Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Great Debate: Can Rape Jokes Be Funny?

When I receive my daily Refinery29 email there's a 50/50 shot I'm going to read it (I blame the semi-new format where you have to scroll down to see anything besides the first highlighted article, very lazy of me, I know), but today I was really glad I did because when I got to the news section I clicked on a link for this article about comedians and rape jokes.

In the interest of full disclosure I would like to remind you that I do not particularly care for Jezebel. I think that many of their writers are the types of women who make me cringe at the word "feminist." That being said, I found the debate between Lindy West and Jim Norton to be funny, interesting and thought provoking.

Unfortunately, after the debate aired, Lindy received extremely negative, unintelligent and hurtful feedback which only showed how wrong Jim was when he claimed that most people in a comedy club know when someone is joking. He is simply giving the masses too much credit.

While it's nice to think that everyone who walks into a comedy show is smart enough to understand sarcasm and satire, and appreciate comedy as art, the truth is that that's often not the case. When I watch a stand-up set on YouTube or read the comments on one of Tosh.0's blog posts I am often astounded by how offensive people can be under the guise of humor.

It's my opinion that, when it comes to comedic skills and talent, the average individual is suffering from what I'm going to call the American Idol effect - they have friends who tell them that they are funny (or can't be bothered with telling them that they're not funny), therefore they must be funny and the rest of us must be subjected to whatever would be the comedic equivalent of being tone-deaf. These are the "trolls" who lurk in comment sections.

As a writer and a former ad/PR/marketing student, it has been burned into my brain that you must consider your audience. The internet makes this an especially difficult task, but I do think that there are ways to provide commentary on upsetting subjects (like what Jim Norton was saying about that Joan Rivers set #JoanRangers) without being entirely offensive.

There are certain subjects that just get my mind racing and this is definitely one of them. I'm sure that I'll be thinking of points for both sides of the debate in days to come and that is truly the best thing to come out of articles like this.

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