Dear “Humorist”: Your Rape Joke Isn’t Funny

May 10, 2016 — 123 Comments

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Sometimes, it feels like the ceaseless watchdog of political correctness has cut the balls off the English language. We have to monitor every word we offer for public consumption.

I’ve never been particularly invested in coloring inside the lines. But I’ve reframed my awareness of what may hurt others as empowering, not limiting.

You can live in denial of progress all you want. Nevertheless, it exists.

Progress can infuriate the public. When 17th century astronomer Galileo advocated that the earth orbited the sun, rather than the other way around, he was tried by the Roman Inquisition and found guilty of heresy. He spent nearly a decade under house arrest until he died.

People don’t like having their belief systems challenged. It took the Catholic Church 350 years to apologize to Galileo, who was unequivocally right.

Progress. With enlightenment, comes awareness. With awareness, comes responsibility.

 

 

It’s not that everyone is so damn sensitive. It’s that we’ve made progress as a culture. We’ve learned that language has the power to create injustice. To shape attitudes and influence actions and ultimately determine how people are treated.

I’m certain some people find it offensive when I use profanity. I have an incredible family of readers who show up despite my potty mouth. I’ve also lost an entire population of the reading public because of my language.

When does humor cross over the line from bold and edgy to insensitive and damaging?
Herein lies the problem.

 

I’m not suggesting that I be the arbiter of humor, but I’ll offer this as a parameter: avoid joking about OTHER people’s anguish.

This does not mean horrific tragedy is off limits. Many people who have suffered through cancer, for example, successfully inject levity into that experience and find it remarkably healing.

But I’M not going to be the one making cancer jokes.

 

Here’s my short list of what isn’t funny:

1. Rape jokes. This includes rape culture jokes. If you crack jokes about writers jumping on the “anti-rape bandwagon,” you are participating in rape culture.

The “anti -rape bandwagon” is the finest fucking bandwagon in the universe to jump on. I encourage everyone to jump on it until their brains rattle in their skull.

Let me break it down. Anti-rape = good. Anti-anti-rape = bad.

Anyone who is callous enough to resort to this kind of humor has obviously never been close to someone who’s been raped. Once you look into the eyes of a woman whose psyche has a pile of ashes where her hopes and dreams should be, you lose all desire to exploit trauma for a laugh.

If you are accused of contributing to rape culture, and you sneer, “whatever THAT is,” you are officially part of the problem.

2. Heroin jokes. Lives are ruined, careers destroyed and people die from drug addiction. You have been blessed thus far not to have tangled with this demon, but don’t press your luck. One minute you’re tweeting heroin jokes, the next, you’re dropping your kid off at a rehab.

3. Jokes using the word “retarded” or “gay.” Many of us grew up using the word “retarded” to mean stupid, but we were adolescents with no accountability. Words matter. Before you use the word “gay” pejoratively, please check in with someone who has been fired, ostracized, bullied or beaten up for being gay.

4. “JEW” as an adjective. They’re Hanukkah doughnuts, not “Jew” doughnuts. Your lack of education is not an excuse. You have access to enlightenment via Wifi, so take time away from the Buzzfeed quizzes to watch Schindler’s List.

Persecuting Jews is not just a thing of the past. My son lost friends in kindergarten because the parents found out  he was Jewish. Yes, Virginia, anti-Semitism is alive and well in the 21st century.

In summary:

A person can be a Jew. It’s a noun.*
“Jew” is derogatory when used as an adjective.**

If you need this reviewed, ask your Jew boss about it.

*Nouns are person, places or things.
**Adjectives are descriptive words.

5. Boob Obsession. Everyone loves boobs, including me! I also happen to be quite fond of large penises, which I occasionally allude to. Yet, if all I did on Facebook and Twitter was post about big cocks, people would find me repulsive.

Have fun with occasional boob references but don’t devote your ENTIRE SOCIAL MEDIA presence to boobs. Aside from being creepy and desperate, you’re helping embed in our culture that it’s acceptable to reduce women to their frontal charms. You’re sending a message that women’s breasts belong to everyone. Don’t be surprised when your tween boy violates a girl by snapping her bra in class.

This includes tasteless jokes about Breast Cancer Awareness Day, which actually ISN’T about leering at women’s breasts flopping around, unencumbered.

6. “Crazy” jokes. One of the main reasons I never write about my PTSD, anxiety or depression is that I am terribly ashamed. I’m frightened that the people I love will stop loving me if I admit freely to having mental illness. People who glibly tweet jokes about craziness and psychos demonstrate insensitivity and intolerance.

Who among us is in a position to characterize what is crazy? Who isn’t crazy?
I don’t know any sane people. I just know some who are better at hiding their insanity.

 

 

A particular stigma has unfortunately manifested around being overly cautious with words, with some asserting that this is tantamount to censorship. I don’t experience refraining from making certain jokes as censorship. I feel empowered and compassionate.

And there’s so MUCH to laugh about in this world. I can probably write an entire post about how I get outwitted by laundry, weekly.

Like any art form, humor needs to be transgressive; it needs to push boundaries. However, exploiting pain for a cheap laugh simply demonstrates a lack of talent.

