Offensive jokes can be hilarious. Unfortunately, not all jokes are funny. Many are lame. Not all funny things are jokes. Some things that are offensive are also funny. Some offensive jokes are not funny at all. And certainly there are some things that are too offensive to print or post or say.
Humour by its nature is about playing with meaning, the unexpected and the ironic. If something is offensive but also funny, it is often excusable, depending on context. It can be used ironically, satirically or sarcastically. Humour itself is also one of the mature responses to a negative experience. Humour heals wounds, delivers unexpected joy and sometimes allows people to reflect on serious topics in a novel way.
One major problem with some offensive jokes is that they are just not funny. Most of the time they are horribly lame. Retorting to a heckler who doesn’t think rape jokes are funny that it would be funny if she got gang raped on the spot doesn’t even work as a joke. Why is that funny exactly? That’s like saying to someone who doesn’t think snakes are funny that it would be funny if snakes bit them. It’s just lame.
Sometimes it’s because they’re told because the joke-teller believes with all seriousness in the offensive content – that racism or rape or starvation or the Holocaust are actually totally fine or justified. The “abo memes” Facebook group comes to mind here. The end result is often that the joke is really lame unless you also believe in their weird views.
The final problem is when the content is too offensive for anyone to find acceptable or funny because everyone is busy being angry or disgusted to see the funny side. This final one is usually less of a problem for the reasons that I’ve highlighted above. Tubgirl or 2 girls 1 cup strike me as too disgusting to be enjoyed in any way as a joke. Goatse barely scrapes in.
Are certain topics completely unable to be joked about? I don’t think so. I think it depends on whether the joke is funny, what the intent of the joke is and who the audience is. Telling Holocaust jokes to Jews or pedo jokes to victims of sexual abuse or homophobic jokes to gays is probably not going to work unless they are in on the joke in some way.
- My take on the Holocaust and humour (smh.com.au)
- Offensive Play: The Politics of Cards Against Humanity (mediumdifficulty.com)
- Dotcom draws fire for rape joke tweets (stuff.co.nz)