Monday, April 19, 2010

Offensive ≠ Funny

Too often, I have heard people (typically conservatives) use terms like "sensitive" and "politically correct" in a pejorative manner. To be honest, I know most liberals aren't always as sensitive as we should be. Behind closed doors, we all say things that are more offensive than we should. The big difference is that we know better and tend to speak more respectfully in public. Deep down, we truly don't want to offend others. But we make mistakes.

The problem is, conservatives who are trying to be funny confound offensive with funny and take their hate speech into the public square. When we speak out against their offensive language, they become defensive and start using all kinds of broken logic to justify what they've said. God forbid we try to suppress their freedom of speech.

Believe me, we care about free speech as much as they do. They have the "right" to say all kinds of hateful trash, and we have the "right" to call them out for it.

The point is, being offensive alone does not make you funny. Especially when your joke falls flat, it makes you look like an idiot. Like when satire is grossly misunderstood and turns out like this trash from the Rover:
Oh, and Polacks suck. The only thing Polacks have ever contributed to civilization are John Paul II and Esperanto. They can't even avoid crashing their presidential plane.
Or when IU bro-champion Yale Reardon thinks that crude objectification of women is inherently entertaining:
Or when a intentionally satirical cartoon isn't funny and turns out to just look homophobic:

Being offensive alone does not make you funny. In fact, if you were actually funny, people probably wouldn't find it offensive anymore. In closing, I urge people to consult the following chart before opening their mouths with hate-spew. Take a lesson from the masters.


Not Funny


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Thomas Wachtel said...

Punnett squares can do anything, huh?

Well put. And Mencia somehow manages to be negatively funny even just in a photo. I don't know how he does it.

Sarah Furman said...

"The big difference is that we know better and tend to speak more respectfully in public. Deep down, we truly don't want to offend others."

I don't really like this. I'm not a huge fan of demonizing the "conservatives" as an entire group (although I do think that they have word vomit issues at times.)

What's interesting about what you wrote is that saying stuff behind closed doors doesn't really mean that you "truly don't want to offend others," but that you know what you're saying is wrong, which is perhaps worse.

Rabi Abonour said...

I don't think being funny necessarily makes something more appropriate, but the examples you posted certainly do fall flat.

Also, the world would be a much better place without Carlos Mencia:

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Sarah on this one.

"Behind closed doors, we all say things that are more offensive than we should."

I thinks this amounts to admitting at least that liberals aren't perfect. To pretend that this doesn't personally occur is to be either angelic or dishonest.

Brian said...

Carlos Mencia is a waste of space.

Anonymous said...

OMG that Michael Richards clip is fucked up!

Anonymous said...

I find Carlos Mencia's unfunniness to be very offensive; so I think you got that wrong.

Riyath Mallahi said...

To re-iterate an earlier point, I think it is a mistake to conflate conservatives with being "offensive". As much as I hate the moral equivalency card (x does it JUST as bad as y, so they're both wrong), so-called offensiveness is a human condition; we are all prone to make inappropriate gaffes.

However, I do agree that the examples you've chosen are in poor taste. But as a general principle, I think it is difficult to set in place a standard for "offensiveness". Who decides? Sensibilities differ greatly between different groups. As much as I love Dave Chappelle, one of your examples of "not offensive and funny", he could in fact be very offensive to some, even if just for his use of the "n-word".

Offensiveness in and of itself is not something we should condemn. Rather, we should ask, "To what end?" Offensiveness can shock a society and expose unexpressed truths. I will agree with you though that crass and derogatory words, for the sole purpose of being crass and derogatory, are simply mean.

Henry James Vasquez said...

It's worth debating my Punnett Square examples individually, but people should at least get how it operates before saying something.

Mencia: Not Funny, Not Offensive (tries to be all the time, is occasionally offensive when it comes to using "retard." I'll give you that).
Seinfeld: Funny, Not offensive
Chappelle: Funny AND Offensive
Michael Richards Clip: Not Funny. Very Offensive.

Tim Ryan said...

For a masters course in funny and offensive: All you have to do is watch South Park. Seriously, people, watch South Park.

Henry James Vasquez said...

By popular request, and because people really don't need to see the hatefest that is Michael Richards, I've adjusted my square to be more fitting.

Anonymous said...

That's more like it, Henry

Sarah Jones said...

Yes, we can all agree that Jay Leno is neither offensive nor funny.

I will say that I tend to agree that the issue of what's in poor taste is one that's difficult to have. Blankets statements are just too hard to make. Different people find different things offensive.. and in the world of comedy, it never really pays off to be safe. It's a difficult line to walk.

Emerson Spartz said...

I feel so uncultured. I don't know who the guy is in the bottom left.

Henry James Vasquez said...

It's okay. You don't need to waste your time with Carlos Mencia.

templariidvm said...

Neither conservatives nor liberals have the corner on "unfunny". For what happens when "hate speech" becomes banned, see the Canadian Human Rights Council (Ugh!). When either side tosses around the ad hominems, the Nazi and Fascist comparisons (I heard term Nazi more in the last 4 years then I did when I studied World War II!), and all the other smears, it simply shows the weakness of their arguments - period. Both sides need to stick with intelligent debate. Yes, it is a bit more difficult but it is worthwhile. If you just wanna talk trash, save it for your dog.

My 2 cents.