You’re fortunate to have led a white picket fence life, devoid of addiction, sexual assault or mental illness. On behalf of the rest of us, please choose your joke fodder without fostering a culture of disrespect around different identities and experiences.

 

What kind of humor do you find offensive? Are we getting overly sensitive, or just the right amount of sensitive?
Do you have a funny joke? Tell it to me. I’m listening. 

 

Join me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter  so I can have friends without leaving the house.

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123 responses to Dear “Humorist”: Your Rape Joke Isn’t Funny

  1. 

    Offensive? Not much. I mean ignorance and mean-spiritedness and blah blah blah are offensive in that they don’t build up society in any way. But recently I was in a comedy club waiting for my turn to go up and a comic whom I like and respect and think is a nice guy told a slew of Jesus/orgasm/sex/scatological jokes that were, well, just not funny. As a Christian, I was also taken back but I wouldn’t say offensive. He was trying new material, he even said up front he was in a mood to shock, and yet if was his delivery and timing that stunk not the actual words.

    The point is, I don’t curse in my stand up act because it’s not my authentic voice. I don’t curse in my everyday life. It has nothing to do with religion. The foulest mouths I know are devout Christians. It’s just that I think I sound like a creep when I cuss. Also, my voice sounds like my dad’s and he doesn’t curse for the same reason.

    Anyway, no types of humor “offend” me. Anti-intellectualism offends me. Racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia all offends me. But none of them are funny.

    I think if a person comes from an honest point of trying to be funny, trying to make art, then they can fail, but they’re not offensive.

    P.S., I have a heroin joke in my act but it’s an adorable poke at my dorky dad persona with my kids.

  2. 

    Yeah…fuck the rape jokes. Pedophile jokes. Domestic violence jokes. I do poke fun at my own mental illness..but hopefully not in a mean way.

    • 

      Poking fun at your own mental illness is completely different than being the butt of someone’s joke who has never suffered from any kind of mental illness.

      I am the butt of most of my own jokes. I never run out of material, because only the truth is funny!!

  3. 
    Jessie, FlusteredMom May 10, 2016 at 8:54 am

    I’m with ya on most of this Samara! Words are powerful; they’re so linked with experiences. A word can transport someone right back to a painful time in their lives. I pause with the word “crazy”. Mental health is such a serious stima – I don’t think anyone should ever joke about it. And I don’t think anyone should joke about mental health and disease. I do agree that everyone is crazy!

    • 

      Hey, welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting!

      Words ARE so powerful, aren’t they? I know it’s hard to be so hyper aware of what we say, but it’s all part of growth.

      Everyone IS a little crazy. That’s why I find it so offensive when “humorists” tweet about other people’s “crazy” behavior.

  4. 

    I agree there has to be a line so that we don’t anger or seriously upset others – unless that is the intention. Have you ever watched a TV comedy called “Angie Tribeca”? It is slapstick comedy about cops and is hilarious. One scene this week, they burst into a felon’s hide out in a raid and the only thing there is a female manikin standing in the center , dressed but with its shirt open and breasts exposed. The lead cop heads right for it and Tribeca hollers; “Look out Booby Trap!’ just as he reaches out and grabs the breasts and they explode just leaving his shoes on the floor. Many prudes would say that was inappropriate humor but I thought it was hilarious. Apparently i’m not alone as teh show continues to grow in popularity.

    • 

      That sounds over the top hilarious, and not offensive at all!

      With regards to boob humor, I think when you demonstrate an obsession, it gives off a creepy vibe. An insidious one, because some would say, “oh, this is just harmless.” It sure wouldn’t work in reverse. I would NOT be popular if I focused all my social media on male genitalia.

  5. 

    I honestly think as a society, we are the same in the sense we will always have those who want to change things for the better and those who don’t. As far as advancement, we have one leap forward and one backwards.

    Our hearts are leaping forward. More progressives are caring about each other, diversity, tolerance, peace, and helping the planet. This is increasing in numbers and is a good thing.

    BUT intellectually, we are going backwards. Average IQ is supposed to be 100. Lately, it’s 93 according to the IQ sites. I personally have mainstream, as a group, to average 80 to 85, which is not far from clinical retardation.

    Most who want to change things for the better mean well, but not all their ideas are actually better as much as different, and some are worse.

    Retard for instance. Yes it’s insulting when you say, “That person is so retarded for doing something mean to people,” but what’s more insulting is “How dare you use the word retarded. My kid has Down Syndrome. You just mocked my kid.” Like the person using retarded to mean stupid was saying a bad behavior was retarded. The person advocating special needs just called their own kid retarded, and if their kid understood what they were doing, that kid would be more insulted by the person advocating his needs than the person using retarded without thought. Like to me, that’s not progress. It appears that way, but it’s not. The heart was in the right place, but the logic was and is “retarded.”

    So I don’t think we are advancing as much as just changing shape, again. There are many ways we are advanced compared to the past (earth is round, not flat), but there are many ways we are regressing (people were more disciplined in the past).

    But if I had to choose between more love vs more intellect, I would choose love in a heartbeat.

  6. 

