Gordon and I have talked about offensiveness as far as stand-up comedy, and came to the general consensus that if you’re mocking the perpetrators of rape and racism you are doing a good thing. You can joke about hot-button issues if you’re not demeaning them, if you’re using satire and not just being an uncouth [and unfunny] person. You are permitted to broach these topics because you are doing so in a respectful manner.
Now, from time to time I like to peruse the funny pictures on the popular image hosting site imgur, which I continue to pronounce “im-gur” in spite of being directly told I was wrong on the site’s FAQ. Part of what makes the site so popular is its community, responsible for the comments on various images being rewarded by “upvotes,” mostly due to their level of wit.
There is another scale of judgement when it comes to doling out internet points, however, and it directly ties into what I was writing about offence and comedy. See the image below:
EVAN: Hey, readers. Welcome back to yet another segment of “Evan and Gordon Talk.” This week we’re going to be discussing the limits of stand-up comedy, specifically in terms of crassness. How far, exactly, is too far?
GORDON: I’m gonna come on out swinging say that there’s really no such thing as “limits,” just inappropriate timing and venue.
EVAN: Alright, well, let’s take an example and see if you can provide an appropriate time and venue. To retread some well-worn territory, how about rape jokes?
GORDON: Before our readers jump to conclusions, please here me out-
Rape jokes aren’t alone in being terrible things. We have murder, the Holocaust, disease, Darfur- you name it. Yet we set rape aside. My best estimation for why that is for us (in the west) is that it’s a clear and present issue- as opposed to starvation and disease. It is, therefore, something that’s close to home- something that we don’t typically joke about on the grounds that it’s, well, “real,” for lack of a better term.
Now I’d be hard pressed to imagine a scenario in which a rape joke would be okay. But then again, if I were living in the late 1940s, I believe I’d be just as hard pressed to imagine a situation in which a Holocaust joke would be funny.
EVAN: I’m still waiting for an answer to the question.
I’ve got a video that my brother is quite fond of where Ricky Gervais jokes about Hitler and Nietzsche, and it’s actually quite funny, and does involve the Holocaust. I suppose it could be argued that time has allowed us to not turn to the oft-used cry of “too soon.” But, again, I am interested to know about a way rape jokes might be considered not extremely inappropriate.
GORDON: My point is- I can’t see the future; none of us can. The fact that I can’t imagine a venue in which such a thing would be funny doesn’t mean that it, like the Holocaust or any terrible event, won’t be joked about years from now and be just as funny as that Ricky Gervais bit.
You see what I’m saying?
EVAN: I think what needs to be discussed is the difference between funny and appropriate.
GORDON: Touché. But before we get into that, let’s clarify our terms here.
We’ve been saying “rape joke,” but the truth of the matter is, we’re not talking about “rape jokes”- we’re talking about ones specifically pertaining to women, aren’t we? I mean, how many “Don’t drop the soap!” jokes do we hear and think nothing of?
*For clarification to our readers- what got Evan and I thinking about this was a Tosh scandal– look it up.
EVAN: Okay, so specifically jokes regarding male on female rape, to clarify. Go on.
GORDON: Well- doesn’t that force us to rethink the entire question? With that in mind, do we have to ask rather “Who can be joked about?”
EVAN: I think that’s a pretty vague question. We can joke about a lot of people: kids, politicians, Americans-
There’s a difference between a priest walking into a bar and a woman who’s been sexually assaulted.
GORDON: Let me offer you this, for clarification. There’s a bit by (awesome) comedian Aziz Ansari which includes a rape joke. In this case the “victim” in the situation is a man. There was no outrage.
Contrast this with the outrage that surrounds rape jokes regarding women. Why is there this difference in public reaction?
EVAN: Again, what I’m asking is to specifically discuss an appropriate time and venue for the type of joke already clarified. To explore the difference is to go back to what you said earlier, that rape for us in the West is more “real” than genocide or drought, etc.
You explained it yourself fairly quickly, I think. For most of the public rape of men is not as “real” as the rape of women.
GORDON: Then, as awful as it sounds to us now, isn’t it possible that in a world where female rape is as “real” as the Holocaust (or any of the other stuff terrible stuff we joke about today) it’d be just as tame as the aforementioned jokes?
EVAN: But all you’re saying is that there’s a possible future in which rape jokes are acceptable. As an “appropriate time and venue” the same can be said of everything from cannibalizing your own children to bestiality.
I’d also argue that the aforementioned jokes aren’t classified as “tame” even today. Just less sensitive.
GORDON: Fair enough. I guess I should restate my position.
The issue isn’t with what gets put into a joke, so much as who or what is being mocked. Mocking a victim- be it a murder victim, rape victim, holocaust victim- that’s not cool.
EVAN: Let me try to reiterate what you’re saying- We can mock an action, just not the victim?
GORDON: Absolutely- as we wound up concluding in our discussion of “ironic racism,” the point is to satirize/mock/etc. racism for the hideous and idiotic thing that it is.
EVAN: As often exemplified by comedians such as Russell Peters and Dave Chappelle.
I could cite similar jabs at that Arch-Dirtbag Todd Akin by political comedians and satirists who used rape NOT to make fun of rape, but to make fun of Todd Akin’s mind-boggling moronic views on the very same subject, and NOT to make fun of rape victims.
EVAN: That’s a really great way of putting it.
And I think this is the first time we’ve actually really broken down a topic, instead of following rabbit trails and culminating with me mocking you for your human failings.
GORDON: You’re just losing your touch.
EVAN: Hey, this has been a fairly deep and legitimate conversation.
GORDON: That it has.
EVAN: And we are now reaching the end of our allotted 45 minutes. The two choices for next week’s topic are:
GORDON: What’s the greatest flaw of our generation?
EVAN: And “Television Wars.” i.e. all of the shows that feel the need to just slap words in front of the word “wars” and have at it.
Once again, thank you all for reading. Feel free to stick around and check out other posts, and definitely come back next Wednesday for our next installment.