Sometimes, when you tell an offensive joke and people don’t laugh, the offensive bit wasn’t the only problem.
Sometimes the joke needs some work too.
Sometimes it just wasn’t funny.
Recently, a Nebraska politician came under fire for re-tweeting a joke about the Women’s March.
I’m not going to get into the whole thing here because frankly, the joke wasn’t funny the first time, nor was it funny when the state senator re-tweeted it. But if you’re interested, here’s a link to an article on it from the Lincoln Journal Star.
(The article also details the senator’s other controversies – including using his state-owned laptop for cybersex with a stranger. So, yeah this wasn’t just about the tweet. There was more to it than that. But for now, we’re going to talk about the tweet.)
When he received some inevitable push-back on the tweet, the senator inevitably took it down. But not before he spent spent hours arguing back and forth with people about it. Because, as we all know, any good joke requires hours of explanation to make sure people “get it”).
And, even when did resign, (after he was asked to do so from senators from both parties) he wouldn’t admit to doing anything wrong.
I’m sick of this behavior. I’m sick of people making offensive jokes and then complaining when people get offended. That’s how these types of jokes work.
When you decide to tell an offensive joke, you are voluntarily taking a risk. You’re making a bet that what you are about to say is slightly more funny than it is mean. You’re guessing that your joke will make people laugh at least slightly more than it will make them angry.
Sometimes, you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong.
Sometimes you miscalculate and there isn’t enough humor to balance out the mean.
This can make you look like a jerk. That’s on you. That’s a consequence of your behavior and adults own that. They don’t get to turn on their audience and claim they’re the problem. That they’re all just humorless.
People are not required to laugh at jokes they don’t think are funny. They don’t have to pretend they like them.
This is not a Liberal versus Conservative thing or a Democrats versus Republicans thing or even a political correctness thing.
It’s just how jokes work.
And, before you think I’m being biased, let me point out, this applies to everyone, regardless of political party.
The politician I mentioned earlier does happen to be a Republican, but I also don’t think Katie Rich’s joke about Barron Trump was funny. He’s 10. Leave him alone. It’s not clever to pick on people who have no way to fight back. It’s lazy. Do better. It’s your job.
And as much as I’ve heard people say things like “people can’t take jokes any more” or “it’s like no one has a sense of humor these days”, that’s just not true.
Many people whose job it is to be funny, are actually being funny.
We’re living in a new golden age of television. This is the time of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and a revitalized HBO, if you can’t find something funny to watch on one of them, you’re not looking hard enough.
There is a treasure trove of funny out there, and some of it’s even nice.
Here’s a random sampling of some of my favorite, funny (but also nice) shows and movies:
- Moone Boy – It’s a sweet, silly show about a lovable Irish boy and his imaginary friend, played by Chris O’Dowd. It’s adorable. The entire, three-season series is streaming on Hulu.
- Zootopia – Yeah, I know, it’s a kids’ movie but it’s surprisingly funny and it has a nice message about diversity that is poignant without being too preachy. It was just nominated for an Oscar. But, more importantly, there are sloths.
- Golden Girls – Betty White! All of the episodes are coming to Hulu in time for Galentine’s Day.
- Bob’s Burgers – This show, and the family it features, are weird and wonderful. Also, when I grow up, I want to be like Louise Belcher – a fictional, nine-year old girl. This probably sounds nuts, but if you watch the show, you’ll get it.
- Parks and Recreation – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson are the comedy duo we so desperately need right now. They’re political opposites but they’re buds who agree on all of the important stuff, as Leslie would say: “Friends, waffles,work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work comes third.”
P.S. If you have any more suggestions for funny (but also, sort of nice) entertainment, please send it my way. I think we could all use a bit more of it right now.