“Drawing the line. Can anything be funny, or are some things off limits?”
A tricky one, this. Rather ironically, writing about humour isn’t inherently amusing.
I skipped a recent daily prompt about political correctness (is it a useful concept, or does it stifle honest discussion?) because I could see this particular subject coming up, and I think the two are inextricably linked.
The answers to that PC prompt, by the way, are ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively. And if you’re interested in a little elaboration: ‘because it’s self-righteous, condescending bollocks.’
Of which more below.
By contrast, I would say that the answers to this prompt are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively. It’s my opinion that humour can be found in almost every situation, however dire – hence the expression ‘gallows humour’. So, by definition, nothing is off limits.
That assertion does need rather more elaboration, though.
This blog tries (oh, how it tries) to be funny. By default, therefore, it usually only covers situations in which I myself can find humour. Now, while I’m constitutionally indisposed to take anything too seriously – thereby making most things fair game, at least potentially – there are some things which I simply don’t find even remotely amusing.
You know, stuff like firing rockets into schools being used as refugee shelters, or crucifying people for no other reason than that they happen to adhere to a different belief system (editorial balance maintained there, please note).
Take concentration camps as another example. I certainly don’t find them funny, but a quick internet search will reveal any number of examples of jokes about them – made by the inmates themselves. Indeed, it appears to be widely accepted that in adverse circumstances humour is an important ‘coping mechanism’, with significant therapeutic value.
And therein lies a pointer towards an answer to the questions posed by this prompt. It seems to be okay, if not positively beneficial, to make a joke about something dreadful – as long as it’s happening to you. However, it flies in the face of currently accepted standards of social behaviour for ‘outsiders’ to do so.
It would be nice to think that this self-denying ordinance was driven by a desire not to cause offence to those directly affected. In the majority of cases, I’m sure it is. On the other hand, it might just be peer-group pressure. It really depends on your peer group.
Among a certain group of people, there appears to be a competition for who can be the most PC. ‘PC’ being shorthand for ‘outraged on somebody else’s behalf.’
From the perspective of one who, frankly, can’t be bothered by posturing – of any kind, but particularly political – the truth is that there is little point in desperately trying to avoid causing offence. There is always somebody, somewhere who is actively looking to be offended – just so that they can complain about it.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being offended. In fact, if nothing offends you then perhaps you lack a moral compass.
However, you have absolutely no right to be ‘offended’ on the pompous, unsolicited, self-appointed behalf of someone else – whose opinion on the matter, of course, you would not dream of consulting. And who probably couldn’t care less about what you think.
You tell ’em, Stephen:
Now, have you heard the one about…