Offensive comedy gives comedic relief

AK Pachla, Reporter

I like to think I have a pretty good sense of humor, and I credit my parents for this.

“Funny” is the emotional thread that runs through my childhood. “Funny” trumped everything, even when it wasn’t intended to. My father would occasionally blurt things out in the middle of yelling at one of us kids that would make the whole affair spontaneously devolve into a standup routine.

And “funny” always made everything better. A lot of the time, it stopped things from ever getting bad in the first place. This is how I gained my appreciation for offensive humor. Sometimes graphic, tasteless and even insulting, offensive comedy is a way of empowering the narrative of the people we are through the chaos of the creatures we are forced to be by the things and events we cannot control.

On the recent observance of Sept. 11, I realized that my “ritual” has become getting ethnically insulted as an American by offensive Internet comedians trolling for drama. I value the fact that after all this time, I can still be challenged to justify my feelings about the event. It is in re-evaluating our thoughts and feelings about a thing that we find out who we are and what really matters to us.

Don’t mistake me for applying the label of “comedy” after the fact as an excuse for inappropriately insulting or demeaning others. People can tell when someone is just being nasty, and some may engage in and even enjoy that behavior at certain times (such as taking part in a gossip session or anonymous trash-talk in video games), but it isn’t comedy. Even if people find it funny, people do it for status, not humor.

Humor as an art form (comedy) is fairly recent in human history. “Funny” is an emotion seen in a number of animals aside from humans, and humans have likely been making jokes ever since we realized we could make each other laugh on purpose just by saying the right kind of nonsense. What elevates humor to comedy is the addition of writing.

Writing the nonsense down first gives the comic a capacity for subtext and in the case of comedy intended to offend, the subtext is, “Are the parts of you that care still alive? Are you still in there somewhere?” When this is done incorrectly, it causes a lot of temporarily hurt feelings and a comedian somewhere has to update their resume.

When it is done correctly, it is genius. It is a piece of bent light that shows you who are when you’re not looking. Satire works because it actively seeks out and confronts intolerance, and this is the value of offensive comedy. Intolerance allowed to fester undisturbed eventually becomes blind discrimination. Things that are measurably wrong become “just the way it is” because the root of inequity never sees sunlight.

Society needs offensive comedy for the same reason it needs every kind of art and artist. Art is one of the things we use to set the rules for how we live as a culture. We’re kind of making it up as we go along, and repeatedly crashing headlong into our boundaries may not be the safest or most efficient way to figure out where they are, but it’s all we’ve got.

If the best we can do is art, I’ll take it.