Should comedy be taken seriously?

Jerry Sadowitz shares his thoughts...

I REALLY find it offensive when I hear gags about people with mental disabilities.

I don't mind one or two gags about people with PHYSICAL disabilities, provided that the comedian is someone I like, for example Stewart Lee or Russell Kane because they KNOW what they're doing.

I don't like it when I hear gags from comedians who are NOT established, however and hopefully I never will. Although I DID hear a funny gag about someone with motor neurone disease once.

I did laugh - and heartily - but was I right to? As long as I find it funny, does that make it a joke? And should we laugh at jokes anyway? Is it not time for comedy to come of age and discard humour altogether? Why can't we go back to a more PROGRESSIVE time in our history when we were less reliant on things like ‘laughs’.

I think the main thing is that if Ricky Gervais does a routine about rape then its okay to laugh (of course) but what really worries me is OTHER PEOPLE who find it funny.

Even more worrying is that they are laughing at the IRONY of the material and not at the face value. One man sitting behind me laughed uproariously over a gag that he found extremely funny and I'm really not sure that  I want to be in that kind of audience.

Two centuries ago, Punchinello (1243-1154) was hanged for jokes made about King Charlemagne and at the time, it was quite right, although many found it unacceptable, including myself, though I have since changed my mind. Many of the so called jokes made by comics nowadays are on much flimsier ground than Charlemagne, yet we are often told to ‘go fuck ourselves’.

In Thailand you can be shot if you tell a joke about the Queen or pull a face. Pull somebody ELSE'S face and you'll win a lucky waving cat, yet there are no hard and fast rules about disability jokes. perhaps there aren't any. (There is no evidence of any disabled people in Asia).

Let's put it this way... and this comes from a well established comedian whose name I will not divulge as it is not central to the argument. Indeed I would never quote ANY comic out of context or otherwise.

Comedy is a 'live' experience to enjoy in the correct environment and in the privacy of your own manner, and there (I believe) lies the crux of the whole argument. I would not be so foolish to think that you can't laugh at, say, a comedian who you might bump into outside a coffee shop, or on stage. After all, some of my best friends are Pakistanis.

I think the main thing is to keep analysing comedy... keep it serious and keep an eye out for those who are giving the game away by 'getting the joke'. It's an embarrassment to the rest of us. Let's USE my valued judgement, and for goodness sake... cut out the material. Please!

Published: 11 Nov 2011

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