When did we all become such emotional hypochondriacs?

John Beuhler on the 'easily offended' in comedy

The recent turn of PC sanctimony and fake outrage towards the medium of stand-up comedy is cause for concern. Several comedians have made headlines for parts of their shows that, although told in a private settling, have been made public through the wonder of social media and used as fodder for the 24-hour news cycle.

Laughter began as an autonomic reaction to the relief of short-term stress. Its physical component (knee slapping) serves to burn off a build-up of stress hormones (epinephrine) and its auditory component (laughing) lets the rest of your hunting party know that the sabre-toothed tiger is not a threat and is, in fact, just a rock.

The laughter travels to the people at the back of the hunting party, so that even those who didn't get the sabre-toothed-rock joke can enjoy it too. You see, laughter is literally infectious. The story will then be related around the fire that night to abject silence. This was the origin of, ‘You had to be there’ and ‘Fuck you guys. That was funny.’

Brief moments of stress and relief are followed by a rush of dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter. Scary movies, roller coasters, and infidelity are some of the ways we achieve brain rewards. Comedy is no different; it brings us joy and that is why we can charge people for it. Laughter is a natural drug, unlike that stuff I make in my garage sink.

This is also the reason people hate a bad comedian. They don’t get the joke, which means they haven’t had their tension relieved or received any reward dopamine. The tension sits there like a failed sneeze. Long-term cortisol in the blood can inhibit protein synthesis and the creation of immunity tissues. So, if you hear too many bad jokes you can end up looking as bad as a stand-up comedian.

The amount and intensity of laughter is determined by the tension created, like pulling back a bow to fire an arrow. The more tension created, the more tension will be relieved at the Punch line; the more relief experienced, the bigger the laugh; the bigger the laugh, the bigger the chance of coitus after the show. The pay from the club, however, will never change until you get some TV credits, you lazy asshole.

This explains why the greatest comics deal with such risqué subjects, such as racism, homophobia, rape, and hot pockets. Controversial subjects get bigger laughs, but there are more inherent risk involved. A dive from the high platform is more spectacular because of the risk, just as racist jokes are risky (but more interesting than observations about Colonel Pudding Tummy, or some other totally hypothetical cat’s name).

Now that we understand the nature of laughter and it's necessity in society as a stress reliever, let’s talk about how the self-esteem movement, victim/heroism, social media, and mainstream media have turned their sights on the craft of stand-up comedy. This generation has been raised to believe that they are special, outstanding, vital, and important, regardless of achievement, skill, or talent. Simply by drawing breath, young people have been told that they are wonderful. This is a great disservice foisted upon them by guilty book-parents.

When you’re at a comedy club and you hear something that you don’t agree with or are offended by, it’s not permissible to voice your objection. The comedian has worked for more than ten years honing his craft, being broke, sacrificing a normal life to follow a dream that very rarely leads to happiness. He does this because he has a sickness that puts your happiness before his own. He is holding a microphone and you’re holding a beer for a reason.

As I stated before, controversial subjects have the potential to be the funniest, so, no, rape isn't funny, but jokes about rape can be very funny. This simple concept seems to be too complex to be disseminated to the masses via television buzzwords or 120 characters or whatever the fuck it is.

The hyper-sensitivity of contemporary society has led to people pursuing heroism and notoriety in the laziest way possible, through victim status. We used to achieve heroism by having a positive effect on the world and now find it through pointing out how the world has had a negative effect on us. Seriously, how could I win the danceathon with these ankles? Thanks a lot, Mother!

The most painless way to pursue victim status is to pretend that your feelings or sensibilities have been offended and what better place to be offended than in a place where offensive things are said all the time; at a comedy club. Now just stay your regular cunty self and wait for the opportunity to fake offence.

The fact is that the comedy club is a called a club for a reason. There is an understanding among the initiated of what is going to go on. You might not agree with everything the performer is saying, but it is to be taken with a grain of salt. You didn't hear anything in the news about me watching The Dark Knight and screaming ‘bullshit!’ at the screen every time something unrealistic happened. God, I love my anonymity.

I would encourage comedians to only apologise to actual complaints which are made to the club and not to internet blogs or other public media. Responding in the mainstream media to things that begin in a public forum on the internet will encourage more and more people to tape and report on our shows with the goal of getting a public reaction or Twitter followers (or virgins as they are also referred).

Please do not reply to complaints about your show unless they are from the people who pay you. Internet complaints are not worth the paper they’re not written on and you will be opening the floodgates for the special generation to use you as their own surrogate villain. This mode of thinking is wrong and reacting to it in a way that gives to validation is dangerous to our livelihoods.

We are all Oprah’s children, but guess what? Oprah’s cancelled and the truth is that you’re nothing special. We don’t care what you think or that it’s your birthday. Sit down and shut up or go somewhere else.

I’m pretty sure that people didn’t heckle the prehistoric hunters because they often told their stories while still be carrying their menacing spears and hunting weapons. Modern day comedians can’t rely on things like spears, but if our acts don’t go over we can still blame the acoustics of the cave. And where did they get this fucking fire from, Radio Shack?

Lenny Bruce died so that the government couldn’t stop up from saying what we wanted. What no one foresaw is that the government could step aside and let us all tattle on each other; so uneasy in our smallness that we looking to chastise those in higher station in order to feed our own sense of self importance. I’m sorry Lenny, we gave the squares too much voice and now they’re trying to take ours.

Published: 6 Aug 2012

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