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Is It Acceptable To Joke About Tragic Things?:

 51 Victin, Fri, 14th Feb '14 3:22:36 PM from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Relationship Status: LET'S HAVE A ZILLION BABIES
Just the other day I watched a documentary on this subject (it's in Portuguese, "O Riso Dos Outros"). I came to a conclusion that expanded my previous view on the topic.

I think it's a right for the comedians to joke about any topic they want, and attack any side they want within that topic. Now, my arguments to defend that point are that: 1) the comedians don't need to mind the audience - if the audience dislike the taste of the comedian's jokes they should just ignore and/or give constructive negative criticism, which either results into the comedian being unpopular or into him improving his jokes, either/or; 2) joking about racism or ethnic stereotypes, for example, shine light into the fact said stereotypes exist, and remind the audience that society has this or that problem, asides from lessening a subject that might be touchy - as long as a person can laugh about a topic while considering it serious, which I believe should be a kind of standard for people who like Black Comedy (as I do, albeit I not actively searching for it); 3) ... I... I apologize, I forgot any other argument I had, if I didn't by accident condense them into those two. I'm not in the best state of mind, if I remember any other comment I wish to add I'll mention in this thread, but for now I'll leave it at that.
"Say that you want to live!"
"I have no reason to live!"
"There has to be! If not, go make one!"
 52 Ira The Squire, Tue, 18th Feb '14 1:44:08 PM from No idea. Measuring speed
 53 Victin, Tue, 18th Feb '14 2:18:09 PM from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Relationship Status: LET'S HAVE A ZILLION BABIES
[up]I'm not sure if that was a reply to me, and if it was I'm not sure I understand the argument under the sarcasm.

Also, yesterday we discussed more about the subject in class, and I think we'll discuss it more tomorrow. I also had the argument that, if one party didn't mean to offend, and the other didn't feel offended, then there's no problem in the joke. But my teacher counter-argumented that a third party can show the second one the problem with the joke, that it didn't realize because it naturalized the problem. I still can't say that's my argument because the way you deal with said jokes, the defense of the offended party, and the joke in question might flunctuate (that is, I'm not sure what would my side be in any of those three sans the last one, in which I think it depends on the joke, because jokes are highly subjective and each joke is a different case, except that has the potetial to be troublesome in its own, I guess?)
"Say that you want to live!"
"I have no reason to live!"
"There has to be! If not, go make one!"
 54 Best Of, Tue, 18th Feb '14 3:14:06 PM from Finland Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC!
Context makes a massive difference. As I've said before, some comedians are very good at letting the audience understand that they themselves don't agree with the implied (or sometimes stated) attitudes present in the joke. Those attitudes are themselves the subject that is ridiculed.

I've been trying to think of examples but whenever I start writing a really nasty joke that would illustrate it I find myself wondering if it really is necessary to cross the line just to make a point. If we were at a stand up gig and I had already done some jokes that clearly poke fun at stupid attitudes you could hear my heavier jokes as essentially the same; but if I just blurted out, with no context, a really disgusting and possibly bigoted joke you might very well conclude that I do agree with the attitudes behind the apparent subject of the joke.

That really is the challenge - making your audience understand that everything you say is meant to be a joke, and that they're not supposed to adopt any attitudes from your jokes.

So if I told you that a wedding dress is white because that's the colour that home appliances such as ovens and dishwashers normally are, it looks like I'm saying that a wife is to be considered a home appliance; but the context of the joke should be such that you'd understand that I'm actually ridiculing the idea that some people essentially consider women as household appliances.

So the real subject of that joke is sexism, and the outdated social norm that women should take care of the home in the way that home appliances do. In my joke1 I'm pretending to believe the notion that women are essentially utilities, but the message I'm trying to convey is that it is absurd to think like that, as equating people to machines, especially in the context of something that is generally considered very positive, is something that we should ridicule.

Of course there is the risk of someone in the audience hearing the joke as endorsing their pre-existing idea that women are essentially utilities; but that, again, is something that can be remedied by context. If the jokes surrounding this one are also based on the format that what you mean is roughly the opposite of what you say, even a stupid listener should eventually notice that the idea they thought you were endorsing with your joke was actually being ridiculed, and that most of the other people in the audience got this and were, without knowing, laughing at you if you held those kind of bigoted ideas.

