Does humor suspend moral?

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I myself don't see any issues in making jokes about things people would see as immoral, I do it a lot myself.

But it's really a case of who is your audience? Are they people close to you that you know would accept that sort of thing or people you've just met and don't know if it would offend them?

Which is exactly why jokes that cross lines don't always come across well when told in a public environment, because you are telling them to many people with different standards and beliefs.

Humor is, by nature, acceptant. Germans make jokes about Danes and Poles, and they're funny because the people telling them aren't racist. It's a brotherly pat on the back when it's an implied invitation to make a jab back.
When there is no oppertunity to get back at somebody telling a joke about someone, though, it starts getting problematic, because there's no real way for the person to show that the reason they think it's funny is cause it's absurdly untrue.
An example is in order; when a husband makes jokes about beating his wife and his wife jokes back about how the husband is really a girl in disguise, it's funny. Good natured humor, poking fun at just how unlike that their relationship is.
When a husband jokes about beating his wife and his wife isn't allowed to joke back, then it's not funny and somebody should call the police.
So in a more relevant way, a white guy that isn't known for his racial humor decides to start making black jokes in harlem, it's bad because the audience doesn't know to what extent the comedian is making a "this is funny because it's so absurdly not true" joke or if he's making a "isn't it whacky that black people are actually like this?" joke.
Now, the same comedian makes race jokes where another comedian, who's black, can make fun of white people and neither of them is upset about it? Totally okay, because it's shown that neither is being genuine and that it's the harmless absurdist humor, not the problematic observationalist humor.

The problem with the Tosh rape joke is that you don't know if he thinks 5 guys raping that chick is funny because he finds the idea of sexual assault as a response to, well, anything so awful that the mere idea of him being okay with it is funny, or if actually wants that chick to get raped and is using humor as an excuse to say it and try to get other people to agree with him.

TLDR EDIT; 'Offensive' humor gets a free pass if the audience can tell if the real punchline of a joke is how absurd the notion is. Like, my ex of a quarter of my life making jokes about me raping some girl? Fucking funny, cause me and her both know how un-fucking-likely it is that I'd do that. Some guy I met last month at work joking about me raping a girl? Totally not okay, because he doesn't know me well enough to get why that suggestion is absurd, and therefor might actually think that I would, or could

I agree with several of the things you said about humor and comedy. Similar to what you said, I liken a sense of humor to the ability to enjoy all that life offers. To further that, one of the greatest aspects of comedy is its ability to approach subjects/topics and otherwise taboo in general; therefore, comedy can bring attention to generally sensitive issues and topics in a way people can enjoy. Really, nothing beats comedy as the best form to discuss an issue. It's a miracle of human behavior but it's hampered by those that are unwilling to allow "certain" topics to be made fun of (and thus enjoy).

As for jokes being offensive or not, as you said, there's nothing morally wrong about telling a joke that was not meant to offend. Execution is crucial in the department of joke delivery; but when the nigh-entirety of the audience got the joke while only a handful of people feel offended, then these handful of people were already in the mindset to take offense. They were not there to have fun or at the very least, they will not allow such topics to be made fun of . These kinds of people, personally, are the actual, "No Fun Allowed" guys on the Internet.

Maybe a slight tangent, but despite the Internet being (arguably) an emerging source of social justice, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that there's some people so enveloped in the social justice scene that they can't escape that mindset, forgetting that the Internet can be a place to go find humor and that not everyone is out to offend or deride them. They'll watch a video they already know is made by people like yahtzee or a webcomic that they'd otherwise enjoy for the flavor of comedy being presented but they're still in social justice -mode (mindset). Thus, they'll paradoxically find something that will very likely offend them or bizarrely enough, they will feel offended in a person or person's stead they absolutely believe would be offended by what they just saw and/or heard...how fascinating.

I don't hate these people or have anything personal against them, hence why I am trying to understand them, but I hate how this mindset, however it came about, is destroying the range of (accepted) humor and expression typically found online. We're losing more and more people and places that would provide alternative brands of humor to petty misunderstandings by pressing unfortunate humorists to hand in their figurative license to joke about "certain" topics. (Internet) Censorship anyone?

People should have the right to say (and joke) about anything they damn well please, and equally the right to respond to statements and jokes they find offensive and/or wrong. "It's just a joke" is NOT a blanket protection from critical responses. I certainly find the "how many niggers does it take to steal a bike?" jokes unpleasant as hell, and while I can take a few gay jokes in good humour they do get old rather quickly.

