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July 28, 2009 9:12 AM   Subscribe

"For a lot of comics, it's OK to talk about raping women now. That's the new black on the comedy circuit." "One false move, and I'm Jim Davidson." "Don't go thinking I'm the new Bernard Manning. I'm being postmodern and ironic. I understand that what I'm saying is unacceptable." The new offenders of standup comedy.
posted by permafrost (168 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just imagine Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.
posted by scrowdid at 9:18 AM on July 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Richard Herring complained about his portrayal in this article:
I think it's fair to say that either deliberately or through journalistic incompetence it totally misrepresents both the interview and my material. To have those contentious lines quoted our of context, with absolutely no explanation of what else takes place can have no other effect than to make the casual (and even the quite careful) reader assume that I am a racist. It now seems clear that Logan had come into the interview with an agenda, was only listening out for things that confirmed his idea that comedians were just being offensive for no real reason and then ignored everything else.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:20 AM on July 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


What's so funny about rape? - from Feministing
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:20 AM on July 28, 2009


I want to know why the audience paid to see these people perform in the first place, if they end up being offended by the humor. Were there misleading posters? Or were the audience members just looking for any comedy club and a night of laughs?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:24 AM on July 28, 2009


There's pushing the envelope and then there's just being lazy because you've figured out the connection between feeling uncomfortable and laughter.

When you focus on the reaction of the audience instead of the crafting of the actual product, you're already irrelevant.

Art doesn't care what you think, just that you think.

Hacks just want a reaction.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 9:26 AM on July 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wow, that was incredibly long and not at all insightful.

Also, Jim Jeffries "I Swear To God" was the funniest stand up special I've seen in a long time.
posted by lattiboy at 9:27 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for Herring's response, TheophileEscargot. I'd have stuck it in the OP if I'd noticed it before.
posted by permafrost at 9:27 AM on July 28, 2009


Draw a big, thick line around a bunch of words and topics and make a sign that says, "You Can't Talk About This" and some folks, out of sheer cussedness, will look at that line like it's a takeoff board for a broad jump. Another, larger group of people will pay them to say it because, hey, at least I didn't say it, I just laughed at it.

I wish journalists now wouldn't come with this faux naivete, as if they had just emerged from the huggiest of kindergartens, where the edgiest joke involved someone having a pizza cut into six pieces, because they couldn't eat eight of them.
posted by adipocere at 9:28 AM on July 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


I never fail to be discouraged by how easy it is to get a laugh by being cruel, and how easy it is to try and justify it by claiming that you're being edgy and exploding taboos. Yeah, you and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

Anybody who tells a racist joke and references Lenny Bruce should be choked to death with a printed copy of Lenny Bruce's How To Relax Your Colored Friends At Parties.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on July 28, 2009 [25 favorites]


Or were the audience members just looking for any comedy club and a night of laughs?

Yeah, a lot of comedy clubs would close if it weren't for people who just want to get drunk at the Chuckle Hut and laugh at hack jokes. I think it was (one of my favorites) Doug Stanhope who pointed out that you wouldn't be likely to buy tickets to a movie or a rock concert without having any idea of what you were getting into, so it's odd to get huffy when you don't like a comic you picked out of a hat.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:29 AM on July 28, 2009


Don't recall Scott Capurro having been so Edgy-with-a-Capital-E before. Maybe he's revised his act to get more attention. I'm not sure I trust the Guardian to define what people in a comedy club audience find funny, though. Especially since the article says that the current crop of comedians are reacting against other comedians who were walking around on stages when some of them were in diapers.
posted by blucevalo at 9:30 AM on July 28, 2009


"You can't do a joke these days about black or Asian people – and rightly so – [but] you can do rape jokes on stage and that's not a problem."

This just makes me confused. Offending <20% of the population is bad, offending ~52% is ok?
posted by anti social order at 9:32 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I want to know why the audience paid to see these people perform in the first place, if they end up being offended by the humor. Were there misleading posters? Or were the audience members just looking for any comedy club and a night of laughs?

This is why I avoid comedy shows. There isn't really anyone out there who tells you which comedian is going to make you want to punch them and it's not worth the money to go, get pissed off, and leave.
posted by kathrineg at 9:33 AM on July 28, 2009


"If you're doing a brilliant piece of irony and someone takes it literally," says Herring, "that's not your fault. It's their fault for not being intelligent enough to get it."

To me the whole article came down to this line, and I've been trying to figure out whether I agree or disagree. Hmmm.
posted by Go Banana at 9:34 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I learned a lesson about humor a long, long time ago from, of all sources, Curious George. George's master pointed out in one book that virtually all humor is based on the pain or suffering or humiliation of someone, and that you can tell the difference between someone with a genuine sense of humor and someone just mean/vindictive/cruel by their ability (or lack thereof) to laugh at *themselves*. That little monkey taught me a lot of important stuff.
posted by jamstigator at 9:34 AM on July 28, 2009 [31 favorites]


Draw a big, thick line around a bunch of words and topics and make a sign that says, "You Can't Talk About This" and some folks, out of sheer cussedness, will look at that line like it's a takeoff board for a broad jump.

The upshot of this is that if "edgy" comedians are using it, it's because people are actually taking offence.

Which I guess is why prison/male-male rape is not "the new black". I mean it's just so... *yawn*, ya know?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:34 AM on July 28, 2009


I recently got to see David Cross. His set consisted mostly of a) A joke about raping babies, and b) A long tirade about the audience's "uptight" reaction to that joke.

The thing is, I'm pretty sure the audience reaction wasn't out of shock (the show was headlined by Sarah Silverman and also featured Louis C.K.--the audience fully expected to be shocked), but because the joke itself wasn't all there yet; it was more huh? than WHAT!?. Of course, the tirade was the funny bit, so the initial joke was undoubtedly calculated to misfire.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:35 AM on July 28, 2009


I wish some of these jokers would watch "The King of Comedy."
posted by blucevalo at 9:36 AM on July 28, 2009


What's so funny about rape? - from Feministing

You know, I like Jessica Valenti a lot, but her fellow bloggers at Feministing tend to go the easy route a bit too often. For every interesting and inspiring post about gender/race/queer barriers being broken, they have at least one "OMG you guys look at this sexist commercial!" or "I don't find this sort of thing funny at all" post.

I think overall it's WAY better than most feminist blogs (Shakesville, for instance, makes me retch), and it's got some great profiles of people who practice feminism every day (whether through activism or just doing what they do). But sometimes the thrills are a little too cheap. For what it's worth, though, I do appreciate what Valenti is saying in the linked post.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:37 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Living in the US, I don't know most of these comedians, except Sarah Silverman. The problem with this sort of comedy, as evidenced by Silverman, is that it gets old really, really quick. The first couple times I saw Silverman do her stuff, it was shocking and funny. But then it just became predictable, worth a light chuckle here and there. "Oh, she said something about Mexican people smelling bad, that's ... eh, at least she has decent timing." She was by far the weakest act on Patton Oswalt's "Comedians of Comedy" show because her stuff is so one-note, while most of the other "alternative" comics were truly creative.

I'm also reminded of Daniel Tosh, who to me is the poster boy for this type of lazy comedy. He has zero timing, terrible delivery, and stands there like a douchey frat boy with a dumb-ass smile on his face, but somehow manages to get laughs because he calls women whores. Ooo, so edgy. Please, dude, go enter a suicide pact with Carlos Mencia and get off my TV.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:37 AM on July 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Hey, that's Scott Capurro in the lede of that article! When I last saw him (10 years ago) in San Francisco, he wasn't especially offensive, and very funny in a snide way.

It's odd that this article starts and stops with Capurro yet doesn't mention that he's openly gay, even as it quotes him saying "Gay men are still targets" (of bigotry in society).
posted by msalt at 9:40 AM on July 28, 2009


Sometimes, to be funny, you may have to risk being a little edgy.

This does not mean the same thing as "being edgy is funny."

I tend to prefer comedians who understand this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on July 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


"If you're doing a brilliant piece of irony and someone takes it literally," says Herring, "that's not your fault. It's their fault for not being intelligent enough to get it."

