Unpunny, or The Mainstreaming Of ‘Edgy’ Comedy
by Jake Kroeger on March 8, 2012
It happens very frequently when I watch comedy: I get offended. I saw one joke that hinged on a Jesus Christ Superstar pun and had that feeling that some inarticulate people describe as “throwing up in your mouth a little.” After that, someone told a perfectly funny rape joke and I almost forgot the dumb pun that I was subjected to.
Comedy is at a point, possibly, where rape jokes are becoming rather tame and “edgy” means doing stupid puns with conviction.
Getting offended while watching, listening, or experiencing comedy is pretty much a universal experience, although, outside what Standards and Practices and the MPAA deem as offensive, the zeitgeist of what makes a majority of the audience cringe in 2012 is vastly different than that of a score of years ago. There are certainly plenty of groups, factions, etc. that still get outraged at a reference to rape or a natural disaster or even a celebrity that just died. Yet, as traditionally offensive material is now being accepted as humor, the dynamic in how comedy is received has arguably been flipped.
Jokes about not only rape, but 9/11, Jeffrey Dahmer, lewd sex fetishes, the N-word, and more are pretty common in the comedic milieu. The repetition of such objectively racy topics has perhaps desensitized comedy audiences, but has also made the comedic premises of “the difficulty of dating”, “I’m half [insert ethnicity] and half [insert ethnicity]“, and corny wordplay very disagreeable.
Without fail, if I hear a joke that sounds like it’s from a innocuous joke book, perhaps one titled, “100 Good Clean Jokes,” I will want to boo whoever is on stage. Even when done in an sarcastic, ironic fashion, those jokes are still overplayed.
Some of the people reading this might think this is a bad sign of how morally corrupt we’ve become, that we laugh at such despicable things. Of course, as far as I’m concerned, they’re wrong. Going to back to Bill Hicks and even as far as Lenny Bruce, the concept of laughing at taboo topics disarms whatever power they hold over the masses. Lenny Bruce had a funny bit about blowing up a plane that would be heavily edited today, almost sixty years after he told it. Luckily, comedy tastes are broadening to a point where stimulating and entertaining discussions can arise on supposedly unspeakable topics instead of just covering your eyes and ears to it like a child.
If this type of free thinking comes at the sacrifice of cheesy puns being publicly shamed, then, I say, so be it.