I think "tasteless jokes" are definently a thing, but it also very much depends on the person telling the joke, and how it is told. When someone apologizes for a joke they told it may just be to get the heat off their backs, and it may be the joke wasn't all that carefully considered, and when they think about it they realize it was in fact in poor taste and an apology is in order. I'd also like to add that I'm generally far too conflict-shy and not easily enough offended to actually want to confront someone when they make a joke I find unpleasant, though I imagine they are able to tell when I only smile polightly rather than laugh.

I think it's possible to joke about most subjects, but if it's going to be good or bad taste depends on who you're offending. Your rape joke makes who feel ridiculous? The victim or the rapist? Your jokes about racism makes the racist seems ridiculous or you stomp again on the heads of people who already suffer prejudice everyday? That's my filter when telling a joke: don't make someone miserable even more miserable.

Following this principle, whenever I make a joke that offends someone without a real good cause, I apologize soon after. I don't think that jokes exist in a vacuum, they carry moral values, political statements, judgements. The listener doesn't have a obligation to ignore it just because it's meant to be funny to another group. This is not censorship, I'm still free to joke about whatever I want after, but free speech carries responsabilities and consequences.

Just before reading this thread, I had read a news article about a joke incident here. A woman who was the biggest breast milk donor in the country was the target of a joke from a famous comedian. The joke was "She's almost breaking Kid Bengala's milking record!". Kid Bengala is a porn actor. The joke made her famous in her town and people started calling her "milking cow" in the streets. "Cow" is a very strong word here, with the same meaning of "bitch". She's still donating milk, but much less than before because she became the town laughing stock and is ashamed of getting out of home.

So... if you want to throw shit in the fan just for the laughs, you better think really well. Silly jokes can have very real effects on people's lives.

I think a good example of is the current Jimmy Kimmel controversy where people are riled up that a young kid said "we should kill all the Chinese" in response to a national debt question. A Chinese guy in my lab is all fired up about it and said there was a protest today in front of the station. He tried telling me it was a terrible thing to say and what if he wanted to kill all Americans. I told him if an 8 year old chinese kid thinks killing all americans is a good idea, I do not really care that much.

I feel that you can make a joke about any subject, it's not really a moral decision.

But I will agree with the people who say that knowing your audience and watching your execution is key. I also want to add that what I find to be the truly tasteless thing is the response of 'Oh stop being offended! I can make this joke if I want!' because:

A) It's hypocritical, if you are free to make your joke the other party is just as free to respond as they see fit, regardless of whether or not you agree with their response. They don't automatically lose their right to respond simply because they aren't giving you the response that you were looking to get. It's a two way street.

B) It's as some others have said: If you are going to say something you know may cause a stir you better be hella prepared for the results of whatever comes out of your mouth. Being free to say what you want, including making off-color jokes, does not mean you can say what you please without expecting backlash. It means you are trusted to have the capacity to think and understand the repercussions of what you say and are willing to face them. Just going 'I can say what I want, so shut up!' is just a dodge of any responsibility for what you say and it's incredibly immature.

Caiphus:

Johnny Novgorod:

Suppose you think you know this person and don't think they'll find it offensive at all. That should cover up for you, right? Worst case scenario they turn out to be more sensitive than you thought they were.

I'm of the opinion that your intent when telling the joke will usually cover you. If you were genuinely trying to be funny, then I couldn't really get mad. Exceptions obviously apply. Like if your sense of humour is so horribly off-colour that nobody could find it funny. Or if you're obviously trying to be funny, but at someone's extreme expense (See: bullying).

The example I usually give is making a dead baby joke to a woman who, unbeknownst to you, has recently suffered a miscarriage. Terrible faux pas, right? The appropriate response is not to then go "Fucken freedom of speech bitch I can say what I want!". Right?
But if your mission was to try and make the person laugh, I'm sure you'd immediately apologise. Which I think would be fine.

I apologized for hurting her feelings/annoying her, but not for the joke itsel, which I still think is funny. There are people out there who just have no sense of humor. Why should we cushion comedy for a few humorless saps who can get themselves offended by anything?

I'd say that you can make jokes about whatever you want and don't have any obligation to apologise should someone find them offensive; that said, it is probably a good idea to apologize sometimes unless you like having no friends.
It's a problem here in Britain where stupid outdated libel laws mean that people can and have been sued for making jokes about politicians or- gasp- retweeting said joke. (Indeed, a famous scientist was sued by the chiropractors association for publishing scientifically valid research suggesting that chiropractors are useless. He won in the end, fortunately.)

