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Saturday, October 06, 2007
Taboo but Funny
Confession time again.
Today, I'll admit something about myself that many people probably do not know, unless they spend a LOT of time with me.
I have a sense of humor that many would find rude and obnoxious. I don't know how I got this way. Was I born with it? Did I watch too much TV? Did I have the wrong friends? Who's to blame? I really don't know.
You're saying, how bad is it? Here's an example:
Q: Why did the baby fall out of the tree?
A: Because it was dead.
I used to laugh my head off at this joke, while people would stare at me in horror. How do I explain why this is funny? My only explanation is two-fold:
1. It's not real.
2. It's so horrible, it becomes funny.
Before you think I'm some creep - check yourself. You do it too in your own way. It's kind of like watching Arnold Schwarznegger go on a killing spree in "Commando." He kills so many people single-handedly that it becomes a joke. Or, it's like watching your friend fall out of his/her chair accidentally - your first reaction is not to help them, it's to laugh. If they hurt themselves, it's not funny, but if not - man, they will never live that down. As a matter of fact, when we see physical comedy in movies or television - especially someone clumsy, bumbling, or just falling down - we laugh our heads off. Why?
Because it's not real, and because we know that it's not real, we're given permission to laugh. That's why I never understood Jackass. That's real , those guys are really hurting themselves, and people are laughing! I still don't get it. I like my jokes fictional in nature.
I admit, laughing at a dead baby falling out of a tree is extreme. However, I would certainly not laugh if it happened for real. Understand? In other words, there are taboo jokes - jokes about things that we're not supposed to call attention to or make fun of - race, abuse, genocide, gender, sexual orientation etc. - but there is a singular line that connects them all - humor. And humor is simply the ability to laugh not at other things, but at oneself. And if you can't laugh at yourself, you've got a problem.
This is not to say I'm going to be laughing if some stranger tells me a joke about black people or overweight people (of which I am both). A joke can be cruel if stereotypes get involved and if the person receiving the joke is sensitive about a certain area. This is cruel. I'm not into that. However, get me around a group of people who can laugh about most anything without taking it too seriously, and let the sparks fly. If I'm around people I know are not sensitive about race, I'll be the first one telling a black joke. The bottom line is no one's getting hurt, as long as there is no malice involved. Again, some would call this rude and obnoxious. I call it taboo but funny.
Some might picture a bunch of white guys standing around cracking black jokes and think that's racist and horrible. But check yourself, my brothers and sisters. How many jokes, stories, anecdotes, about white people have you sat around with your other black friends and laughed about? Heck, just turn on Def Comedy Jam. 9 out of 10 jokes are about sex, but 1 out of 10 is a comment/joke on white people.
Here's a list of my favorite movies because they utitilzed this style of humor:
1. The 40-Year Old Virgin - The best scenes from this movie were cut from the theatrical release. They are specifically the ones that use the "N" word. The"N" word offends me, but used correctly, is ridiculously hilarious. Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney are good examples. It's not the word itself in the end, it's how it's used. Funny is funny.
2. The Big Lebowski - Oh my goodness, I've seen this movie so many times. The scene with the pseudo-memorial service and the ashes? I'm laughing right now thinking about it.
3. Money Talks - Chris Tucker and Charlie Sheen in a movie filled with obvious racial jokes. But who's funnier than Chris Tucker? He makes so many racial references to white people, Latino, black people, Arabs, etc. that you have to just get over yourself and laugh your head off. He's a genius.
4. Undercover Brother - Many called this movie racist. They were all white. This is one of those movies you have to be black to appreciate. Every racial sterotype and discomforting joke had the ring of truth. I saw it three times in the theater. Sorry.
5. Team America - If you haven't seen it, you're not whole. Marionette terrorists? Parodying the musical "Rent?" A marionette love scene (I use that word "love" loosely)? I can't even tell one of the jokes from this movie because kids read this site. However, I can't remember the last time I laughed this hard. I've got to own this on DVD.
Now for the list of movies that got it wrong:
1. Shallow Hal - The fat jokes just don't sustain this movie. In the end, it's not funny anymore and just mean. A perfect example of taking it too far.
2. The Adventures of Ford Fairlane - I'll admit that when Andrew Dice Clay dropped his first album - I loved it. It was everything I love about humor - taboo but funny. However, man did this guy go off the deep end? By the time his second album came out - a double CD - there wasn't one funny joke on the whole thing. This movie didn't save his career either. Too much taboo is not funny. Degrading women ceases being funny if you're not self-deprecating yourself.
3. Freddy Got Fingered - Tom Green equals taboo. Tom Green also equals NOT funny. How could he screw this up? It proves that it takes talent to be funny. Did anybody out there think this was funny? Please respond.
4. Very Bad Things - Five guys accidentally kill a stripper at a bachelor party and then one friend accidentally kills another friend. The bride is O.K. with this, Lady Macbeth style. Why am I not laughing? Please show me the humor in this? Horrible execution of a probably funny premise, but the poor stripper who died accidentally - that's not funny. This is so different from the baby in the tree joke. You're not prepared for that punchline, and you have no connection to the child. This separation from the joke subject does not translate to film well. Film makes you involved with characters and puts your feelings into play. That can eliminate humor if something bad happens.
5. Borat - I struggled with this one because I laughed my head off. But, the more I think about it, when people aren't included on the joke, even after the fact, is that funny for them? I think everyone involved should be able to laugh at something if it is truly funny. Many of his victims did not and do not think what he did was funny, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In the end, I really am laughing at other people's misfortunes - whether real or imagined by them.
Enough for now! I hope you can appreciate my honesty and know that I care deeply about people. I don't know why I have this sense of humor. But I do know that I'm mature enough to keep it under wraps as to not offend anyone. Now you know.
Are we still friends?