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kitszu's avatar

Where do you draw the line between what's funny and what is offensive?

Asked by kitszu (1311 points ) January 15th, 2013

So last night I watched (for the first time) Eddie Murphy’s “Delerious”. I laughed my a** off at everything he said.

Tonight I watched another comedian (didn’t pay attention to the name but he did/does roasts on “The Burn” I think). Funny as hell and way more offensive/politically incorrect.

I remember back in high school getting very pissed off and offended by a “starving ethiopian/donut” joke. I just couldn’t see how a group of starving people could ever be considered funny.

This comedian was talking about rape and sexual molestation, etc none of which I find to be the least bit funny and yet, I still laughed my butt off.

I want to feel guilty but I don’t. Just a mild curiosity for why we can be disgusted with something on one hand and find it funny as heck on the other. I know the obvious answer (context), just looking for more imput.

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31 Answers

ucme's avatar

Personally, I haven’t got a line to draw, my crayon just snapped.
Comedy/satire has no boundaries & that’s as it should be, one guy talking here of course, opinions are bound to differ.

CWOTUS's avatar

Personally, I think it’s a sign of intelligence to be able to laugh at things that truly are offensive, and to do it with full awareness. That is, recognize that the thing that’s being joked about is horrific, wrong, awful, evil – whatever way it is bad – but can still get a laugh. (I’m very sad about those who can only see the wickedness, but can’t find the joke, and sadder still for those who can get the joke but not see the wickedness.)

El_Cadejo's avatar

There is no line for me. My philosophy is chill out, its just a joke don’t take life so seriously.

kitszu's avatar

@ucme Ah crap, tell me it wasn’t one of the pretty colors!

Mmmm, I guess it doesn’t really matter, they make crayon sharpeners for that, lol.

Personally I agree with you. I took myself (and everything else) way too seriously back in the day, the ethiopian joke wouldn’t have been funny anyway because, it just wasn’t a funny joke. The difference is, today, I wouldn’t have laughed but I also wouldn’t have flipped out the person telling it (lol).

It’s that whole ‘differing opinions’ thing that makes me ask questions I already have an opinion on, though. I think we run the risk of having reigns and blinders put on us if we spend too much time with people who think too closely to the way we do.

kitszu's avatar

I feel sorry for people who have personally experienced what the joke is about and have been too damaged to be able to laugh about it later. (At any point in their lives and not about what happened to them personally, the joke in general.)

Shippy's avatar

Maybe that is what is wrong with the world we laugh at people being hurt and raped.

ucme's avatar

@kitszu If somethings funny then it’s funny, if it’s not, then it’s not, regardless of the material…it really is that simple.

Pachy's avatar

Well, it’s really not that simple, @kitszu. One person’s funny can be another’s offense. It depends on age, experience, upbringing, culture, personal sensibilities, and other factors. Each person has to decide for himself or herself what the line between funny and offensive is… a line which, by the way, often tends to shift for many persons over time.

mattbrowne's avatar

I simply ask myself: Is there a hidden agenda or not? (like promoting racism or not, promoting discrimination or not)

kitszu's avatar

And maybe that’s how some people deal with a screwed up world. I don’t know, just fishing for thoughts that aren’t mine, lol.

Pachy's avatar

I doubt women in Syria or Syrian women anywhere would do much chuckling at “jokes” about rape.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I have a hard time finding humor in things that are hurtful to other people. I just do, and I always have.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

It’s different for everyone. There is no universal clear line. My line is any jokes about child abuse of any sort. Other people laugh at dead baby jokes or child molestation. I can’t. Ever. But then I’m sure I can laugh at some jokes that others can’t laugh at.

tom_g's avatar

I don’t see “funny” and “offensive” on the same axis.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I can find humor in almost everything, the only things I prefer not to be jokey about are the ones that really end up being the funniest like religion, race, sexual orientation, etc…. Sure, rape is not funny, but I’ve heard some funny jokes about it, and I didn’t take offense.

There are tons of jokes about Christianity and God and even here on fluther, it gets pretty jokey when we discuss religion, and even though I don’t think much of that is funny personally, I respect the right of others to ‘pursue happiness’ as it’s not harming me or anyone else, it’s just words.

A lot of people try to be so politically correct, that you can’t say anything or you make someone mad, it’s ridiculously stifling. As long as people still pay comedians to perform those kind of jokes and consumers attend, it will continue.

Jaxk's avatar

Almost all humor is making fun of someone. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you shouldn’t laugh at anyone. The problem with really offensive jokes comes when they don’t work. If it’s not funny, all you’re left with is the offense. It’s a little risky.

