Is cruelty really that funny?

Comic JoJo Sutherland offers her thoughts on the Brand/Ross scandal

Is watching or listening to someone suffer really so funny? Do we roll around in laughter because another person is made to feel humiliated and distressed? Are we delirious with derision when another is writhing in agony? And how would we feel if we were on the receiving end of such mirth?

In a country that nears 60 million and only 27,000 people complained about the Brand/Ross ‘prank’ does that mean the vast majority feel it is an acceptable form of humour?

Brand and Ross are well known for their ‘edgy and controversial’ style and are employed because of those traits, regularly poking fun, and getting laughs, at other people’s expense. Comedians across the country do similar things on a nightly basis often ridiculing members of the audience or simply telling someone to ‘fuck off’.

In the environs of a comedy club there is a general sense of understanding and acceptance between audience and acts that offensive, outrageous and downright mean commentary might be made, and by and large everyone consents. However, I’m not sure if I were left a series of offensive, outrageous and downright mean messages on my home phone that were subsequently aired to the general public, without my consent, that I would see the funny side.

Are we living in an age now that we can say and do what we like without fear of reprisal, that anyone can insult or verbally attack you wherever and whenever they feel the urge and are we all just going to stand back and be grateful if it happens to someone else and laugh uproariously?

There are several parties involved with deciding what should and should not be broadcast and Brand /Ross are only a part of who should take responsibility – if indeed any responsibility needs to be taken. Many people feel that no harm has been done and that there are other more pressing problems today.

Comedy is a powerful weapon and in the right hands can be hugely effective at tackling and dealing with difficult subjects but its core purpose is to make people happy.

Is the future of comedy going to be dependent on how many people you can offend and upset with ‘edgy and controversial’ material?

Personally I think there is a huge difference to making people laugh where all parties share the joke and being the perpetrators of a one-sided torrent of filth directed at an elderly citizen.

In a society that has record levels of violence in schools with teachers being subjected to all forms of abuse from pupils and gang culture that is so prevalent that innocent people are routinely mugged and knifed. Is a lack of respect really that funny?

Published: 30 Oct 2008

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