    Also, another one to add to the list is FAT SHAMING. I’m so sick of it. People are gaining weight not because of diet and exercise. Those anymore have very little to do with weight. It’s the lab foods and medication doing it. I ate fast food almost every day all my life. I have a digestive bacteria most people don’t have, and as a result, bacteria food like sugar and prebiotics make me sick, and I need carbs to avoid nausea, and fast food is full of carbs. I was a size 3/5 most of my life outside of pregnancies, and I lost all my baby fat within 6 months of having a baby, while eating fast food and avoiding the gym. But i gained 50 pounds in 2 weeks off the Lithium diet. I can’t lose it no matter how much I diet or exercise because the pills I take makes me gain weight, so all I do is maintain the fat from the LIthium at best. Why do I take these pills? Because I’m crazy and need the pills to hide it. Seriously, society has jokes for me no matter what I do. But the fat shaming is both very ignorant (even by doctors) and hurtful. The irony? Low self-esteems will make you gain weight faster than overeating or not eating healthy (according to scientific, scholarly studies). Even doctors mess that up by shaming obesity like they are going to die from being fat, which everything associated to obesity isn’t deadly at all according to studies, and making people believe there’s something wrong with them for being overweight whether it’s fat shaming jokes or telling them they need to lose weight to save their life only adds to the obesity. Ignorant.

    • 

      Fat shaming is disgusting.

      I used to LOVE the expression, “I love that like a fat kid loves cake.”
      I’ve stopped using that expression. Too many people I know are in enormous pain over their weight, or their body images. I can find something else to say.

  7. 

    Well, since you asked, I’m stepping onto my soapbox to say that diabetes jokes offend me. The jokes about “How about a cup of diabetes?” or Chelsea Handler joking about losing feet to diabetes – what’s wrong with all this? What’s wrong is that there are 4 types of diabetes – FOUR. Type 1, type 2, gestational, and LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults). There is a breathtaking amount of misinformation about all of them, and a completely unfair and wrong stigma attached to them. News outlets, talk shows, celebrities, so-called doctors, social media, comedians, and even a children’s movie – all continue to perpetuate this misinformation. My 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 when she was 2 years old. It is a life-threatening disease that she didn’t cause, and I couldn’t prevent, and there is NO CURE. We in the diabetes community have been fighting those stigmas for years, and listening to ignorant people tell us we should maybe not have fed our kids so much sugar. (Stepping down now…)
    All that said, I agree with you. I do also think that we as a society have become hyper-sensitive to every perceived offense, sometimes to ridiculous extremes (pulling Dukes of Hazzard shit off the shelves because the car has the confederate flag on it, anyone?)

    • 

      BRAVO! (and fascinating that you label them differently there – we have Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, and Type 3 (which covers all other ways you can get it).

      It’s becoming an increasing problem across the world, and it’s SHOCKING that so few people have a clue about it. GOOD FOR YOU for advocating for it 🙂

    • 

      It’s hard to believe that people would blame your daughter’s diabetes on having been fed to much sugar. Wow. That – just wow.
      Thanks for commenting here.

  8. 

    Yes to all of this. I’m on the anti-anti-anti rape joke bandwagon.

  9. 

    Yes, this is something I think about often actually, it’s a tricky one. Aside from the ones you mentioned, one thing that bugs me is that it seems to be completely acceptable in the media to mock celebrities why aren’t particularly clever. It’s not just about them, it’s the effect on the self esteem of young people who may be struggling with their school work or may have specific learning difficulties, and then they have to hear that crap. The type of thing I mean is – on the radio a while ago, a DJ was talking about a particular celebrity who appears to be a really sweet, genuinely nice guy, whose only crime as far as I’m aware is that he’s not very blessed intellectually, anyway, the DJ mentioned something about a new TV presenting job this guy had been offered, and said “I expect he’s counting his lucky stars! Or he would be if he could count.” And I just found that hugely offensive and unnecessary.

    Like you’ve said, laughing at yourself is fine, I do that all the time, but to belittle others who have suffered, or are struggling, or are marginalized already in some way, either individually, or as a group, to try and get a cheap laugh is just not on.

    • 

      *celebrities WHO aren’t particularly clever, not WHY aren’t particularly clever (great place to do a typo Vanessa!).

    • 

      The world LOVES celebrity culture. The only thing we love more than building up a celebrity is knocking them down.
      Whatever happened to “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything”? Doesn’t that apply anymore?
      Thanks for stopping by, Vanessa.

  10. 

    Go girl! There’s another I dislike, and that is racist jokes. I am from the south and comments that impute that southerners are all racist and anti-miscegenation are incorrect. I had a southern friend who visited me in California and she was afraid to open her mouth thinking she would get attacked as racist because of her southern accent and how southerners are portrayed. I don’t like anything that puts people down. I never liked being the butt of someone’s joke other than my orienteering (or lack of) abilities, which my husband still teases me about. I have no gauge for direction if I can’t see the sun. LOL

    • 

      Racist jokes are really a slippery slope. People have suffered hugely because of racial discrimination. I just won’t go there.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! xoxo

  11. 

    I’m surprised that you don’t also note the vile use of Jew as a verb synonymous with “haggle”. Perhaps the backwater I live in is even more stagnant than I thought, and it has entirely fallen out of use in the rest of the world.

    The only problem I see with the anti-rape bandwagon is that it’s not bigger.

