeball worms. It just not even cute anymore. Put the hideous thing out of its misery. Then go make me a sandwich. Thigh-slapper. I'm such a card.
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