So it's the audience's fault that you tried to do an incredibly risky piece of comedy and failed? Hey, if the audience didn't get your irony, which you have essentially just admitted is too clever by half, is it really their fault that you come off as a racist? Because, irony or no, you're still a white guy making jokes that toy with incredibly painful themes and stereotypes, and I see that less as an expression of your cleverness than your privilege.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:44 AM on July 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


Living in the US, I don't know most of these comedians, except Sarah Silverman. The problem with this sort of comedy, as evidenced by Silverman, is that it gets old really, really quick.

This is more evidence of Sarah Silverman being a one-dimensional performer than anything else. Louis CK is wildly offensive and I would nominate him as the funniest stand-up working today.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:50 AM on July 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Comics can do jokes about black and asian people, if they're funny.

Especially if the comics are black or asian.

Bad words about horrible things are funny sometimes.

It doesn't make light of the Holocaust when a character on the Simpsons says that someone smoking in public is worse than Hitler.

It doesn't make light of rape for ("liberal-baiting US Comic", lol wut) Sarah Silverman to do a joke about rape in the Aristocrats.

Professional comedians have the right and even duty to explore whatever avenues they choose--sometimes they fail and offend people. You and me, on the other hand, should leave the edginess to the pros and stick to safer subjects when kidding around. But when Carlos Mencia makes his 50th Beaners Are Lazy joke which doesn't break any new ground linguistically or socially, it's our right to boo at his crappy material.

Meanwhile professional critics of comedy should be the ones to write articles about trends and styles, rather than stuffy boring academics with less sense of humor than interest in generating the usual outrage among the usual subscribers.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:51 AM on July 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Bookhouse: I've only seen parts of Louis CK's act, but it doesn't seem to me that his comedy is based on just spouting stereotypes to be "edgy" or, as the article describes Silverman, "liberal-baiting." He seems to be more in line with what jamstigator described above: he laughs at himself, rather than just insulting others.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:52 AM on July 28, 2009


All I'm saying is that Jim Jeffries' HBO special was the funniest stand-up I've seen in a long time. I was sitting alone in a hotel room, holding my sides the whole time. To me, humor forgives any sins a comedian may commit.
posted by martens at 9:52 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


>Living in the US, I don't know most of these comedians, except Sarah Silverman. The problem with this sort of comedy, as evidenced by Silverman, is that it gets old really, really quick.

This is more evidence of Sarah Silverman being a one-dimensional performer than anything else.


She's been that way for longer than you think -- I went to college with her, and remember her heckling Eddie Mekka when he did an appearance at some student function on campus. (And she did something really dumb too -- she raised her hand during a Q&A and asked whether he had any holes in his underwear, and he said no, she asked, "so then how do you put them on?") To my mind she's just gone downhill from there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 AM on July 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Astro Zombie you misunderstood that quote possibly.

Herring was reacting to the question about what to do if you tell a hilarious (for the sake of argument) joke that makes fun of racists that someone thinks is actually racist and goes DUH I HATE THEMS TOO--then you just have to shrug at their stupidity.

Is it Colberts fault if some people think he's actually a conservative talk show host?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:53 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Meet the new offenders, same as the old offenders. Around the time of the Diceman's peak of popularity, the Village Voice ran an article on his show at Madison Square Garden, and someone made the point that comedy is only subversive if you're going after people that are bigger and stronger than you, not smaller and weaker (figuratively, if not literally). Of course, if you believe that we live under political correctness tyranny, rather than someone just telling you, "Hey, your racist jokes aren't cool any more", well, then you probably believe that this is cutting edge rather than atavistic.

I knew that Dice was over with when he went on SNL and whined when he started getting heckled. Good riddance.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:53 AM on July 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


she raised her hand during a Q&A and asked whether he had any holes in his underwear, and he said no, she asked, "so then how do you put them on?

i just lol'd pretty hard at this tbh. :(
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:54 AM on July 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


The problem with this sort of comedy, as evidenced by Silverman, is that it gets old really, really quick.

I recall when Sarah Silverman's show started being run a couple of years ago how people in the media seemed to salivate over her edgy brilliance. Ooh, she's got a couple of funny-looking gay characters! Ooh, she does shows with AIDS jokes! Now, she's just one more inane name lost in the ocean of internet/modern media garbage. There are a few benefits to having that ocean around. Sasha Baron Cohen seems to be headed that way himself.

When I last saw him (10 years ago) in San Francisco, he wasn't especially offensive, and very funny in a snide way.

I saw him roughly around the same time at Josie's Cabaret, long since closed, and he was doing silly, sweet, mildly amusing local jokes about the Castro and gay politics. Now, from the proudly-displayed indignation-filled blurbs on his website, I guess he's decided he needs to "push the envelope" and go all shock-comedy. Funny how times change. The insult/shock/make the audience squirm route does seem to be a predominant strain in stand-up, and not just amongst British comedians.
posted by blucevalo at 9:54 AM on July 28, 2009


This just makes me confused. Offending <20% of the population is bad, offending ~52% is ok?
Your assumption that only the targets of these jokes would be offended might be what's confusing you.
posted by joaquim at 9:54 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, wait, it's the other kind of comics. Fire away.
posted by Artw at 9:57 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


In summary: is it bad to laugh at something that is morally wrong?

I'm personally not a great fan of sacred cows in comedy. I mean, people joke about murder all the time and we understand they're not advocating killing. But it would still be grossly offensive if you were close to someone who'd been murdered. Is there a natural dividing line between obviously/non-obviously ironic or literal?

I sometimes wonder if in the future people will see our value system in entertainment as grossly skewed when everybody gets their panties in a twist at the hint of nudity, racism, sexism etc but where a comedian joking about murder or a movie in which the body count nears triple figures is A-OK.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:57 AM on July 28, 2009


I sometimes wonder if in the future people will see our value system in entertainment as grossly skewed when everybody gets their panties in a twist at the hint of nudity, racism, sexism etc but where a comedian joking about murder or a movie in which the body count nears triple figures is A-OK.

The future? Pfft. This makes me wonder about us in the present.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on July 28, 2009


Metafilter: It's your fault for not being intelligent enough to get it.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:03 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm a comic (fairly unsuccessful I can't quit my day job yet). I do some rape jokes sometimes people get offended. I sort of wish that they wouldn't but I understand that it's a charged subject and that it would be less funny to the people that find it funny if it didn't seem so dangerous. Me I think the jokes are funny but not my best jokes, even though it gets big reactions for better or worse than material that I think is stronger. This doesn't mean that I'm admitting that it's lazy. The joke doesn't depend on shock to be funny. It follows joke logic, it works on it's own, it's just that shock and rule breaking makes everything more funny.

The thing is, rape jokes are not generally about how rape is funny. There about the language and expectations that surround rape. Or about rape's status as the worst thing. Or just puns or normal jokes that have a rape happen into them. To me asking "what's so funny about rape?" misses the point. What's so funny about walking into a bar? If a joke features a football game or a parakeet it isn't saying that something is funny about football or a parakeet. It's it's own thing.

Now there is the school of thought that rape is serious and you shouldn't make light of it. It's true that rape is serious. But you can't make light of things that aren't serious. The lighter side of kittens with birthday hats doesn't work. It doesn't get lighter. Now maybe it somehow makes people think that rape is ok and that's not worth it no matter your intentions or that their rape justifying interpretation is insane. I mean maybe, I don't believe that's empirically true if it was I might reconsider.
posted by I Foody at 10:04 AM on July 28, 2009 [15 favorites]


I've only seen parts of Louis CK's act, but it doesn't seem to me that his comedy is based on just spouting stereotypes to be "edgy" or, as the article describes Silverman, "liberal-baiting." He seems to be more in line with what jamstigator described above: he laughs at himself, rather than just insulting others.

That's true, Louis CK's act is more centered around personal/sexual taboos rather than cultural ones. A better example in my opinion is that shows like Strangers With Candy and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia are much funnier than The Sarah Silverman Program even all three feature the same kind of humor. And to me she's the worst part of her own show, I actually think if you cut out her main subplot out of each episode you'd end up with a pretty good comedy.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:06 AM on July 28, 2009


Stand-up comedians blur the line between Prose and Poetry, between a speech in which they give reasoned opinions and a dramatic reading in which they are merely playing a role.

But in the end, whether or not they admit to agreeing with the opinions they express they fall on the side of Narrator of their act, and not as unvarnished author of an Argument. Nobody should evaluate the power or quality of a stand-up routine based on it's congruence with truth-value, advice or proscription.