    • 

      No, I’m fairly sure that a whole lot of people use “jew” as a verb. I focused on the use of it as an adjective, because it broke my heart when a friend used it that way, while talking to me.

      I’ve never been particularly religious, but man, that offended me. He gave me an argument so I dropped it, but I wish SO MUCH I had fought back.

      Anti rape bandwagon – how ludicrous, right? As if it’s some sort of trendy phenomenon.
      Yuck.
      Hey, thank you so much for reading, and commenting! xoxoox

  12. 

    I’m on the opposite side here from most of the comments.
    I think anything can be made fun of. I also think intent, on the part of the speaker and the listener is very important.

    Also, it’s a lot easier to make a point couched in a joke and have someone hear it than to have them hear the same point screamed or preached at them.

    • 

      I think I should have included this in my story, because I’ve said it a few times in the comments. I agree with you. I believe a REALLY TALENTED humorist can handle just about any topic with finesse. The problem is, that gives any hack license to be offensive just for the sake of a cheap laugh.

      Humor makes the world go round. I married my Ex because he was the funniest person I’d ever met. Funny is the new sexy. 🙂

      • 

        It just seemed like a bit of a pile-on…

      • 

        I welcome all opinions here. Especially yours.

        Writing isn’t supposed to be about total consensus. If people are never challenged, there is no growth.

        I’m glad you’re here. Now invite me to a Sunday cookoff, dammit!

    • 

      I’m with you, brother. I had the following comment all typed out but decided to nest it under yours since we seem to be walking the same path.

      Hi, it’s me. Devil’s Advocate. Because he needs one. While I agree with the sentiment of this piece, who is to be the arbiter of what’s allowed and what isn’t? You? I can see you rolling your eyes and saying through clenched teeth it’s PERFECTLY OBVIOUS what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate humor, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. I guess we’ll all need to adopt your list above. Can you do a follow-up list of things that are okay to joke about?

      Okay, I’m ready for my beating. Go on. I can take it.

      • 

        The only reason I’m the arbiter in this particular piece is, it’s MY BLOG hehehe

      • 

        Excellent point, my dove. Your sandbox!

      • 

        Oooh, “my dove.”
        I like that even more than “my little flower.”

      • 

        Only kidding!
        It’s a slippery slope. I don’t know anymore whats okay and what isn’t. I really don’t.
        I just listed ways in which I’ve been hurt by people’s attempts at humor. And I threw in something that I think is harmful in the long run.
        I worry about the objectification of women. Today, my kid told me a girl sent an inappropriate picture to a boy, and it was spread all over school.

        They’re in SIXTH GRADE. I nearly cried.

      • 

        It’s all context. Two things listed above that it’s not okay to joke about are diabetes and being Jewish.
        I occasionally find both of those things hilarious.
        And sometimes the jokes aren’t funny at all.
        but what triggers me may not trigger you, and outside of a political setting, all I ask is that the joke be funny.
        If not, then get off the stage.

      • 

        This is like the telephone game, where the words get changed as you pass them along!
        I never said Jewish jokes aren’t funny. I tell hilarious Jewish jokes! What I don’t find funny is someone using the word “jew” as an adjective, as in making quips about “Jew lawyers.”
        That’s derogatory.

        Hey, did you hear the one about the Jew with diabetes? 🙂

      • 

        non, I was referring to an earlier comment.

  13. 

    It’s well-known that the earth revolves around ME (which is why it’s lurching so wildly out of control lately). There’s’ a type of, I’m not sure if it’s the best term, “gallows humor” that I have found to be funny at times BECAUSE it’s so shocking. Like when someone reads an obituary in the paper at work that says “So-and-so was very good at doing such-and-such a hobby,” almost inevitably someone will pipe up with “Not any more.” Yeah, I’ll never make it in comedy. I love that you tagged this “Big huge cocks.”
    I can’t even make fun of my own depression and self-loathing lately. It’s been winning. The only things I’ve been able to write in the last month or so have been routine notes to co-workers. I hate it.

    • 

      I’m sorry you’re in a depression. Thank you for coming out of it to read this and comment.

      By the way, piping up with “not anymore” is pretty harmless, unless you’re talking to someone who is grieving over the death of that person.

      I hope you kick your depression and self loathing right in its ass. xoxoxo

  14. 

    A family member is bipolar with borderline personality disorder. I’m constantly amazed by how many people say, “He’s so weird. He must be bipolar,” or “My wife was in a bad mood today; I swear she’s bipolar.”

    It’s not only insulting, it diminishes the full, ugly impact that bipolar has on a family. It’s a genuine psychological disorder and assuming that everyone who is the least bit emotional must be bipolar relegates people like my brother to someone who is simply too angry or too ridiculous. Being bipolar is nothing like that! It is a struggle to get out of bed many days and it causes untold anguish for the individual and his family.

    So if you’ve said to someone, “Quick acting bipolar,” STOP.

    • 

      Oh YES to this! Quit calling someone who’s being moody “bipolar.” My brother is bipolar, and he had a manic episode that spiraled into a complete psychotic break.

      Thank you so much for reading, and commenting. And welcome to my blog!

  15. 

    Shit, all I seem to write about is my depression and other illnesses.

  16. 

    I agree with your list 1000%! There are too many people who try to masquerade hate in the form of humor. It never works.