AshLeigh's avatar

Jokes, for me, are meant to be offensive. Acting like really serious things are no big deal is a huge part of comedy.
I can laugh at anything.

ucme's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room I thought it went without saying that I was referring to individual tastes, obviously.

Coloma's avatar

I have a great sense of humor but I don’t find humor in rape jokes and other extremely offensive material. I see it as a sign of low comedic intellect. I am funny as hell with little more than the occasional expletives tossed in.
Someone posted the other day about raping 2 year olds until you hear their pelvis crack, that is just disgusting. Truly funny comics are originals, able to come up with funny routines without resorting to base toilet humor and offensive parody.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Coloma Agree with you on that one, geesh.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

*input. Unless you wanted stuff from imps? :P

I think it’s a case of how times have changed. Some things people find funny, some things people don’t. Obviously context is the thing but I think it also depends on a person’s different sense of humor and acceptance of what is ok to be funny about and what isn’t.
For instance, for a black guy to pull jokes and drop the N bomb every five minutes, it might make people laugh. But if a white guy did that? I wouldn’t be too sure. I think he’d have to be very good to get away with that.

I don’t mind the odd racist joke – so long as it’s not really bad – and I’m okay with the sexist jokes too, there’s plenty of that still on TV, but when it gets to serious stuff like that which @Coloma mentioned….I couldn’t get more put off quick enough.

Coloma's avatar

^^^ Agreed 100%. I like a serial killer joke now and then, but I certainly wouldn’t blame the family who lost a loved one to a serial killer to not consider it amusing. Still, serial killer jokes are not even close to depraved baby raping jokes. I make blonde jokes about myself all the time, ” Look out… left handed, right brained blonde coming ”, but truly depraved offensive “humor” is the weak link of ” creativity.”

kitszu's avatar

@Coloma I don’t think rape jokes are funny. I don’t think it’s funny to joke about molesting kids on any level. If I ever found out that someone had molested my son, I don’t think I’m joking when I say that I’d kill them and gladly do the time for it.

I don’t think most people would think these kinds of jokes were funny, until you take the actual human being out the equation

Again, it goes to context but also what you said has refered back to what I said about being so pissed off about the “ethiopian/donut” joke. There wasn’t one of those kids that were there that didn’t think I ‘over’ reacted by being offended by it. The only thing I said was that I didn’t think making jokes about people who were literally starving was funny.

emilianate's avatar

You were probably watching Anthony Jeselnik new album called Caligula which premiered Sunday night on Comedy central. There were a lot more funnier/offensive jokes but comedy central cuts them out because it’s too much for TV which is why he is selling the album with the uncut version.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

My gut is good at telling the difference. Certain groups are always joked about and that kind of thing reflects real injustice. Do I sometimes laugh at these things though I know it’s wrong? Sure. But it really really depends because I only do that in certain settings with people that know, for a fact, that I would NEVER actually be laughing at these people/situations and that in my life, in general, I work against everything the stupid comedian upholds with their jokes. Other comedians tell a different reality, they’re activists, to me. They make fun of the injustice in a way that doesn’t make me want to vomit. Margaret Cho, for example, speaks truth so often. But it sounds like truth to me, maybe not to others. With my friends, we make a lot of jokes that are racist and homophobic and sexist and all that but they’re just reworked shit of what we actually face every day and we do this because humor is liberating and that’s when reclamations work. So instead of making fun of women in general, I will make fun of how I am perceived by others because they think I’m a woman and my friends get the difference. If you randomly walk in on our conversations, we’ll have to mention a caveat that we don’t actually believe in the things we say, that we laugh so we don’t cry instead. It’s a fine line, I guess.

YARNLADY's avatar

I haven’t taken the time to analyze the type of jokes I don’t find funny, but I do find it very hard to laugh with a frown on my face, so if it makes me frown, it’s not funny.

dabbler's avatar

I don’t think there is a line between. There is substantial overlap.
Funny is funny, that involves surprising the audience.
It might also be offensive. Plenty of stuff is perceived funny because it’s offensive, such as comedian routines with a lot of F-bombs in them. Regular folk aren’t constantly F-bombing so this is shocking/surprising to them.
If the joke is any good there’s something surprisingly clever about it too, at least, otherwise it’s a cheap laugh.

Coloma's avatar

Humorous question of the night just showed up.
” Ear hurts and feels like something is crawling in it.”
Well….have you had anyone look in your ear for centipedes? Duh!

dabbler's avatar

That’s insensitive to people without ears, and offensive to podophobics.

Coloma's avatar

@dabbler I wouldn’t be surprised.lol

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