Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Beneath the Surface of (Offensive) Comedy

Hello Peeps! Let me start by saying this is my opinion, like everything else on this blog.  Other comedians might feel differently, but, hey, maybe they feel the same...

Remember those movies you and your siblings watched again and again as kids? You know - the ones you had recorded on VCR so that you can watch it every morning of the holidays and re-enact it every afternoon so much so that it drove your mother mad? We had The Lion King and Mary Poppins. We watched it so much, we believed what we performed.

I once watched the office NBC seasons 1 to 5 about 5 times. I loved everything about it. The awkward mock documentary (mocumentary) style, the honest filming, the pranks, the facial expressions, the reactions, the agonizing personality clashes, etc. It's like big brother. Only better. because it's scripted, it's in an office and it had Steve Carell.

Steve Carell played Michael Scott, my favourite TV character of all time. Michael Scott is one of my biggest influences in comedy and one of the reasons I repeated watching the first five seasons 5 whole times (also, at that time, I had no friends - I know right?!!).  Give the amount of time I spent watching the show, I've really thought about why I find it so funny.

The misinformed, well meaning, unintentionally offensive Michael makes you squirm but his isolation, humanity and occasional sweetness make you empathize with him. It's kind of like seeing your own irritating behavior in another human but exaggerated. He is so obliviously offensive that you can't help but find it endearing.

Some of Michael's funny and offensive moments:



The great thing abut Michael Scott is that he is a beloved character from popular television.  Most of us have heard of him, and most of us find him funny.  Technically, he is offensive, yet we accept this and choose to laugh instead of being outraged.

What Michael Scott did for me: he gave me permission to say what I think. If anyone can love a guy for being that open, heck, why should I hide what I think?!

Yes, I've misplaced this freedom in the workplace, I've gotten in trouble over "having no boundaries" and "being disrespectful", some of the reasons I am "self employed" today. I have no regrets, though! It's made me an honest human being and helped me find my style as a comedian.

Unintentional offense is a powerful thing. It stings because we all think it, but feel ashamed to say it.  While in real life, this (sadly) won't fly, on stage, it's a different story.  Like the Michael Scotts of TV, the comic on stage is absolved from the responsibility of offensive humour because, well, it's a comedy show and that's what we do.

Some of my finer moments:



This leaves some audience members (especially the ones that had free tickets) offended and, at times, confrontational.

For those who are offended, listen up!  It's true that being mean is offensive.  On a deeper level, though, it is insightful.  Beneath the surface of insult humour, there is always a deeper message about people / places / contexts / your beloved comic.

Take Michael Scott, for example - his wild statements about homosexuality divert attention from actual homosexuality to his own outrageous attitude, so much so, that by the end of it, we are not offended by homosexuality, but rather, the prejudice and judgement associated with it.  The same is true for his statements on "retards" and mine on the poor and the fat. 

So, long story short - When it comes to comedy, Don't feel offended! Think about the joke, figure out the deeper message, feel clever for being clever, you clever thing, and tell all your friends!

Love u. ;-)

PS.  I think I should also do this...

 I'd love to hear from you, please leave a comment.

2 comments:

  1. To merely be offensive is to miss the point, me thinks. It has to be funny at the end of the day. I think the art of comedy is to take what can be an offensive thought and present it in a way that's funny. Not to merely say it. Anyone can do that. Anyone can be mean but when you can make the very people you're talking about laugh at what you're saying you're a comic.

    But at the end of the day humour is subjective and at the end of that very same day the crowd will tell you if you're funny or not.

    *love the Gautrain joke

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    1. Thanks for that valuable comment. Audiences react differently to the same jokes from venue to venue. What I have noticed in common with all audiences is that we love to laugh at others, and not really ourselves... Finding a way to reverse that is definitely a key to killing in comedy! x

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