    • 

      Sometimes it’s just plain ignorance, and they don’t want to make the extra effort to avoid being hurtful. They’d rather whine about how everything offends everybody.

      I’d rather be overly cautious as a society than overly callous.

  17. 

    This. Exactly this.

  18. 

    I agree with Guapo here. I don’t think there are any subjects that have to be off-limits in their entirety – the rules of thumb that I have is that making fun of the victim is generally not okay. But if we start excluding any jokes on anything that ruins people’s lives, we can’t make fun of guns, politics, military, religion, sex, and so on.
    It’s all a matter of how the joke is told and the context of it.

    • 

      Now you’re taking it to an extreme. I didn’t say to exclude anything negative, I said avoid tragedy. So a gun joke can be funny.

      But I wouldn’t make jokes about a school shooting.

      And yes, I like to spare the victims and use the “David and Goliath” principle here, which is that it’s generally more palatable when the weaker party makes jokes about the stronger, and not the other way around.

      I’m almost positive that anyone who makes jokes about “crazy psychos” has no one with a serious mental illness in their family. Just a hunch.

      • 

        Oh no, I am not taking it to the extreme. The extreme would be “every joke on every subject is acceptable”, and I’m not there. But I do think that on any subject, there could be jokes that do not cross the line – yes, even about school shootings. On that subject, it would be much harder to make such a joke, than, say, about “War on Christmas”, but I would not say it is impossible.

      • 

        Oh, and just as an example, in the post I just published, I made jokes about wars, drinking and driving, and racism. Yet not only I don’t think that these jokes crossed the line into unacceptable, I think they still have some way to go towards that line. You can read it and let me know if you agree with my assessment.

      • 

        Your keen intellect makes you a very skilled devils advocate, but it also allows you to make jokes on all sorts of subjects without coming near being offensive.

        This is why it’s so difficult to actually address this issue. Because there’s an ocean of difference between you touching on racism or war, and a talentless uneducated hack typing “Hey, it’s Breast Cancer day, those titties sure looked good flopping out there!”

        Unfortunately, you’re both granted freedom of speech.

        I’m not advocating for censorship, I’m advocating for empathy. People can be really hurtful with their words. It’s not only personally painful; this kind of insensitivity ultimately has an adverse effect on the world.

        So rock on with your bad self!

  19. 

    Geezus sad that you felt the need to point this sh*t out. Rape jokes funny….uh never. Too much stupid in this world. You however manage to stay amazing and funny without being a dick….speaking of when are you starting that pinterest dick pic stuff…..asking for a friend 😉

    • 

      Actually, a WHOLE lot of people find me offensive because of my language. That’s what’s so tricky. What type of offensive is LESS offensive than the other?

      Personally, I deal with bad language better than racism and rape culture, but I also understand that many people refuse to read anything with profanity.

      Fuck ’em. (hahahahaha)

  20. 

    I watched a video a while back by someone who claimed to train stand up comedians. He asserted that the formula was to take something positive, then twist it in an unexpected, negative way. While there may be some truth to that, especially for those who lack subtlety, some seem to think the more negative it is the funnier it is. These folks often end up being jerks in other ways too. Maybe that’s a good way to discover someone’s character – see what they laugh at.

    • 

      To a certain degree, this might be a good judge of character. Certainly, I would never be friends with someone who cracked racist jokes.

      Thanks for reading, and commenting. And for caring about this whole issue.

  21. 

    Anything which objectifies people or diminishes tragedy into ‘fodder’ really upsets me and I’m SO GLAD you wrote this post. I think it’s wonderful. Really, truly, awesomely wonderful.

    • 

      You know you’ve helped me with this, don’t you?
      You really have. There are so many ways to be funny. It may take a little extra effort, but if we can avoid hurting one another for the sake of a joke, why not?

      Thank you for everything.

      • 

        I worry, sometimes, that I’m coming across as judgy or snotty, especially when I write that Walmartians photos and butt-crack pics make my heart hurt – it’s all about what unites us, rather than what divides us, isn’t it. And I’m not sure I want to be united at the expense of someone being turned into the butt of a joke.

        *sigh* I’m sure I get too worked up about this – there are LOTS of inappropriate or culturally taboo jokes I think are hilarious, so I’m probably also a hypocrite.

        I *did* think of a really funny, totally innocent joke, earlier, and I’m rather afraid I’ve forgotten it.

      • 

        You don’t come off as judgy or snotty. You do come off as highly compassionate. You also appear to hold your friends to a high standard of behavior, because you believe that the people you love are capable of improving the world.

        Inappropriate or taboo jokes, by definition, don’t necessarily come from a harmful place. For example – making jokes about redheads being soulless (although I suppose they’re not really taboo) are not what I consider divisive.

      • 

        I suppose to a large extent it depends on people’s personal experience. As someone who was bullied excessively about physical attributes, I find it very uncomfortable to join in jokes about bodies. That said, I laugh at a “Yo momma’s so fat…” joke as much as the next person, so perhaps I’m hypocritical after all, and just hypersensitive. I guess as much as we get hurt when we’re vulnerable about something, we also need to recognise when something isn’t intended personally, but as almost a joke at a stereotype or something. I don’t really know but…I don’t know. I know that 🙂

  22. 

