Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's funny - you just don't get it

The thing about comedy is it’s completely subjective. What’s funny to me may not be funny to you. What’s acceptable to me might not be acceptable to you. And vice versa. It’s pretty much pointless arguing these issues with someone who disagrees because it’s opinion, not objective fact. So if you disagree with my opinion, clearly you’re wrong and I’m right but I’m not going to waste time arguing opinions.
You’re free to disagree but I won’t engage with anyone who wants to argue via comments because it’s pointless. It’s pointless because it’s the wrong medium for a discussion, I don’t have the time to keep replying to people who just go on and on and on and can’t just make their point and be done with. These people who simply will not shut the fuck up. And they have no real interest in discussion they just want to grind people down by droning on and on and on because they think getting the last word is equivalent to winning and they will not shut the fuck up, why won’t they shut the fuck up? If there really was a god he would strike these fuckers down with lightning that’s what I want to happen I want them dead I want them to die painfully and horribly that is not a figure of speech I want them to DIE like something out of Happy Tree Friends, I want them to slip in their own drool and smash their face into their keyboard so hard the keys pop out and burst their eyeballs and the keys get driven right into their brain AND THEY DIE!
OK, that went off track. A little. The point is, I’m used to people who don’t want to debate, they just want to be shouting the loudest. I refuse to waste time with these people. You want to say your piece then say it and move on. Don’t expect any tolerance from me if you won’t shut the fuck up. In fact, if you want to engage with me you have to put in as much effort as me. If you think you’re right and I’m wrong you have to make a video going into at least as much depth as I do or I DON’T FUCKING CARE!
So... the theory of comedy. There are many forms of comedy. My favourite form is satire of the type that dates back to the European Medieval tradition of the fool or the court jester. The fool was the stupidest person, the lowest rank so he could say anything without fear of retribution. The job of the jester is to entertain but what the jester can do that nobody else can do is speak truth to power. He can point out the king is an idiot because what harm is there is someone so low insulting someone so high? You could argue that the idea of playing dumb to expose someone who thinks they are smarter goes back further. For instance, Sascha Baron Cohen is basically using Platonic Irony (oh yes, I’m bringing up Plato and ancient Greek philosophy), particularly with characters like Ali G and Borat, to get people to expose their inconsistencies and prejudices. But I prefer the tradition of the fool that you often see in Shakespeare plays.
You see that? I’m a fucking intellectual. Don’t fuck with me.
Essentially, this sort of satire is making fun of things. Rather than making up jokes, the satirist is looking at people, or things, or situations, or social conventions and saying “OK, here’s what I think is stupid about that.” Now you might have noticed I’m not into playing it safe. I like to push people’s buttons. I don’t think there’s any topic that is off limits if you’re funny enough. For me, funny enough means having enough skill as a comedian, actually having a point to what you’re doing and hitting a target that deserves to be hit.
This is why the tradition of the fool is meaningful because to me the difference between being funny and being a prick is who’s telling the joke and who’s the target? The little guy gets away with ripping on the big guy because that’s all the little guy has and how does it really hurt the big guy? At the end of the day, the fool is still a fool and the king is still a king. But when the one in power is making jokes at the expense of someone weaker than them, that’s being a prick.
This is why I’m stunned by white people who will say things like a black person doing white face is the same as a white person doing black face. Do you not see the power imbalance there? Do you not get the difference between implicitly saying “stay in your place darkie” and trying to challenge the power structure? And do you not get that ignorance of a long history of racism that you’ve never been on the receiving end of is not a fucking excuse?
Another reason I feel it’s important to think about these sorts of things is for personal integrity. First, I think it simply makes this sort of joke funnier if you’ve put some thought into it. Second, not everyone’s going to agree with you, not everyone’s going to get it. If you’re comfortable in yourself with what you’re doing then it isn’t going to matter as much when people attack you (and people will, inevitably, attack you.) Let’s be honest, saying “aw, c’mon, it’s a fucking joke, lighten up” is a pretty fucking lame defence.
I’ve been called everything from a soft, uptight PC liberal to a white supremacist. In the last week. About the same video. I know stupid. I deal with stupid every day. The secret to not giving a fuck about stupid people is having enough integrity in what you’re doing that stupid people don’t matter. People are always going to find different things funny and be offended by different things but if you’re telling someone they don’t get it and the truth is you’re being an ignorant prick, the real truth is, you’re the one who doesn’t get it.

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