Dagens ord

Ansvar väger tyngre än frihet - Responsibility trumps liberty

4 mars 2019

Svart humor

Great, as always!

During your talk, I felt there was something missing or something that didn’t quite fit. You did approach it at the very end, and I agree with everything you said, but I still want to try and elaborate it: When you say that Carlin, Gervais et al. don’t really deliver good comedy, this seems to mean ”for the audience they’re targetting”. But if that audience actually does share a certain worldview, however misguided or unsophisticated, the real comedy is there, in the sense that the ”edginess” of ”exposing” a politically correct and imposed ”euphemism” or ”white lie” is cathartic - and that catharsis is certainly a vital ingredient of good comedy. When you then contrast this with a ”genuinely good joke” about e.g. transsexuals or any kind of minority or disadvantaged group etc., you are actually describing a good fit between artist and audience: they not only share the same worldview, but it is also an objectively more accurate and detailed worldview (of some particular and possibly narrow domain). Any serious comedian will face an impossible dilemma in trying to be both accurate and fair, and at the same time not seem ”snowflaky” to at least some of his or her audience - at least if the artist wishes to avoid screening that audience beforehand or limit themselves to very select audiences. It is partly out of the artist’s control. Especially if the artist genuinely wants to broaden his or her subject matter beyond the least common denominator, or merely in order to get enough of a crowd to pay the bills.

The paradox is that precisely those comedians who wish to walk the line and deliver genuinely funny and educational jokes must first educate the audience. And out goes the edginess. So, the cririque, or analysis, of what it takes to produce good comedy must take into account not only the joke, the comedian and the delivery, but also the audience and the reception.

I do of course agree that comedy should not inteoduce or reinforce faulty stereotypes, incorrect or unsophisticated characterizations of subjects or people. (Though market and psychological forces tend to push comedy, as well as any kind of entertainment etc., in that direction.) But it is ineffective to blame individual comedians for being part of that evolutionary spiral. Especially since many of them may sincerely be trying to meet your balance criteria, and/or my enlightenment criteria - and believing that they are succeeding.

Maybe a more succinct way of putting it: If good (cathartic) comedy demands that comedian and audience share the same (kind of) darkness, then good comedy can only be produced in groups and contexts where this criterion is met. That may well be true, but ther is no way to limit attempts at comedy (of any kind or quality) to such contexts. What goes on outside such contexts may be more or less humourous or malignant. It is always a good thing to expose incorrect stereotypes, murky thinking and malicious agitation, whether it occurs on a comedy stage or not. But isn’t it better to just call it what it is, rather than calling it ”bad comedy”?

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