    Jokes about eating disorders.

  23. 

    I actually don’t have anything more to add to this, than bravo! Hope this gets a lot of traction.

    One little minor thing though… check out this cool dude Nicolaus Copernicus, he was the one who actually started the whole Earth revolves around the Sun thing and not Galileo. What Galileo did was prove Copernicus right. What’s so neat about Copernicus is the whole reason he even thought things might be different is because it made his math work better. Sorry to be a nitpick, I just think Copernicus gets overlooked when he was such an awesome dude.

    • 

      You are 100% right. Galileo was simply advocating the teachings of Copernicus.
      I do have to check and see if Copernicus was prosecuted for it. I don’t think so. Maybe that’s why Galileo stood out more in my mind.

      • 

        No, I don’t believe he was, simply because he couldn’t really prove it, so people dismissed it. That’s actually still quite true in the science world, often when someone has a theory that counters the common belief there is a strong resistance to it but then someone always comes along and proves it (for the most part). Science has such a fascinating history! 😀

      • 

        I love science. Actually, I’m kind of a nerd and love all sorts of academic subjects.

  24. 

    I think it’s all about the intent and tone of the joke in question. Done in a certain way, almost anything can be turned into a joke that won’t offend. You have to know your audience, and if you’re trying to make a point, you have to be graceful.

    There is a fine line between humor and offensive, and it’s a difficult line to walk. Most people who offend have had the fortune to not see the other side of whatever it is they’re joking about.

    One of my trigger words is suicide. The casual way someone who’s having a bad day may say, “Shoot me,” just rubs me wrong. I’ve had someone attempt suicide right in front of me. I’ve also seen the devastation a family endures when one of their own has committed suicide. I don’t get on a high horse or anything, but my day gets a little darker and I think, “man, if you only knew.”

    I think people need to understand that there’s a difference between censorship and not being an insensitive prick. I don’t think it’s anyone’s intent to censor others, but certain topics bring thoughts and feelings up from where we’ve buried them at times when we’re not ready.

    • 

      This is perfect. Because you’ve put a lot of thought into your commentary, and that’s what I’m getting at. It’s so hard to decide what will or won’t offend people, but just the act of thinking about what you say is a step in the right direction.

      I don’t think it’s enough to not intentionally want to hurt someone. I believe we should also go the extra mile and avoid un-intentionally hurting people, if possible.

      I am guilty of saying things like “shoot me,” although I know your history and wouldn’t say it to you. Is this the kind of thing that you think should be eliminated from our vocabulary altogether, or should we just refrain from using it when we know someone has a history with it?

      • 

        Speaking for myself, I try to avoid all jokes that may offend someone until I get to know them better. I can have a pretty raunchy sense of humor, but I like to keep it hidden until I know a person. You never know what a person has been through.

        I agree that we should avoid unintentionally hurting people. I can’t stand knowing that I’ve caused someone pain. Unfortunately, some people are more concerned about their “freedom of speech” than the feelings of others, and therein lies the problem.

      • 

        You just completely summed up my point, in one sentence.
        “Unfortunately, some people are more concerned about their “freedom of speech” than the feelings of others.”

        Yep. We swung in the whole other direction, all in the name of freedom.

      • 

        Yeah…who cares if everyone’s fucked up as long as we can say whatever the hell we like?

  25. 

    I remembered my crappy joke:

    Q: Where do cows go on dates?
    A: To the MOOvies

  26. 

    Yeah, I get it.
    I can take a lot of shit, but I draw the line in the sand when so-called-comedians joke about fat people (Chris Christie), Rape, Domestic Abuse, Down Syndrome, Animal Abuse, Drug Overdose, Black people, White people, Jews, Women, The Kennedy’s, Hispanics, Mexicans, Feminism, Barbara Streisand……….etc….

    OMG, my kids are absolutely right. I have NO sense of humor at all.

    xxXxx great post.

  27. 

    Great piece, Samara. Fuck all the faux tough dudes who joke about rape, dismiss rape culture, disdain feminism and think this shit makes them manly. Decent people don’t punch down, they punch up. Any “humorist” who doesn’t understand this is really just a bully pretending to be a satirist.

    • 

      It actually blows my mind that a grown man could dismiss rape culture as not existing.
      Wow. Scary, right?
      Thank you so much for reading, and for commenting.

  28. 

    Part one: I certainly won’t stop loving you if you admit freely to having mental illness. I wouldn’t stop if you had a broken leg or a bad hair day, so why the hell would I stop because of mental illness?

    Part two: I think there can be really sick jokes, if they’re all collected in a place and you don’t have to go to that place if you don’t want to. There’s a comedian called Anthony Jeselnik who is the kind of guy with dark humor that… well… you laugh, and then immediately hate yourself for laughing. But, to watch him is to know what you’re getting into, and avoiding him is easy. Just don’t watch.

    Having said that, there certainly shouldn’t be joking about any of those topics, say, at work, or in the grocery store.

    • 

      Many people don’t want to be friends, not good friends anyway, with someone who has issues. It’s a lot of work. It’s easier to hide them and pretend I’m always okay, then to actually admit to someone that I’m depressed or that my PTSD is triggered.