Or rather, you can if you want to. Go ahead and be offended whenever someone expresses a thought or uses a word outside of the realm you think is healthy or moral or correct. Feel free to analyze standup as if it is uncrafted opinion from a naive narrator. But you're not appreciating the medium in the style in which it is best understood, and that is your loss.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:08 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I learned a lesson about humor a long, long time ago from, of all sources, Curious George.

Are you sure that wasn't Michael Valentine Smith? They're easily confused.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:10 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


To have those contentious lines quoted our of context, with absolutely no explanation of what else takes place can have no other effect than to make the casual (and even the quite careful) reader assume that I am a racist.

I'm sure the Hitler mustache and the racist jokes had nothing to do with that assumption.

Grow some gonads, dude. If you want to be edgy and shocking, you don't get to boo-hoo that other people think you're an asshole.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:11 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My problem with most of these comics isn't that they're transgressive. It's that they're not funny.
posted by scrump at 10:12 AM on July 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


I find Sarah Silverman really tired. I've heard more shocking material on mainstream BBC2 quiz show Mock The Week (though I prefer Frankie Boyle when he goes a bit surreal). I'm not horrified or prudish - I love Curb, Peep Show (which ran a whole episode on whether it was OK to have a racist friend) and Collings and Herrin. Perhaps I side with I Foody in that the Madeline jokes in the latter show amuse me, not because a missing child is funny, but because the media went utterly insane over it and it's become a running joke that the Daily Express reports only on 'Maddie' or Diana stories. But it's very difficult to do this properly.

No comedian has yet convinced me that rape, or abortion, are funny. Plenty have convinced me that being shocking is somewhat far from being the same thing as funny.
posted by mippy at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You make a good point, I Foody (or, at least you've sent me on a tangent). It isn't always a matter of "what's funny about thus-and-such," sometimes it's about using humor to cope with the horriffic. I'm reminded of how Mel Brooks swore to himself that he would always try to put Nazis into all of his films, because he sees humor as a weapon -- if you can make someone horrible look ridiculous, then their power is taken away. I'm sure sometimes people still got offended over "omg there are Nazis in here you can't have Nazis in something funny because they're Nazis", but for the most part, it's clear that Brooks is trying to make the Nazis look ridiculous -- we're laughing AT them, not WITH them, so to speak -- and that's a powerful thing.

The thing is, Brooks also has an awareness of what most of his audiences' opinions towards the Nazis probably are, and so he's siding WITH them AGAINST the Nazis, and that's probably why most of the time it works so well. I'd wager that in the case of "jokes about rape", in many cases you're siding WITH the audience AGAINST the idea of rape, and...yeah, I'd buy that (I mean, I haven't heard your joke, but you seem like a decent chap and I don't see your jokes as taking the sex offenders' side in things, or anything like that).

I think that if a comedian sides WITH the audience AGAINST something negative, it wins an audience over in letting them laugh at the thing that's bothering them -- a sort of whistling-past-the-graveyard. Where a lot of these comedians are falling down is that sometimes they give the impression of siding AGAINST the audience, which falls down flat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I Foody - what makes you tell the rape jokes? I'm not going to go ad hominem and ask whether you would still tell them if your sister or brother got raped - merely curious as you say you don't feel they are your best material. I don't know any normal jokes that 'just happen' to have a rape happen in them, so I find it hard to get quite what you're talking about here. :)
posted by mippy at 10:18 AM on July 28, 2009


Bookhouse: I've only seen parts of Louis CK's act, but it doesn't seem to me that his comedy is based on just spouting stereotypes to be "edgy" or, as the article describes Silverman, "liberal-baiting." He seems to be more in line with what jamstigator described above: he laughs at himself, rather than just insulting others.


Well, he also created the character Pootie Tang.
But obviously, just spouting stereotypes isn't funny, and in Silverman's defense, she can do more than this ... her joke about being raped by a doctor is funny and taboo-breaking. She just doesn't do it often enough.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:19 AM on July 28, 2009


Because, irony or no, you're still a white guy making jokes that toy with incredibly painful themes and stereotypes, and I see that less as an expression of your cleverness than your privilege.

This is exactly what I wanted to say.
posted by kathrineg at 10:19 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing is, rape jokes are not generally about how rape is funny. There about the language and expectations that surround rape. Or about rape's status as the worst thing. Or just puns or normal jokes that have a rape happen into them. To me asking "what's so funny about rape?" misses the point. What's so funny about walking into a bar? If a joke features a football game or a parakeet it isn't saying that something is funny about football or a parakeet.

That's true and all, but if anyone in your audience has had their life fall to pieces due to a parakeet, or known anyone who's had to deal with the aftereffects of a parakeet, I imagine they wouldn't be particularly jazzed about hearing a stream of parakeet jokes, no matter how hilarious the parakeet is in this particular instance.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:22 AM on July 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


That's true and all, but if anyone in your audience has had their life fall to pieces due to a parakeet, or known anyone who's had to deal with the aftereffects of a parakeet, I imagine they wouldn't be particularly jazzed about hearing a stream of parakeet jokes, no matter how hilarious the parakeet is in this particular instance.

What if it was a joke about the ridiculousness of the people who insist that being upset over a parakeet is something they should just snap out of?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:26 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


burnmp3s: Never seen Sunny but I do have a great fondness/skin-crawling sensation for Strangers. I think a lot of it has to do with delivery. I agree with whomever above said that there are no sacred cows in comedy, as well as with I Foody that the joke is its own beast, not a thesis that there is something inherently funny about some topic.

Silverman can be funny for a bit because she doesn't just say, "Mexicans smell bad," but does it within the created persona of the brainless, spoiled brat she performs, and then follows it up with lines like "I don't care if you think I'm a racist, just as long as you think I'm thin," which defuses the ugliness of the previous statement by directing our laughter back at her for her shallowness. Like Borat and Bruno, the comedy is not about how funny it is that Mexicans smell or that homos stick random things up their butts, but at the ridiculousness of the mindset that thinks such things. The problem with all of them, though, is that the same schtick gets old after a while. Daniel Tosh, I will argue, is terribly unfunny because he just stands on stage saying offensive things, expecting that his "outrageousness" and "audacity" are enough to get him laughs (and, unfortunately, he is often right). I don't get offended because, "Oh my god, you shouldn't call women whores! They are people too!" but because, "Dude, you think I'm going to laugh just because you think you're being all edgy and beyond the pale by insulting the women in the audience? You're a fucking dumbass, and you bore me to tears." Someone else possibly could do something funny with Tosh's basic material, but he can't.

I'm more truly offended by seemingly innocuous comics like Jeff Dunham whose comedy is not about stereotypes but instead relies upon stereotypes. For those who've never seen him, he's a puppeteer. Most of his bits are just stupid and cliched beyond belief (he's got a puppet that's a crochety old man who hates his wife! he's got another puppet that is a redneck who drinks beer and watches nascar!), but then there's "Sweet Daddy D," his black puppet who is also his manager. The entire premise of Sweet Daddy D is that black people have big lips and talk funny. Oh, and they are pimps, all of them. I don't think he even uses any curses stronger than "damn" or "ass," but he, my friends, is offensive.

Louis CK (from what little I've seen) is funny, and he pushes the boundaries of good taste. Same with David Cross, and many others. But with all of them, they are funny FIRST -- they have a skewed way of looking at the world, and they use "offensive" stuff as material, not as the vehicle for their humor, not as the humor itself. I think they could be just as funny on Sesame Street as on HBO (although I'd prefer to watch the latter).
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:27 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile professional critics of comedy should be the ones to write articles about trends and styles

Does that really exist as a profession? And, if so, is it practiced by more than a handful of people?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:27 AM on July 28, 2009


It was glaringly obvious that rape jokes were so damn over when a performer at last year's Winnipeg Comedy Festival made one during a taping of the CBC Radio show The Debaters.

I remember an article in Shift magazine from about 12 years ago(!) about the 'New Edgy Comedy' that was presented as a subversive reaction to those damnably PC '90s. What really stood out about the paralympic, JonBenet Ramsey, and cancer gags were just how weak most of the material was and how the comedians who spouted them were largely run of the mill hacks who had swaddled themselves in pretension and needed a hook to compensate for their general suckiness at comedy.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:28 AM on July 28, 2009


It really ought to offend 100% of the population; men can get raped too.
posted by kldickson at 10:29 AM on July 28, 2009


My problem with most of these comics isn't that they're transgressive. It's that they're not funny.