I like jokes like the one above very much, because I think they can be very clever (much more so than the one above) and because I think they are a good way to approach difficult subjects and to notice absurdities in your attitudes; but it is very hard to tell those jokes right, as your audience basically has to know you well enough to see through them. That, again, comes back to context. In the context of a Jimmy Carr gig you know (or should know) that this is what is going on; but during a coffee break at a workplace it might be that your audience doesn't really know you well enough to know what the joke was supposed to mean. If you tell such jokes to the people who are the apparent subject of the joke it can be a form of bullying if you fail to let them know that you're really on their side.

Well, I'm basically repeating everything I've said before but at least this time I managed to include an example. Oh, and the footnote...

1The narrative in that example was that I was telling that joke to you, which is why I called it "my joke" as a shorthand for "the joke I am telling to you". I would like to point out that I didn't actually come up with that joke, though, and I want to make sure I'm not stealing anyone's joke by claiming it as mine when it's not.
Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.
 55 Victin, Tue, 18th Feb '14 3:18:45 PM from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Relationship Status: LET'S HAVE A ZILLION BABIES
The point my teacher was making is that even if the public don't see the problem in the joke, you can always get someone who does and show the others the problem with it. I think that was his point, anyways.

But, taking as example the joke you used, it can be interpreted as a critic to the society or as an endorsement to it. It's not actually clear. Hm... I think I'll try to keep it in mind for tomorrow's discussion, if I can remember it.

EDIT: Sorry, I didn't explain myself well. I meant that I'm not sure I agree with your point - I think I do, but I want to hear some arguments for both sides before choosing one.

edited 18th Feb '14 3:20:07 PM by Victin

"Say that you want to live!"
"I have no reason to live!"
"There has to be! If not, go make one!"
 56 Best Of, Tue, 18th Feb '14 3:30:09 PM from Finland Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC!
As I said, whether you take the joke as endorsing or criticising society is not inherent in the joke - it depends on the context. You could tell the joke to someone who feels that women and men are equal and they should do equal amounts of domestic work, and thus takes it as ridiculing old-fashioned notions of gender roles; and you could tell it to someone who holds patriarchal attitudes and takes the joke as endorsing their own opinion. In both cases the audience might find the joke funny, and would probably tell it to their friends, who would also find it funny.

If you do a good job of establishing a context, for example by stringing together multiple jokes that, taken as a whole, would indicate that you're joking on more levels than two, the audience should be able to get what you really mean.
Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.
 57 codytheheadlessboy, Sun, 2nd Mar '14 5:52:14 PM from Parts Unknown Relationship Status: Dating Catwoman
The Great One
In the context of a Jimmy Carr gig you know (or should know) that this is what is going on; but during a coffee break at a workplace it might be that your audience doesn't really know you well enough to know what the joke was supposed to mean. If you tell such jokes to the people who are the apparent subject of the joke it can be a form of bullying if you fail to let them know that you're really on their side.

Exactly. Another thing is your workplace's break room is not amateur night at the local comedy club. That's not the time and place to try out that raunchy joke you heard on South Park. That's one I learned the hard way.
"If everybody is thinking alike, somebody isn't thinking"- George S. Patton

 58 ctang 15, Sat, 2nd Aug '14 8:02:34 PM from my chaaaair ~
i am a crapshoot
If you're an accepting person, you'll accept it. If you're hurt by the jokes, it's your feelings' fault (aka your brain chemistry and human tendency to be offended by "disrespect" towards tragic things). It's not your fault, nor the joker's fault.
Reality and the existence thereof hinges upon the future of mankind and bacteriakind
 59 Zennistrad, Sat, 2nd Aug '14 11:24:23 PM from Inndikar Relationship Status: Star-crossed
Gatherer of Magic
Depends on your audience. To use one of the most commonly-cited examples, I've actually heard from a few rape victims online who have no problem with rape jokes and, in fact, actually use it as a means of coping. Others are much more uncomfortable with it and don't like to hear these jokes at all.

I think that the golden rule of these matters is this: don't ever assume that you speak for everyone within your own group. Don't try to speak over anyone else within your group who is not offended by the things you're offended by, and don't attack them for not being offended by the things you're offended by.
Reduce, Reuse, Regurgitate.