      Trust me on this one, I’ve had friends tell me that I seek misery, when really I love being happy and don’t enjoy sliding into depression one bit.

      And yes, I think you make an excellent point. If I intentionally go to hear comedy that I know is really dark, that’s one thing. But I don’t need jokes about heroin overdoses showing up in my twitter feed.

      Thanks for stopping in. xo

      • 

        Some of us don’t seek misery, but because of all the thoughts and empathy and consideration, we see more of the dark underbelly than most. It can be depressing to find that most things that should give happiness have something a little off that we can’t quite shake. Just a white lie that we discover can change the whole nature of a relationship. Maybe some of that affects you, and maybe it’s something I know nothing about. But while everyone has problems, people experience them differently, process them differently, and handle them differently. I’m sure not a person who can judge.

      • 

        I don’t seek misery. I just have had a really hard life. That’s the truth.
        And one friend couldn’t handle it anymore. He ran out of empathy.
        I get it. It’s draining.

        On the upside, when I’m happy, I bring a lot of joy to people.

        When I’m not happy, I reserve whatever joy I have for when I’m around my kid. He gets the best part of me.

      • 

        Yes! All that. I am mostly quiet about my life, because the majority of it hasn’t really been bad. Just this one thing. I can be a drag sometimes about that one thing, but I have this humor – based coping mechanism. Sometimes it comes out at the worst time.

        I don’t know how I would be, had I experienced certain things, but I’m pragmatic. With a little luck.

        I do have a lot of experiences most people don’t, but none of them are necessarily bad.

      • 

        I really don’t know anything. I know what works for me. Beyond that, my advice is as it does.

  29. 

    Thanks, Samara. I was diagnosed bipolar in 1992 and for years I hesitated to disclose. Friends & coworkers know I’m bisexual, but I always thought mental illness would drive them away. It wasn’t until I became homeless and started blogging about it that I had to include every aspect of my life, including my disorder. There was just no way I could tell the story without telling, for example, that I had to choose between food & meds. I tried to make that funny. It’s not.

    And to echo the many articulate comments here, rape is not funny. I’ve never heard a comedian joking about rape who wasn’t highlighting & glorifying the dynamic between rapist & victim. I really would like to hear the people who’ve commented that they can turn anything into a joke. Maybe I’d laugh. Maybe I wouldn’t.

    • 

      See, some people think that ANYTHING can be a joke. I actually had a “humorist” tell me that a rape joke, in the right context, can be funny.
      No. No it can’t. Not in any context, on any planet, in any galaxy, ever.

  30. 

    I am on the anti-rape bandwagon, the anti Jew as an adjective bandwagon, the anti-gay bashing bandwagon and all the rest. Politically correct is now a bad word because people are thinking it is controlling. How about empathy. Let’s make empathy the new correct. You are spot on, as always.

  31. 

    “You’re fortunate to have led a white picket fence life, devoid of addiction, sexual assault or mental illness.” Wow. Just reading this made me think twice about my own life. I need to add experiencing child abuse into what you wrote. It’s funny though, when you grow up deep in the shit, you don’t know it as not normal. Thinking about being funny makes me reminisce about how I used to actually be pretty funny and witty. But I seem to have lost my funny bone. In writing, I must admit that I very much admire people who find the funny in the difficulty of their lives. Maybe at some point, I’ll find my funny again.

    Thanks for writing such a thoughtful piece!

    • 

      Humor is a wonderful way to heal. However, I don’t like it when people who have never been exposed to something like, for example, drug addiction, making snarky remarks about it for a cheap laugh.

      Yes, many of us grow up with adversity woven into the fabric of our lives. I think it makes us stronger than others who have not.
      I’m also looking on the bright side!

      Here’s to hoping you find your funny again. And thanks for stopping in. xoxox

  32. 

    Welp, I’m off to tag all of my posts with “Big Huge Cocks”. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

    But seriously. Great points in all. One of my favorite tweets that someone posted goes something like “Instead of me explaining why rape jokes aren’t funny, why don’t you explain why they are, go ahead, I’ll wait.”

  33. 

    With great humor comes great responsibility. Though I don’t use much bad language in my humor, it doesn’t bother me when other people do — when it’s funny or used as a punctiation mark to for timing. I love your stuff because you know how to use it as a tool instead of a crutch. But there’s never any reason in humor to be demeaning to others or their feelings. I’m always the first to make fun of myself. Well, unless it’s Kanye West. Aside from that, if I can’t poke fun at myself first, I have no business making fun of someone else (aside from Kanye…)

  34. 

    I see your point but I personally think humor is subjective and we are in a place, in America at least, where there is freedom of speech AND everyone has the option of tuning someone out that they don’t want to hear. If you find a joke offensive you know to steer clear of that comedian in the future. It can’t be unheard, I know, but maybe doing a little research into the type of humor before going to a show might work to avoid hearing the shit coming from their hole. I don’t personally enjoy shock humor but I recognize their right to say their joke and I admittedly judge those who laugh at it. Bad taste isn’t illegal. I find black comedians dropping the n word and joking about racism to be offensive and counter-productive to society and it actually saddens me that they are lifted up by so many. I disagree that if you have experience in something then it’s ok to joke about it, but they have the right and the following so it will continue. There is a point (in my opinion) where going on about something horrible (even if it’s done in a joking manner) is no longer productive but it is allowed.