Reading this article reminded me of how Michael Richards blew up on stage a few years ago, screaming at the black hecklers and talking about them hanging from trees and so forth (I'll assume that everyone here remembers that incident, so I won't bother linking to a clip). There was a point midway where Richards stopped and said something along the lines of "See? See? Now it all comes out to the surface..." For a moment the audience was thinking, Okay, he's actually going somewhere with this, and he's going to talk about racism in society or some other riff along the lines of Lenny Bruce or Bill Hicks. Once it became obvious that Richards had nothing to follow up the outburst -- that in fact he really had yelled out "Nigger!" for no other reason than to wound the hecklers -- at that point the audience gave up on him for good. Subsequently, once the clip made the rounds of the internet, Michael Richards career was well and truly dead.

I wonder how many of these "shock" comedians are one poorly-timed brainfart away from destroying their career. Or for that matter, if any of them had a racist/sexist outburst on stage one night, only to luck out on a brilliant last-minute follow-through that made it seem as if they had had it planned out all along. As other commenters have pointed out, the line between bigotry and mock-bigotry is as thin as two sides of a knife.
posted by spoobnooble at 10:29 AM on July 28, 2009


If you don't like it, don't listen.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:30 AM on July 28, 2009


This is more evidence of Sarah Silverman being a one-dimensional performer than anything else. Louis CK is wildly offensive and I would nominate him as the funniest stand-up working today.

I think this pretty much proves that the tough part is about deciding what makes something Funny, which, in the end, gets to be a subjective thing. I think Louis C.K. is an absolutely awful, unfunny, formulaic comedian, and I can't stand him. But I could sit in a room listening to Silverman for a hour.

De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bookhouse says "in Silverman's defense, she can do more than this"

I agree. I think her bit on The Aristocrats was hilarious, and her at her finest in terms of delivery and style and everything. I think that perhaps she got lazy.

And yes, Pootie Tang was godawful not-funny.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:32 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


About my joke. First of all I'm not going to actually put the joke here because I don't want it to be a referendum on my joke (which if it's just written out would probably seem insufficiently funny and hurt my feelings when people said as much). But no I'm not siding with the audience against rapists. And I'm certainly not siding with the rapists against the audience. I'm using a reductio ad abusrdum that includes a rape to argue against something silly that many people believe that has nothing to do with rape. The joke is not anti-rape. It is neutral with regard to rape. Now this is a different thing from saying that I think rape is neutral. I think it can be taken for granted that rape is bad. I also think this is how most controversial jokes work. They include controversial thing in order to make a more powerful impact upon the psyche of the listener.

Mr. Show had a throw away line about Mr. Pickles Fun Time Abortion Clinic: We'll bring out the kid in you. It's a pun, and it's funnier because the seriousness with how abortion is discussed contrasts with the silliness of the joke and the frivolity of the pun. But isn't really about abortion. You could make the same joke about an obstetrician. It just wouldn't have the same impact because people don't have strong feelings about obstetricians going in. It isn't for or against abortion. It's just it's own thing.
posted by I Foody at 10:33 AM on July 28, 2009


Mr. Pickles Fun Time Abortion Clinic: We'll bring out the kid in you.

I love that one, partially because Bob Odenkirk goofs up and laughs in the middle of delivering it just because it is so unbelievably ridiculous.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:35 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Like Borat and Bruno, the comedy is not about how funny it is that Mexicans smell or that homos stick random things up their butts, but at the ridiculousness of the mindset that thinks such things.

Sacha Baron Cohen is a great example of just how tricky it can be, when you're using irony and satire, to be clear just who the target of your humor is. Bruno is a horific, unforgivable stereotype. But, because the function of Bruno is to expose the odd varieties of panic, rage, and ignorance many people experience about homosexuals, and because you're not likely to get that reaction by presenting a subtle, complex characterization of a gay man, it is necessary to create a character as outrageous and clearly stereotyped as Bruno. It's also a fairly clever marketing scheme, as it's likely that people who might not enjoy the complicated and frequently harrowing confrontational element of Cohen's films might be lured into them anyway because they think that an outrageous gay man is the film's primary target, only to quickly discover that homophobia itself is the target.

There are times when it works, and there are times when Cohen seems to be enjoying the outrageousness just a little too much and is doing it for its own sake, and those lines are often hard to disentangle, which means sometimes it seems like Cohen has accidentally made gay men into figures of fun. Cohen's comedy can be horrifically scattershot as well -- his targeting of the vapidity of celebrity culture doesn't work as well as the scenes in Bruno when he specifically elicits gay panic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:37 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


That's true and all, but if anyone in your audience has had their life fall to pieces due to a parakeet, or known anyone who's had to deal with the aftereffects of a parakeet, I imagine they wouldn't be particularly jazzed about hearing a stream of parakeet jokes, no matter how hilarious the parakeet is in this particular instance.

That totally happens as often as rape
posted by kathrineg at 10:47 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Taboo subjects only work as comedy if the audience believes that you are indeed, joking. Silverman is absoutely masterful at pulling it off. Dunham gets by because it's fucking puppets for Christ's sake.

Michael Richards screwed up because it was genuine vitriol he was displaying.

And only one reference to Aristocrats (Youtube, NSFW) in this entire thread so far? The entire point of that joke is exactly what this thread is about.
posted by Xoebe at 10:48 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Taboo subjects only work as comedy if the audience believes that you are, indeed, joking.

This cannot be stated often enough.

Also, taboo subjects only work as comedy if the audience believes that you are, in fact, funny.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:51 AM on July 28, 2009


I like Patton Oswalt AND Larry the Cable Guy.

There, I said it.
posted by The Power Nap at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2009


Stewart Lee on political correctness
Stewart Lee is funny
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


"I'm sure the Hitler mustache and the racist jokes had nothing to do with that assumption."
What racist jokes? The whole point is that snippets were taken completely out of context to make anti-racism routines sound like racist jokes.
posted by malevolent at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I think Wanda Sykes's TOTALLY NOT SAFE FOR MOST WORKPLACES YOUTUBE LINK "detachable pussy" monologue is hilarious. And it's something I've shared with other women who have experienced sexual assault, all of whom (to date) have found it both funny and encouraging.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


Michael Richards screwed up because it was genuine vitriol he was displaying.

Agreed. But I still wonder if a smarter comedian could have dug himself out of that particular grave. Like how Bill Hicks turned an attack on a heckler into a brilliant (and thoroughly offensive) (and even a bit scary) rant of epic proportions (absolutely NSFW)
posted by spoobnooble at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


And yes, Pootie Tang was godawful not-funny.

You're ruining our culture with your bad taste.
posted by mullacc at 10:58 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since there are no examples, even text-based, here are some clips from the main people (probably nsfw language wise) that might not be widely known in the US.

Warning some of these suck really bad.

Jim Jeffries
Sarah S's Rape Joke from The Aristocrats
Richard Herring's Podcast clips
Brendon Burns
Jimmy Carr
Scott Capurro on Offensive Jokes
Al Murray Pub Landlord
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:59 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that if a comedian sides WITH the audience AGAINST something negative, it wins an audience over in letting them laugh at the thing that's bothering them -- a sort of whistling-past-the-graveyard.

I think more generally, comedy is intrinsically tied to the audience. Herring's quote about people who aren't intelligent enough to understand his irony is annoying because he assumes it's a matter of intelligence instead of taste, but the main point is that no comedian's material is going to succeed with everyone. The problem with that though is a pro comedian can't really choose their own audience, if they perform in front of drunk idiots every night and don't want to bomb horribly then they have to come up with material that will work with that kind of audience. Dave Chappelle cited that kind of problem as being a major contributing factor of ending his show, he wasn't sure if his audience found his jokes about race to be funny for the same reasons that he did.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:00 AM on July 28, 2009


What racist jokes? The whole point is that snippets were taken completely out of context to make anti-racism routines sound like racist jokes.

Um.

I have not seen Richard Herring's show.

However, the impression I get from Richard Herring's blog is that he is playing both ends against the middle--telling straightforwardly racist jokes and then saying "Oh, it's part of an anti-racism routine!"

