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Oops, That Shouldn’t Have Been Funny…

August 26, 2013

A teenage boy in a wheelchair goes to a concert. The disabled seating area is right at the front, the family have a great view and all the staff are really friendly and attentive. As the concert starts, the boy’s younger sister turns to him and says ‘We’re soooo lucky that you’re disabled!’ Inappropriate laugh.

‘The seagull problem has got so bad that a 71 year old woman will no longer leave her house without a metal colander on her head.’ Inappropriate laugh.

It happens all the time, I hear something on the radio or in conversation and can’t help finding it funny, despite the fact that the topic under discussion is actually quite serious.

Funerals are a particularly strange one. Don’t worry I don’t sit at the back sniggering during a funeral service, but it’s always amazed me how much laughter you hear at the wake afterwards. Obviously this depends on the circumstances of the persons death, but in my experience, wakes tend to be fairly jolly affairs.

I wonder what it says about us that we find humour in the sad or depressing. How a taboo subject can be the best source of material for a comedian. It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and I have to say that I agree. Laughter is good for the mind, the body and the soul. As such, I think that people worry too much about what may be offensive in comedy. When done tastefully, making jokes about a distressing subject can help to heal the fear which goes with the distress. We’re not laughing at those who are negatively affected, but we’re allowing ourselves a release for our own feelings on the subject.

There was recently some debate as to whether a group of people should have dressed up as Jimmy Saville on a parade float. I have to say that I think this was completely tasteless and don’t think it was even remotely funny. But the sentiment, of wanting to turn this creature into an object of ridicule rather than of fear holds some merit. As a nation, we feel betrayed by a man who many people grew up with; it’s like discovering that a piece of your childhood is fake. It may seem selfish for those of us who were not personally affected by this man’s actions to feel wronged in any way but there it is. We need to heal and perhaps laughter is the only way which we can do this.

I’ll end with an inappropriate joke which I heard recently. As I was walking down the street I saw a man selling the Big Issue. He looked pretty down so when I stopped to buy one I thought I’d tell him a joke. ‘Knock knock’ I say cheerfully. The man became irate, shouting at me and calling me insensitive… Really, how was I to know he didn’t have a house…

(Anyone? Just a little chuckle maybe?)

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