    I think what it comes down to isn’t about a person having a voice (which is what the law is meant to do) but more about a person making it big at any cost. Morality is often the payment.

    Not sure if that all made sense, still on my 1st cup of coffee.

  35. 

    Great post and really insightful comments from all sides — thanks to Ned H for sharing it on FB otherwise I would have never seen this.

    I don’t believe in rules of engagement when it comes to writing/performing comedy — I know what matches my sensibilities and what doesn’t and have no problem tuning out what I don’t like — but I do believe in empathy and considering intent when writing humor.

    I think Sarah Silverman is immensely talented, empathetic and funny but she did a joke several years ago (and I believe it was published somewhere in a magazine profile on her) about a pedophile taking a young boy into the woods and I thought the joke was so reprehensible and hurtful to families and victims of such acts, that I couldn’t get past it for a long time. I remember thinking that with certain types of material that create real anguish and pain, the artist should not be allowed to hide behind their comic persona as such, but would have to own it as an individual. I know that’s a perspective that informs my writing.

  36. 

    My favorite posts are ones that make me laugh and learn something at the same time….and that I agree with the author whole hardheartedly. Thanks for giving me one.

  37. 

    The way I see things is like this: people are people, they’ve always been people, and they’re always going to be people…doing what people do. So the idea of “progress” just isn’t going to happen. OK…I think I’m wrong, too. But I think it’s going to take way longer than the rest of us would like.

    • 

      Oh, please let that not be true – that people don’t improve with awareness!
      Then again, you may be right. Case in point – Donald Trump.
      We’re doomed!

      • 

        I think SOME people CAN change. But it’s usually not the people who take control of things. But in the States, we have to blame the people who vote for the Reagans, the Bushes, and yikes, the Trumps. Who are those people who vote for these guys?

      • 

        The people who vote for Trump are the same people who make ignorant hurtful jokes.

      • 

        We should think of a way to make Trump an adjective. Or has someone already done that?

  38. 

    What a great message and a fantastic list! Where I notice the problem is actually within the discussions with our parents (mine and hubs). So terribly racist! We have tried to educate them and show how their words are hateful, but we are often met with “We don’t mean anything by that. It’s just a saying.”
    It’s not okay, and like you, that’s a drum I’m going to keep banging. (oh wow…that sounded dirty, huh??!)
    Love you. xo

  39. 

    I write a humor blog, but my humor is not going to offend anyone, unless the words penis and poop offend them. My almost claim to fame was that I made up a game years and years and years ago that ended up being like Cards Against Humanity, but MUCH BETTER. We all still play it 15 years later and vastly prefer it over CAH. When I discovered CAH for the first time and saw a card that said “The Virginia Tech Massacre”, that was way OTT for me. A game for horrible people? I realized I’m not that horrible. Or lazy. That’s Shock Jock cheapness. I’m also from Virginia. That shit offended me.

  40. 

    Humor is a tricky subject, I am still working on it…

  41. 

    Hey Samara,

    Great post! Excellent food for thought. Personally, I’m an everything’s-on-limits kind of humorist, but feel that if you’re going to make fun of one group or stereotype, you have to make fun of them all (kind of like South Park, except I can’t watch that show). I try my ass off to write humorously and would LOVE any feedback from you, if you cared to read a noob’s blog.

    I also had a question for you. Do you ever write humorously? I mean, a few things about this post made me chuckle, but you more wrote about humor, as opposed to writing in a humorous mode? Do you have any of your own posts that make you chuckle, something you could recommend that I read?

    Also, do you know of any genuinely funny blogs on wordpress? I have been searching and searching and almost nothing causes a genuine out-loud kind of laugh. Thanks for your time and keep on bloggin’ on.

    https://badparentingweb.wordpress.com (if you care to visit)

  42. 

    Okay, I’m going out on a limb here (so please hide the saw from all the people I’m probably about to piss off.)

    I don’t believe in absolutes, so I don’t believe any topic is off-limits. But I do believe that both context and construction matter. Personally, while I think it’s kind of rude (and mean) to exploit someone’s pain just for a laugh, humor done well can raise awareness by re-framing injurious and uncomfortable topics in ways that make audiences consider different perspectives and reexamine their assumptions.

    • 

      Yes. Humor done WELL. Unfortunately there are a lot of talentless people who call themselves humorists. They don’t have the skill to reframe a painting, much less an uncomfortable topic.
      I agree with you and thank you for commenting.

  43. 

    rape is not a matter of joke, it is a serious issue for everyone, stop rape and save women’s, girl’s and child from this heinous crime……..
    Read my blog on girl’s character….I hope you love it…….
    https://breadomlette.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/why-people-can-only-raise-a-finger-to-girls-character/
    https://breadomlette.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/sochne-waali-baat-hai/

  44. 
    Angela Michelle Thibert November 2, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Good post! I think that we are finally getting just the right amount of sensitive in our lives. Its about time that we realize exactly what we are saying and how language has a huge impact on society. Rape jokes are definatley not funny, nor is calling someone gay or retarded. To make fun of something tragic that happened to someone, or how somebody was born is so insensitive. I could go on and on, it is a touchy subject.

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