Irony is not a magic wand. Yes, blah blah, Swift didn't really eat babies. The question is, are people laughing at Herring's jokes because they're racist, or because they're a brilliant parody of racism?
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:00 AM on July 28, 2009


Astro Zombie says "Sacha Baron Cohen is a great example of just how tricky it can be, when you're using irony and satire, to be clear just who the target of your humor is."

I agree 100%. Both Borat and Bruno, in fact, are pretty horrible, on their own. Which is why, in both movies, I thought the parts where it was just the characters on their own were really lame. Do I care about Bruno and his boytoy cramming things up their asses? No, it's stupid, and it relies on the stereotype that homos stick things up their butts and omg look how creepy they are. But when he's chained to his lover and confronting the Westboro Baptist douches? That's funny.

But then again, a gay academic/activist friend of mine -- who is considering not voting for Obama because he hasn't been quick enough to dismantle DADT and DOMA -- thought Bruno was the funniest movie he'd seen in years, while me, the straight guy, thought it was meh and, like you say AZ, a bit too caught up at times in the anti-homo attitude it wants to mock. So, who knows.

Xoebe says, "Taboo subjects only work as comedy if the audience believes that you are indeed, joking ... Dunham gets by because it's fucking puppets for Christ's sake."

I would argue that his audience does not think he's joking and that indeed it is hilarious that black people are pimps and talk all unedumacated and have big lips, but hey, he's using a puppet and not an ACTUAL black person, so why should anyone be mad?
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:06 AM on July 28, 2009


I like Patton Oswalt AND Larry the Cable Guy.

Power Nap, you just turned my world upside down.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:07 AM on July 28, 2009


That's true and all, but if anyone in your audience has had their life fall to pieces due to a parakeet, or known anyone who's had to deal with the aftereffects of a parakeet, I imagine they wouldn't be particularly jazzed about hearing a stream of parakeet jokes, no matter how hilarious the parakeet is in this particular instance.


Right this is true and a good point and something that I'm concerned about. The question is how much caution is appropriate to have for your words having a potential traumatic resonance with stranger's lives. It's a difficult question and I can't know how it actually feels to be a room surrounded by strangers are laughing at something that parallels one of the worst experiences of your life. I don't know what that experience is like or how bad that is for any given person. But yes I'm taking a chance of making someone who has already been through a terrible experience life even worse. Probably not worse in a big way, but it bothers me when I think about it. I'm also probably going to make a lot of other people laugh. That probably makes there life better in a little way. There's not an obvious right answer here to me.
posted by I Foody at 11:09 AM on July 28, 2009


if anyone in your audience has had their life fall to pieces due to a parakeet, or known anyone who's had to deal with the aftereffects of a parakeet, I imagine they wouldn't be particularly jazzed about hearing a stream of parakeet jokes, no matter how hilarious the parakeet is in this particular instance.

I just disagree with this entire premise. In fact, I'd say that (often/YMMV/imo etc) a good actually-funny joke involving a horrible thing does tons more to alleviate one's mental anguish about that subject than twice as much sensitive hand-wringing. Black comedians tell stories about getting your ass kicked as a kid, and I notice a lot of my friends who never got their asses kicked look uncomfortable during these moments. I love those jokes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:18 AM on July 28, 2009


But then again, a gay academic/activist friend of mine -- who is considering not voting for Obama because he hasn't been quick enough to dismantle DADT and DOMA

Now, that's HIGH-larious.
posted by blucevalo at 11:21 AM on July 28, 2009


There's an important element here that you're overlooking, Potomac Avenue: The people telling the jokes have had their asses kicked. The rape jokes in question, to the best of my ability to tell, are not coming from people who have been raped and are addressing their experience. The rape jokes I have heard, in fact, are generally from a very abstract, distanced quality to it. It might be very interesting and potentially liberating to hear someone who had been raped address that experience using comedy; that's not what we're discussing here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:22 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wellz, I have no idea who got beat up as a kid, even if they say they did on stage. They are characters speaking lines, not memoirists.

I know that doesn't directly address your point...but I haven't seen any examples yet of what people are actually saying about rape either so who knows. I'm guessing they're somewhat like this: (Mr. Show sketch).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:29 AM on July 28, 2009


"However, the impression I get from Richard Herring's blog is that he is playing both ends against the middle--telling straightforwardly racist jokes and then saying "Oh, it's part of an anti-racism routine!""

I don't find all of his stuff funny, but it's always clearly part of a blatantly puerile or parodying routine that's just not going to appeal to Jim Davidson fans (Al Murray is a slightly trickier, and more interesting, example to consider).
You can argue that he's playing off that temporary offensiveness, and have a valid debate about whether that's acceptable (I'm sure some of the comedians are crossing where I would personally draw a line), but I think the article does deliberately misrepresent him.
posted by malevolent at 11:32 AM on July 28, 2009


The title of the TMWRNJ piece "Lazy Journalist Scum" seems pretty apt in this case.

/drinks weak lemon drink.
/And then I got off the bus
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Lots of links coming from the Guardian lately. I think we need to instate a SGL or SGUL tag thing.
posted by surrendering monkey at 11:33 AM on July 28, 2009


I think the world would be a far better place if white people stopped using the n-word altogether than if white people kept on using the n-word but called it "brilliant irony."
posted by Dr. Send at 11:35 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure either, but if the article is to be believed "For a lot of comics, it's OK to talk about raping women now." That suggests that some comics are actually siding with the rapist, although I'd have to hear some specific examples to know for certain.

I certainly don't think rape is off-limits in comedy. I don't think anything is off-limits as a subject. But it sounds as though a lot of these comedians are not approaching the subject sympathetically, but instead for its shock value, which doesn't strike me as being especially clever, even when they drape it in layers of irony.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:36 AM on July 28, 2009


To me, funny is a man with a bright red baboons' ass walking around in hot pants.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:39 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can argue that he's playing off that temporary offensiveness, and have a valid debate about whether that's acceptable (I'm sure some of the comedians are crossing where I would personally draw a line), but I think the article does deliberately misrepresent him.

You have the advantage of me, because I've only seen him in snippets, so I defer to you on that.

I think that the self-presentation Herring gives in his own blog is not out of line with the presentation of him in the article, though. Which might be part of why the article represented him that way.

Again, "I'm a balls-out guy who takes on taboos" is a reasonable stance for a performer, but then you don't also get to come over all angry-birdwatcher when you feel like the press gets it wrong.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:41 AM on July 28, 2009


I would argue that his audience does not think he's joking and that indeed it is hilarious that black people are pimps and talk all unedumacated and have big lips, but hey, he's using a puppet and not an ACTUAL black person, so why should anyone be mad?

I'd agree with this, but Franklin keeps pulling me back in.
posted by mullacc at 11:41 AM on July 28, 2009


Are you sure that wasn't Michael Valentine Smith? They're easily confused.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:10 PM on July 28


I remember that kid. A tad self-righteous, but his heart was in the right place. Had great thighs too.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:43 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's hard to pass judgment on these comics without actually listening to or watching their act. Sometimes comedians will portray themselves as completely ignorant assholes who says the most assholish things and the joke is that they are, of course, making fun of people who actually hold those views. I remember once watching Louis CK in a tiny club in LA, he was working on new material, and he completely killed by going on this 10 minute rant about what a bitch his 3 year old daughter, and how much he hated her and couldn't stand to be around her. And you couldn't get any more repulsive than a grown man and father expressing pure hatred for his only daughter, but there it was, and it was hilarious because the joke was ultimately about what a shitty father he was, and what a twisted and completely messed up human being he was. And also probably he was expressing things that people occassionally feel but know they shouldn't. Sarah Silverman does this, too - embodies a "character" that is presumably not her but a repulsive and ignorant foil for herself - the problem is that the jokes are just not always there. It's a good conceit but it needs to be executed well or people will just end up thinking you actually are an asshole.
posted by billysumday at 11:43 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I love Louis C.K. I saw him at the Orange Peel and he absolutely killed. And then waited and hung out for an hour and a half or so after the show to take photos and sign everything.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:45 AM on July 28, 2009


I'd agree with this, but Franklin keeps pulling me back in.

The comedy of Franklin is that the puppet is genuinely offensive, but GOB thinks it's sterotype-shattering and ultimately uplifting.

