In this episode, Tyler and David are joined by filmmakers Mike Celestino and Robert Garren to discuss their comedy documentary That’s Not Funny, which is currently in the fundraising stages of preproduction.
Another great Dennis Miller quote: “Why, when a comedian does a joke on anything even vaguely controversial, do certain people moan like somebody let one rip during an audience with the Pope? I mean, come on, who actually moans at a joke? Who is responsible for that? Well, quite frankly, I’m pinning it on the gays, okay.”
Suicide bombing is a subject I think is just not funny. Mainly because there are only two possible suicide bomber jokes:
1. How do we trick people into becoming suicide bombers?
2. We are running out of suicide bombers.
And both of those jokes got old three weeks after 9/11.
You know what? It is sad that there are grown adults who spend their lives convincing children that it is a good thing to kill other people while taking their own lives in the process. Even in a comedy about terrorism like Four Lions the suicide bombing scenes are not funny their just sad.
I’m not the biggest fan of Four Lions, as I feel much of the comedy just falls flat, but the film has kind of a brilliant structural conceit in that it does invite us to laugh at them, only to genuinely feel sad about their eventual demise. I don’t think that emotion you mention is accidental, but rather elevates the film, forcing us to realize that these buffoons are as much victims of terrorism as those they target. Which isn’t to say all suicide bombers are inherently tragic, but it’s an angle on terrorism that couldn’t be explored as effectively in any mode other than comedy.
The baby/steak joke comes from Robert A. Heinlein apparently:
“How anybody expects a man to stay in business with every two-bit wowser in the country claiming a veto over what we can say and can’t say and what we can show and what we can’t show — it’s enough to make you throw up. The whole principle is wrong; it’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t eat steak.”
Loved this episode. For the last few years I’ve made an active effort to avoid using the words “weird” or “offensive” to describe anything pejoratively, because both of those feel like knee-jerk reaction words from people who don’t understand what they’re seeing/hearing.
Someone in this episode made a great point, saying something along the lines of “the idea that something that offends me is more important than something that offends anyone else” is a good way of framing that. The fact that comedians have lost work and been treated like horrible people for something as miniscule as a joke on Twitter (Gilbert Gottfried, for example) is crazy to me.
I think you guys were kind of all over the place in this episode. I’m not really sure what the central message is. You call out people for the “Not In My Backyard” hypocrisy, and certainly that exists for some people, but I think ultimately the issue is that context often matters when a comedian/artist takes aim at Group X.
For example, you guys talked about Team America. I agree a liberal anti-war person would be hypocritical to be angry about being mocked in that movie, especially when half the movie mocked jingoistic pro-war types. But myself, as I gay man was pretty offended. I wouldn’t have been offended if they simply made fun of gays, they’ve done that many many times on the show in the past and on the South Park movie, where an evil dictator and the literal evil incarnate, the Devil himself, were portrayed as gay lovers, complete with “gross out” sex scenes. That was all fine. But Team America made “gay” itself the insult. If you want to insult Group X, call them gay. It’s such a great burn! I think that gay people as a group are alone in that distinction. You wouldn’t insult Christians by calling them Mexicans, for example. It wouldn’t make any sense. But everyone knows what “fag” means, and how it’s used to denote scorn to a man acting less than manly.
So I think many people use context and sometimes don’t trust the person making the joke that they’re “only kidding”.
I was also really surprised at one of the filmmaker’s assertion that seemed to be essentially that comedy is somehow beyond reproach; and that comedians’ art can never be called out or criticized for offensiveness because comedy is always a force for good. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist of it was pretty stunning, and doesn’t bode well for my hopes of an even-handed documentary on this issue. Surely it’s possible–even probable that many comedians genuinely do hate Group X and their “jokes” are a reflection of that hate. And I don’t think calling them out is a “restriction” on them, as one of the filmmakers put it.
And to the last point, you guys seemed very angry at comedians who apologize for saying something offensive. I understand that forced apologies are stupid and totally meaningless, but surely it’s possible for a comedian to reach the conclusion him or herself that they’ve gone over the line and to apologize for it? Is that always just selling out? I don’t think so. Maybe The Onion felt really terrible that so many people misunderstood the joke as simply calling a little girl a cunt, and maybe Tosh cooled down after his (perfectly justified) anger at the heckler and decided that joking that it would be funny if she got raped right now was over the line. And maybe Tracy Morgan wasn’t so much joking when he said he would beat his gay son, but genuinely articulating his own feelings and the feelings of thousands of parents across the country and that’s pretty fucked up thing to do in a comedy show. Comedians aren’t gods. They’re not infallible. Yes, they have a right to say what ever they want. But the rest of us have a right to react to it however we want.
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