On Saturday, I went to a comedy show. I don’t intend to mention any names in this post, as that’s not the point of this post.
I found it interesting that every performer, the openers and headliner alike, spoke some form of “comedy’s getting hard because people are more sensitive” near the beginning of their act.
Of the openers, two were received very well, and one received a lukewarm response. Thinking about the show later, I realized something crucial.
Let me pause for a moment to say I’m well aware I’m no comedian. I can’t refute comedians’ assessment that comedy is getting harder. What I can offer, however, is an outsider’s perspective of the situation.
Now, back to my point. The jokes that were received poorly all involved directly making fun of a person or group of people. Jokes involving self-deprecation, making fun of actions and/or events, telling life stories, etc. were all very well received. Even a couple of jokes about stereotypes went over alright.
As an example, one comedian told a story about a woman who spoke to her after a past show to complain that she was offended by a joke. The comedian said she had apologized, but the woman would not accept the apology. She then went on to poke fun at the way some people are simply miserable and her own way of handling the situation. When she imitated the woman’s voice, it was so clearly distorted as to be a caricature, rather than an attempt to realistically recreate the voice.
The crowd was roaring with laughter. It was hilarious. The joke was at the expense of the woman’s unreasonable behavior and the comedian’s response to it, not the woman herself.
In contrast, a different comedian told jokes directly making fun of a woman’s size. Sure, he received some laughter, but it was stilted, and many people around me made their opinions known to their friends and/or partners. I heard several variations of “that’s mean” and “that’s not funny.” I imagine, had the comedian continued in a similar vein, boos would have followed.
Like I said, I’m not a comedian, but it seems obvious to me that it’s fairly simple to avoid jokes that are likely to upset people. Granted, you can’t please everyone, but I’m talking about a majority.
It appears obvious, to me, that comedians could simply avoid any joke directly making fun of a specific person or people, especially their appearance.
Perhaps simply this act of self repression, or censorship, in the name of compassion and understanding is what comedians feel is making things “hard.” But, if the rest of the world is learning to be more compassionate, I don’t see why it’s so much harder for comedians.
Have you made any similar observations? Or do you completely disagree? Let me know (respectfully, please) in the comments.