My Fanfic.
 60 Wolf 1066, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 1:05:15 AM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
It seems that here in New Zealand, jokes about any given tragedy circulate as fast as the news of the tragedy itself. Nothing's sacred - NASA, Lady Diana, Michael Hutchens/INXS all got "the treatment".

As do disasters that affect New Zealanders, so it's not like we're poking fun at others and sparing ourselves - as evidenced by:

What's big, white and fucks kiwis?

Mount Erebus.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 61 Pipping Fool, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 2:28:54 AM from Sydney, The Vivid City Relationship Status: Getting away with murder
-_-
They say that comedy is Tragedy plus time. And I agree with that statement, comedy is one of the best coping mechanisms out there when it comes to tragedy. Laughter is the best medicine they say.

The thing you must always be aware of is context and audience, botch up either of those and you're not funny, you're just plain offensive.

(note: Offensive humour can be funny if you're mocking the attitudes in question rather than reinforcing them)
Friends 'till the end
 62 Aldo 930, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 7:50:27 AM from Quahog, R.I.
Professional Moldy Fig/Curmudgeon
I've always felt that the only thing that you need to worry about when telling jokes about sensitive topics is being funny.

You need to actually have a joke; you can't just present the topic as funny in and of itself.

I do think we can all agree that horrific events set to wacky music is always funny, right?
"They say I'm old fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast."
 63 Victin, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 8:05:41 AM from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Relationship Status: LET'S HAVE A ZILLION BABIES
No, I don't think so, but I don't think I'll judge you for finding horrific events set to wacky music funny.
"Say that you want to live!"
"I have no reason to live!"
"There has to be! If not, go make one!"
 64 Aldo 930, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 8:14:24 AM from Quahog, R.I.
Professional Moldy Fig/Curmudgeon
[up] OK, OK... sped-up horrific events set to wacky music, like a demented Benny Hill Show.
"They say I'm old fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast."
 65 probablyinsane, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 9:10:27 AM Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
I think it depends on who is the butt of the joke.

Rape jokes, for example, if the barb is at the rapist rather than at the rape victim, it will probably be less offensive.

Another example would be when Malaysia Airlines recently lost a second plane. There was plenty of joking about the airline company going bankrupt, making Malaysia Airlines the butt of the joke, rather than the people who died.

It's also definitely less offensive to make fun of the Nazis, instead of the people they persecuted.
Half of a social justice battle is simply convincing people that a problem is real or that a pattern exists. ~Nihonjinron Gakusei
 66 Aldo 930, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 9:40:24 AM from Quahog, R.I.
Professional Moldy Fig/Curmudgeon
[up] Though some people think Nazi jokes are automatically offensive because they apparently make light of the horrible things they did.

Which, a lot of the time, I don't get - Nazis are the butts of the jokes, like you said.
"They say I'm old fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast."
 67 probablyinsane, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 9:51:05 AM Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
[up] That's why I said "less offensive", not "completely inoffensive".

There's probably no joke which will totally not offend anyone.
Half of a social justice battle is simply convincing people that a problem is real or that a pattern exists. ~Nihonjinron Gakusei
 68 Aldo 930, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 10:02:50 AM from Quahog, R.I.
Professional Moldy Fig/Curmudgeon
[up] Maybe the jokes you find in really bad kids' joke books. Unless those are so inoffensive they're offensive.
"They say I'm old fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast."
Puns are usually inoffensive, no?

 70 Silasw, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 1:34:09 PM from The UNITED Kingdom Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Globalist Bunny
As long as they're punfectly well constructed ones.
"And the Bunny nails it!" ~ Gabrael

"If the UN can get through a day without everyone strangling everyone else so can we." ~ Cyran
 71 probablyinsane, Sun, 3rd Aug '14 10:35:19 PM Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
It would also... depend on whether or not the joke is popular. Or the person who initiated or who passed on the joke is popular.

People usually do not have time to be concern about most things. Even if they find a joke unfunny, they usually do not care enough to complain unless it keeps on cropping up.

Anyway, people who joke about tragic stuff should at least know they're not going to automatically the life of the party.

Half of a social justice battle is simply convincing people that a problem is real or that a pattern exists. ~Nihonjinron Gakusei
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Total posts: 71
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