Come to think of it, that may be an excellent metaphor for a lot of the comedy that this article addresses.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:45 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Richard herring has been doing pieces on lazy comedy since I was in my student days, so it's not entirely new or unexpected. Back on TMWRNJ the Lazy Comedy Slags was always one of my favourite features, and seems just as applicable as ever. It's good to hear that he seems to be carrying on that work.

/goes off into haze of 90s comedy nostalgia.
posted by Artw at 11:46 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's hard to pass judgment on these comics without actually listening to or watching their act. Sometimes comedians will portray themselves as completely ignorant assholes who says the most assholish things and the joke is that they are, of course, making fun of people who actually hold those views.

As a guy who sometimes does stand-up (amateur) stand-up comedy and has hung out with comedians: I've heard more than one guy say something like "After the show, this woman was like 'I love the character you do!' I don't do a character!"

Not saying this applies to Louis CK or anything, but ...
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:00 PM on July 28, 2009


Louis CK talking about kids.

Louis CK talking being white.

Proof that white guys can talk about race and child abuse and still be funny.
posted by billysumday at 12:01 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Kudos on the thread title, clever indeed.
posted by pineapple at 12:02 PM on July 28, 2009


Andew Collins responds
posted by Artw at 12:05 PM on July 28, 2009


And heres Dave Gorman on the piece: It wasn't just wrong, it seemed to be malignly, dangerously so.
posted by Artw at 12:07 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I find this a tough subject, because I'm so instinctively anti-all-things-rape that I want to immediately denounce people who use it to make jokes. But I also understand that comedy is frequently about prodding painful subjects in novel way, so I'm reticent to make a blanket dismissal, but I will say that the vast majority of rape humor is just not that funny, and that is a far more damning recrimination of a comedian than whatever subject matter they choose to explore.

That said, I think that Louis CK managed to pull off one of the only rape jokes I ever laughed at. The first part is funny to me because it's a strange twist on the old time travel joke, but the second part is funny because it's so. not. funny. that it comes back around to making me laugh again.

But then, I'm generally a really bad person, so no useful insight should be drawn from any of this.
posted by quin at 12:08 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Which I guess is why prison/male-male rape is not "the new black".

I think that comedic meme had its day already.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:12 PM on July 28, 2009


Thanks ArtW! from Gorman's blog.

Later in the article it says:

In another routine, he claims to support the BNP's policy to deport all black people from the UK.

Again it's hard to imagine a reader unfamiliar with Richard reaching anything other than the wrong conclusion. I mean... it's pretty clear isn't it.

Only I've seen the routine in question and it does no such thing. The journalist responsible has seen it too. I generally hate it when I see material quoted because not only does it generally work worse on the page, it also robs the comedian in question of the ability to surprise some of his/her audience. So with apologies to Richard, I'll tell you how I think that routine works.

It starts with Richard suggesting that anyone who votes for the BNP should have their right to vote taken away from them. In a lot of clubs this suggestion gets a cheer from the largely liberal crowd. But then Richard points out that taking away their right to vote would be a form of fascism in itself. And he follows the logic through a series of well-if-I-think-that-then-this-must-be-true-and-if-that's-true-I-must-think-this-too contortions with each new revelation being more ridiculous and comic than the last. By following this rat-run of (flawed) logic through he ends up in a confused place where his right-on desire to remove the right to vote from BNP voters means that he also supports their views and so wants to remove his own right to vote as well. It's a ridiculous, circular piece of playing with ideas, of starting somewhere well-intentioned but ending up somewhere ludicrous and the only conclusion any sensible audience member could draw from it is that if you want to defeat the BNP you can't do it by lowering yourself to their level.

Which is quite different to, "In another routine, he claims to support the BNP's policy to deport all black people from the UK."


UGH. So this journalist went from "picking easy targets" to "slanderer." Unacceptable.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:23 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


But I still wonder if a smarter comedian could have dug himself out of that particular grave. Like how Bill Hicks turned an attack on a heckler into a brilliant (and thoroughly offensive) (and even a bit scary) rant of epic proportions

I think about that Michael Richards incident a lot. You're the only other person I've heard make that comparison to Hicks' rant that everyone seems to love. For the life of me, I can't tell the difference between the two incidents. They both just seem mean and not particularly funny.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:24 PM on July 28, 2009


Anyone who thinks Louis C.K. is funny should be locked in a room and forced to watch "Lucky Louis" marathon, Clockwork Orange-style.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:25 PM on July 28, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: I favorited your comment because I want to remember it the next time I think you're being insightful in another thread. It'll be like a smelling salt that jerks me back from unconsciousness.
posted by mullacc at 12:34 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks Louis C.K. is funny should be locked in a room and forced to watch "Lucky Louis" marathon, Clockwork Orange-style.

The show was not great but his stand up is fantastic.
posted by billysumday at 12:34 PM on July 28, 2009


Anyone who doesn't think he's funny should be banned from all comedy discussions and forced to watch Young Einstein over and over again while Heath Ledger taunts him from a video screen SawII-style "WHY SO SERIOUS GET IT HAHAHAHAHAHA?????"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:37 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was only half-serious. No one should be forced to watch "Lucky Louis".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:48 PM on July 28, 2009


that's it BP I'm blocking you on gchat
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:00 PM on July 28, 2009


Blazecock Pileone: You're just uncomfortable with the portrayal of working-class Americans on television. I'm sorry, but real life isn't like "Two and a Half Men." Wake up.
posted by mullacc at 1:08 PM on July 28, 2009


Because, irony or no, you're still a white guy making jokes that toy with incredibly painful themes and stereotypes, and I see that less as an expression of your cleverness than your privilege.

This is exactly what I wanted to say.


Yeah, white guys shouldn't be allowed to talk about some things.
posted by spaltavian at 1:11 PM on July 28, 2009


You're just uncomfortable with the portrayal of working-class Americans on television

Not true. Mr. Belvedere was an excellent documentary.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:19 PM on July 28, 2009


It reminds me of what they say about "alternative medicine": if it worked, they'd just call it "medicine".

If "politically incorrect comedy" was funny, what would they call it?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:25 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Patton Oswalt AND Larry the Cable Guy. There, I said it.

Interesting to this discussion, Larry the Cable Guy is purely a character, of comedian Daniel Whitney (who does not have that Southern accent). He invented Larry to call in to a friend's radio appearance in 1991, 6 years into his comedy career.

A comic who knew him before then told me he was funny and clever. It's like a Twilight Zone episode where the puppet takes over the master.
posted by msalt at 1:29 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


To me asking "what's so funny about rape?" misses the point. What's so funny about walking into a bar?

Wow. That's possibly the worst analogy ever drawn in the history of analogies. "Misses the point" more accurate than you had planned, I think.
posted by tzikeh at 1:29 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, white guys shouldn't be allowed to talk about some things.

That's why there is as police agency established to prevent white men from talking about some things. If not, there should be! That's exactly what this discussion is about!
posted by kathrineg at 1:39 PM on July 28, 2009


Yeah, white guys shouldn't be allowed to talk about some things.

Hmm...I sense sarcasm.

I think the point is more that when white guys talk about sensitive stuff with impunity they shouldn't confuse offensiveness or discomfort with humor.

Really, this goes for everyone, but it seems (some) white guys in particular have a chip on their shoulder about it. I say: get a therapist or find a hobby or something...aren't there more productive ways to spend time?
posted by dubitable at 1:41 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the world would be a far better place if white people stopped using the n-word altogether than if white people kept on using the n-word but called it "brilliant irony."

I think the world would be a better place if Americans stopped saying silly things like "the n-word" and "the c-word" and blurring out raised middle fingers on network television as though nobody knew what these terrible, destructive and mind-altering words were or as though they were protecting a generation of children from learning them.

You can teach kids something is bad while still directly identifying. In fact, they might actually take you more seriously if you did.

The mentality behind saying "the n-word" is ultimately the same mentality that leads to the burning of books.
posted by modernnomad at 1:44 PM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I heard Herring being interviewed on the radio about his Hitler Mustache show and he seemed very measured and insightful... basically saying that Hitler has forever stolen that style of tache from Chaplin and a number of comics who had it (plus ordinary people). And the name Adolf. And the swastika. It's his final rather petty victory.

