Relax, it’s just a joke

I’m not particularly old, but I remember the time when someone told a joke, people just laughed. There was none of this “How dare you say this?”, “This is offensive.” and “You’re a sexist, racist, fascist, ableist, homophobic, stereophobic, …” nonsense.

But things have changed now. People are sensitive. They have developed feelings. For a species that once hunted wild animals and wore their skin as clothes, survived many wars, famines, and depressions, we have now become people who get upset over a joke that some random guy tweeted a thousand mile away.

It’s understandable that one might get upset over a hurtful comment that someone said to them. If your boss makes a sexist or racist comment directly to you, you’d feel bad and it would be correct in that case to feel bad and to also respond to the comment. But that doesn’t quite apply when a person is making a joke out to a wider audience. 

Comedians, or anyone with a general sense of humor, usually adjust themselves when talking to someone. If I know something in particular bothers you, I wouldn’t make that joke. It would be insensitive of me to do so. But how does one do that when speaking to a wider audience, such as on Twitter or during a standup show? That’s not quite easy.

The problem is, there really aren’t many safe jokes. There will come a point when you say something that at least one person finds offensive. Unfortunately, people seem to be under the impression that the jokes are or should be optimized for them. They think they are the only person in the audience. They just see the one guy on the stage or behind the Twitter handle. But that person sees everyone. He’s trying his best to say things that everyone can enjoy, and even though that’s practically impossible, that’s what the general goal is. Would it be fair then to criticize such a person for hurting your particular sentiments?

If you’ve never told a joke publicly, then it’s like making a sandwich everyone can enjoy. When you’re making it for one person whose tastes you are aware of, you try to include everything they like and avoid the things they don’t. If you mess that up then sure, the other person can conveny their disappointment. But imagine making a sandwich for thousands of people. You could just slip a slice of cheese between the breads, something pretty much everyone can enjoy. That would be your safe joke but as you can tell, that would be boring. But ideally you’d try different ingredients and hope for the best. Which is what people usually do until there’s that one asshole who has a problem with tomatoes.

But here’s the thing, you don’t have to eat the sandwich. You could just say I’m not going to eat this person’s sandwiches. Or I’m not going to pay to go to this person’s event where he gives people sandwiches. Or you could just take it and eat it quietly, understanding the fact that there are other people out there who would be perfectly fine with that same sandwich, and that it was meant to cater to a wider audience. Or you could be that third asshole who eats the sandwich anyway, and then chooses to complain about how the sandwiches had tomatoes because my aunt was once killed by a tomato and I really have problems with them since then you won’t understand how it is. #trigger #tomatoes #checkyourtomatoprivilege

The thing is, it’s not easy to be funny. You want people to like you but there is a good chance they won’t. You have to assume certain things and go with what you’d think other people will like. Does it work all the time? Nope. As with any creative work, you can never please 100% of the people. But off-late people have become far less tolerant to bad jokes, or just jokes they don’t agree with. Which is especially egregious because it’s so easy to tune out people you don’t agree with, especially online. Don’t like someone’s tweets? Unfollow them. Don’t like their standup show? Stop going. But now it has become critical to make an issue out of everything. Every little thing must be discussed, debated, analysed. Everyone must be held to Godly standards, standards that most people themselves don’t live up to.

And who are these people? People with just a Twitter account, people who don’t know the first thing about telling a joke, people who will quite likely piss themselves if made to stand on a stage in front of a crowd. People who think just because it’s easy to laugh at a joke it must be easy to tell one. These people now get to judge everyone and decide what’s funny and what isn’t, who says what and who shouldn’t say something.

What a bunch of gay Jews.