"Can I be the latest to point out that @Herring1967 is about as racist as Shami Chakrabarti? 'New Offenders', my tits." Charlie Brooker on twitter.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:51 PM on July 28, 2009


msalt: Watch it happen again in real time.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:54 PM on July 28, 2009


People use the phrase 'the n-word' because of the possibility that someone may overhear you, and if they do, it's clear you're not trying to be offensive. If someone overhears 'mumbledy mumble NIGGER mumbledy mumble' then you just might get your face shot off, regardless of what your intentions may have been.
posted by jamstigator at 1:58 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only comic mentioned in the article I've seen live is Brendon Burn who I did think was particularly offensive as things go.

But then I've seen Jerry Sadowidtz live... who to offensiveness is like the sun to brightness. Though he never goes for the easy target.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:00 PM on July 28, 2009


As shit lazy journalists go Brian Logan isn't quite as bad as Paula Murray, fuckwit who did the monstering peice on the Dunblane survivors, but he certainly seems to have aspirations for the the same territory. What a terrible human being.
posted by Artw at 2:00 PM on July 28, 2009


The mentality behind saying "the n-word" is ultimately the same mentality that leads to the burning of books.

No, not really, reality is a bit more nuanced than that. Are you an American? You don't sound like one, or you sound like one who hasn't really spent a ton of time listening to many people who identify as African-American about how they respond to white people using "the n-word," which I couldn't help but notice you also did not fully state in your comment.
posted by dubitable at 2:04 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, white guys shouldn't be allowed to talk about some things.

No, but perhaps spaltavian shouldn't be allowed to paraphrase.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:07 PM on July 28, 2009


Richard Herring slams a heckler
posted by Artw at 2:15 PM on July 28, 2009


Oh and Jimmy Carr... as someone once said, not only does he have face that looks like it's been repeatedly hit with a spade, it should be.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:19 PM on July 28, 2009


There's some things I regret being out of the country for... the rise of Jimmy Carr is not one of them.
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, not really, reality is a bit more nuanced than that. Are you an American? You don't sound like one, or you sound like one who hasn't really spent a ton of time listening to many people who identify as African-American about how they respond to white people using "the n-word," which I couldn't help but notice you also did not fully state in your comment.

I think you misunderstand me. Calling someone "a nigger" is quite obviously offensive. If parents aren't able to say to their kids "hey Johnny, you should never call someone a nigger, that's a terrible thing to say", but instead have to say to them, "hey Johnny, you should never call someone the 'n-word', that's a terrible thing to say", I find it laughable in the extreme.

The notion that the a word simply being spoken, even if it is spoken in the context of "this is a terrible insult that has been used for generations to belittle and subjugate an entire population", will destroy the fragile mind of anyone who hears it is ridiculous.
posted by modernnomad at 2:23 PM on July 28, 2009


kldickson: It really ought to offend 100% of the population; men can get raped too.

It really ought to offend 100% of the population, because people should be offended by terrible things even if they do not directly affect them.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:37 PM on July 28, 2009


The notion that the a word simply being spoken, even if it is spoken in the context of "this is a terrible insult that has been used for generations to belittle and subjugate an entire population", will destroy the fragile mind of anyone who hears it is ridiculous.

N҉҉L҉GR҉O̚̕̚
posted by Artw at 2:39 PM on July 28, 2009 [12 favorites]


"Hacks just want a reaction."

I have to agree with this and the iterations of it in the thread. There's people who want to be funny and there's people who want to be famous/known.
Richard Prior as a perfect example - yeah, he could be shocking, but he was brutally honest and ultimately the only thing he cared about, raising public consciousness or not, was making people laugh. (Tell Bill I said have a coke and shut the fuck up).

Too often saying shocking crap is the equivalent of the weird kid in class doing gross stuff just to get attention. People know when you want to be funny, even if you blow it. And they can sense pretty well when you're full of b.s. and just trying to get a leg up.

Silverman as an example. I agree with the above criticisms, but I think she's for real. Oh, she might be a one trick pony, but "I want an abortion...but I'm having a hard time getting pregnant" is pretty straightforward in form so, Henny Youngman maybe, but not reaching for humor outside the statement.
And too there's a difference between enjoying making people uncomfortable (Kaufman, or Silverman saying Joe Franklin raped her) and aggression.

Mencia - I don't know wtf that guy is about. I'm tempted to get a career in comedy, do stand up, pack Carnegie Hall, just become a huge star, do movies, all that. And tell everyone I'm just 1/2 assing it but I'm doing better than Mencia, just to piss him off.
Although I'm not fixated on him. "Wild Hogs" makes me want to become a filmmaker.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:44 PM on July 28, 2009


Smedleyman: There's people who want to be funny and there's people who want to be famous/known.

I think this analysis overlooks the (admittedly potentially small) influence of Andy Kaufman, the desire to provoke a reaction because it's interesting.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:46 PM on July 28, 2009


Interesting to this discussion, Larry the Cable Guy is purely a character, of comedian Daniel Whitney (who does not have that Southern accent). He invented Larry to call in to a friend's radio appearance in 1991, 6 years into his comedy career.

Yep. And there's video to prove it.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:48 PM on July 28, 2009


I find Metafilters longstanding antipathy towards Silverman rather odd. I think it's some kind of unholy combination of various righteous cynical hipster urges to declare things "not funny". I've a teensy bit of a suspicion that her having a womb has something to do with it as well.
posted by Artw at 2:52 PM on July 28, 2009


Andy Kaufman, the desire to provoke a reaction because it's interesting.

But part of Kaufman's genius was the great lengths he was willing to go to get a reaction.
posted by borges at 2:58 PM on July 28, 2009


I like Sarah Silverman, although I must admit I loathe her one-lousy-joke-per-song guitar shtick.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:59 PM on July 28, 2009


did you just call meFites hipsters? what the hell is happ--҉҉҉
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:03 PM on July 28, 2009


Hipsters are the new rape victems
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:06 PM on July 28, 2009


More a bunch of faux hipster yuppies, TBH.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on July 28, 2009


Yeah real hipsters love offensive comedy. See: Vice Magazine, Buddyhead, Chunklet, Stella, Tim and Eric, Potomac Avenue Community Blog Poster #80, 913.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:32 PM on July 28, 2009


Quoted from another website:

"Rape is never funny... unless you're raping a clown."
posted by spoobnooble at 3:59 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think Amy Sedaris is hilarious and Sarah Silverman is not. Mostly because Amy Sedaris is a man and Sarah Silverman is a woman.
posted by billysumday at 4:06 PM on July 28, 2009


Another response
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on July 28, 2009


I find Metafilters longstanding antipathy towards Silverman rather odd. I think it's some kind of unholy combination of various righteous cynical hipster urges to declare things "not funny". I've a teensy bit of a suspicion that her having a womb has something to do with it as well.

I like Silverman and even I recognize that she has a one-joke vocabulary.

The "womb", as you put it, accounts for a good bit of her popularity (she's cute, it's extra-shocking coming from a woman, etc.). But of course sexism is always an easy go-to to explain away anyone's dislike for something you like.

you couldn't get any more repulsive than a grown man and father expressing pure hatred for his only daughter, but there it was, and it was hilarious because the joke was ultimately about what a shitty father he was, and what a twisted and completely messed up human being he was.

I love that bit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:50 PM on July 28, 2009


I searched the thread for the phrase "rape is the new black" and it doesn't look like anyone's said it yet, so... rape is the new black
posted by tehloki at 5:02 PM on July 28, 2009


I searched the thread for the phrase "rape is the new black" and it doesn't look like anyone's said it yet, so... rape is the new black

Um...RTFA?
Capurro told me, with some distaste: "For a lot of comics, it's OK to talk about raping women now. That's the new black on the comedy circuit."
posted by Sys Rq at 5:09 PM on July 28, 2009


"Rape the fucking article"?!
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:20 PM on July 28, 2009


Laughter settles all arguments. If you laugh, then you've really given up your claim to offense. Hence, if the comedian is funny enough, theoretically nothing is off-limits.

That said, different tastes call for different flavors, and I feel like maybe the big unspoken issue here is that stand-up, being such a small world, hasn't developed nearly the same kind of genre distinctions that music, film, tv, books and everything else has. Sure, Seinfeld will be called "observational" Steven Wright, "deadpan one-liner," but that doesn't really help much in terms of finding out what might be your thing. Comedy has different levels that it's pitched to. Levels of energy, levels of intelligence/general knowledge, degrees of joke-joke-joke versus storytelling and, yes, levels of offense, among other things. These things are all a matter of taste, and say little, I think, about the ethics and morals of either the comedian or their audience, at least on their own.

For instance, as long as the comedy is intelligent, then I am a huge fan of it being as offensive as possible, because offensive comedy, when smart, hits me at the emotional level of actually being about something that needs to be discussed. Take two comedians who can seem very similar at first: Dane Cook (whom I despise) and Daniel Tosh (who I honestly really enjoy). They've both got the same sort of energy, for lack of a better word, which also makes them both come off initially as douchebags. But Dane Cook is inoffensive where Tosh goes for the "edgier" material, and Cook is furiously lowest-common-denominator whereas Tosh's act is actually very smart and meticulously written. It's been written several times above that his humor is just about aggressively calling women "whores." That's as disingenuous and misleading as anything in the original article. This is referring to one specific joke, out of context from the rest of his act. Here is the joke, in transcript form:
I am all for women who decide to get plastic surgery, because plastic surgery allows you the rare opportunity to make your outer appearance reflect your inner self: Fake! See, that's a positive joke for women, unless you've got fake boobs, and let's be honest you're not smart enough to get that joke. How's that feel, whores? Keep telling yourself you did it to make your shirts fit better - you did it because you're a whore!"
In written form, that's not only unfunny, but hideously misogynistic. If I read it in a book, I'd probably stop reading the book. But in the stand up setting you're missing both the timbre of the delivery and the interplay with the audience's response. You're also missing the fact that a major aspect of Tosh's set is intentionally (and explicitly) about taking things which were once relatively innocent jokes into places where the audience that was laughing a second ago now feels ashamed about laughing. It's a tightrope act, and his delivery is very hit-and-miss from night to night, but he's most definitely not getting the joke from saying that women are whores. It's coming from elsewhere. And it's, notably, the only part of the set where he takes anything in that direction.

I've known funny, lighthearted people who only listen to death-metal or gangsta-rap, both of which can be highly offensive both for aesthetic and content-based purposes for those who aren't in the intended audience. I know politically-conscious activists whose favorite movies are the goriest horror they can find. I love smart, super-offensive comedy (with the ever-present caveat that it must be done well, of course) bot because I'm racist or sexist or homophobic or into harming children, but because those things get my attention and raise my blood-pressure and if the joke is smart, then it also relieves it and , if it's really smart (like with David Cross, for instance) I've probably thought about it in another way than I have before.

Jimmy Carr isn't funny, but I don't think he's sexist either. When he uses shock-humor it's clearly playing on the premise that what he's saying is inappropriate. Jim Davidson, on the other hand, bases his set on the idea that what he's saying should be appropriate and that these politically correct fuckers are ruining things by stating otherwise. That's a broad distinction in my mind. It's why Jeff Dunham and Carlos Mencia and Dat Phan get laughs about the stereotypes they're perpetuating (and all of them are, and they are all lazy fucking hacks) while Silverman, despite being one-note, gets her laughs because of the dissonance between what she's saying and the cute perky jewish girl saying them. In one, the joke is on the race in question or whetever other victim, and in the other, the joke is on the idea that someone could think that the joke was funny or appropriate. It's a thin line, but it's there.

I'll end with a line from Stewar Lee's stand-up:
You might remember at the end of 2004, when Jimmy Carr had to take Jim Davidson to task for stealing some of his material. Though to be honest, if Jim Davidson can steal your material, maybe it's time to think about writing something else. Although to be fair to Jimmy Carr, it was a kind of sexist bit that he'd written with a sense of irony, that Jim Davidson was able to appropriate at face value. One of the kindest things you can say about Jim Davidson, as a fellow comic, is that he's not a performer who's troubled by the possibility of duality of meaning.
Say what we will about irony, but that, to me, makes all the difference.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:14 PM on July 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Stewart Lee - Beligerant Footballers
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:23 PM on July 28, 2009


Navelgazer: I admit that I was oversimplifying Tosh's act, and I've only seen maybe 15-20 min of his stand-up (plus a couple of episodes of Tosh.0). I don't think he is as misogynist as his stand-up persona, but I don't think he is a good comic. I think he has very poor delivery and timing, and I find his act pretty lazy and dull. Someone else could be funny with it, probably, but he is not funny to me. Just different tastes.

I think Silverman, on the other hand, is one-note but is still funny, or can be at least (as someone mentioned above, though, her one-joke songs are tedious in the extreme). Far too many comics do the funny-song bit, and few of them really do it well.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:48 PM on July 28, 2009


That Guardian article was poison. Taking standup material out of the context of the live experience is fucking bullshit. But hey, let's all rape at the racist.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:41 PM on July 28, 2009


I find Jimmy Carr unpleasant - if he is playing a persona, it doesn't come across, and I'm left wondering why he is at pains to tell his audience how bad he is at picking girlfriends.

I'm white and don't even feel comfortable typing 'nigger' and 'Paki' in this comment. Partly because I feel that careless choice of offensive and emotive language to refer to people is easily enough avoided, and partly because these words are common currency where we grew up (I hear my older nephews coming out with shocking comments often) and I want to distance myself from those attitudes.

I guess it's time someone brought up Bernard Manning[nb this link is from the Mail] - a comedian with terribly offensive jokes but keen comic timing and knowledge of what his audience wanted. "Manning felt the word "wog" was "a horrible, insulting word I've never used in my life" but defended use of the words "nigger" and "coon" as historical terms with respectable roots." The documentary on his death (a cut-down version of which is here) which he narrated prior to dying, was interesting watching.
posted by mippy at 3:31 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


That Guardian article was poison.

Yes. It was lazy and deliberately misleading. BTW, Richard Herring's response to the piece above should be in the Guardian this Friday.
posted by ob at 8:17 AM on July 29, 2009


Chortle has picked up the story.

Stand up comedy in the UK seems to be a fairly close knit group, I wonder if anyone will be talking to Brian Logan ever again.
posted by Artw at 9:11 AM on July 29, 2009


"I think this analysis overlooks the (admittedly potentially small) influence of Andy Kaufman, the desire to provoke a reaction because it's interesting"

No, I agree with that. I was placing Kaufman (et.al) as a contrast to the simplistic aggression of provocation in order to be famous. Mencia, et.al. Sorry, should have been clearer.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:59 PM on July 29, 2009


Roy 'Chubby' Brown. Offence without irony.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:55 AM on July 30, 2009


A lot of shock comics strike me like bad death metal bands.
I get it, you're EDGY. Let me guess -- skullfucking? Raping babies? Parking in handicapped spaces for Satan? What a badass man you truly are.
posted by msalt at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2009


'There isn't a "New Offensiveness"'

Standup comedian Richard Herring defends his 'Hitler Moustache' act after comments made by Guardian critic Brian Logan
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:04 AM on July 31, 2009


Reporting on comedy's new offenders wasn't intended to offend Brian Logan, responds....
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:07 AM on July 31, 2009


Brian Logan, responds....

Nice unpology. Good luck at the Fringe, mate!
posted by Artw at 7:51 AM on July 31, 2009


I particularly liked: When describing Herring's material, I took care to use words like "purported" hatred of Pakistanis, and "claims" to support the BNP, to distance him from these actual sentiments.

See, it's all in the nuance!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:45 AM on July 31, 2009


And it's worth having a dig down into the comments; Brendon Burn turns up and he's amazingly magnanimous, considering.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:59 AM on July 31, 2009


You go too far, Guardian.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:24 AM on July 31, 2009


It's time for Father Ted to receive the last rites.

oh fuck that.
posted by Artw at 10:27 AM on July 31, 2009


Father Ted should be put in a time capsule so that future generations, questioning the popularity of Graham Norton, can see the last time he was ever funny.
posted by longbaugh at 11:30 AM on July 31, 2009


That's just shit... Ted was the only modern comedy I could watch with my parents and all of us laugh like drains.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:29 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


sys rq: I should have R more of the F'ing A, I came in here after skimming it to say that.
posted by tehloki at 3:27 PM on July 31, 2009


Sarah Silverman (I think it's her) is actually kind of awesome on Twitter.
posted by Artw at 4:44 PM on August 5, 2009


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