Fractral:
I'd say that you can make jokes about whatever you want and don't have any obligation to apologise should someone find them offensive; that said, it is probably a good idea to apologize sometimes unless you like having no friends.

Exactly.

You can make jokes about more or less whatever you want. People can judge you on the jokes you made.

Your freedom of speech is not being affected if people decide they don't like you because of what you say.

I don't know. I often wonder when humor, and by extension entertainment, became some absolute good that must be defended at all costs for its own sake. Morals are supposed to be the highest goods we have, when humor is added to that mix and seems to supplant all others it doesn't make sense to me. What is the real value we are protecting here? A chuckle? Our own entertainment and other's "right" to be entertained? Free speech?

Now, Free Speech is its own entity. It has value beyond entertainment. It's the ability to speak out against bad things and about good things and express your opinions freely without risk of harm from some regulating entity. It is not the ability to speak about all those things without risk at all, however. All Speech can have consequences from other Free Speakers and still be quite Free.

If I walk into a biker bar and loudly express that I think bikers are the scum of the earth as my opinion, there will be consequences for that and they have nothing to do with censorship - they have to do with the reaction my chosen time and place of that expression have created for myself. Similarly, if someone uses a racial slur around me they will get a lecture. I'm not censoring them, I'm responding to their expression with my own expression and those two happen to be in competition and so an argument is likely to ensue. Same with tasteless humor. Some people are going to take exception to a joke that offends them and they are going to respond. That's their right as much as it is the person making the joke to make the joke in the first place. They can demand an apology and then it's on the joke maker to decide if they are going to meet that demand or ignore it. Thing is, the offended party may or may not have leverage they can bring into play to strengthen that demand. That's its own element, but it is not a hinderance of Free Speech unless the offended party is in a position to actually regulate that speech officially and bring some type of preventative sanction against the offending party. If rape jokes aren't made illegal, for instance, then Free Speech isn't being infringed upon - even if someone who makes a rape joke is protested daily for the rest of their days at all their shows - they still have the Free Speech to keep on making that joke, and keep on reaping the consequences of their use of that Speech.

Easily offended people will be easily offended. Personally, I'm of the mind that speech cannot be amoral. Sticks and stones and all that... lived by it since attaining the age of reason. I have no understanding of people who get offended and think it's some kind of big deal.

Specific example: as a war veteran who lost a lot of friends, a few of whom I witnessed the final moments of... I still laugh at dead soldier jokes. So to the easily offended, I can only say toughen up. It never gets any easier, but you can choose to work past it rather than curl into the fetal position and die... or harm anyone over mere words. That's just being childish.

Mind you, I still walk on eggshells when I'm around easily offended people... but I do so in the full knowledge that those people are just assholes, and I choose not to associate with them whenever possible.

Stephen Fry is so full of wisdom.

Also, as lawyer you are forced to divide things into "legitimate claims" (meaning the guy whining about sth has experienced certain damage in their life by the joke: for instance a politician or a certain man of prestige has lost it and really needed it for the kind of work they do) and .... well, just whining! Anyone has the ability to get offended by a joke, sure, freedom of speech is for everyone, but... you can't actually think of yourself as someone legitimated to act on it. Besides, half of the time I turn on the TV I end up being offended at some point or another, I just turn it off and think "well, ain't that guy a douche" then go about my day. Easy as that.

Nothing is beyond humour. Nothing. Don't make me crack out my (friend's) dead baby jokes. I only make jokes that I truly think are funny and my sense of humour is pretty good. I *am* English though and half our humour is ripping the absolute piss out of each other. I hear that's not so accepted across the Pond though so I generally avoid it on the forums. In fact it got me a warning the once. He's on my friend list so it's obviously a joke! GAWD!

And the fuck is a Dickwolf? Maybe I should keep up with the webcomics these days.

I am personally of the opinion that if you can't make fun of it then you can't talk about it in a serious light. Can't have one without the other and all that.

In my opinion, nothing is taboo. Everything can and probably should be made fun of. I applaud Penny-Arcade for (as far as I know) not caving and keeping the dickwolf strip up on their site. In the same venue, I applaud Newgrounds for keeping Rapelay on their site.

If something offends you, good. You're alive. Everything will offend someone. Saying God offends some people. Saying Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas offends others (and apparently saying Merry Christmas offends someone). If we censored ourselves because someone was offended, all language would be banned. Or we'd become the neutral planet.
"I have no strong opinion on that statement one way or the other."

So, once more. If you are offended by something, good.

viscomica:
There is a literary term that I can't translate to English but means this: something that, when made fun of, is funny, but when you think about it seriously it's really just sad. The thing is, you can make a rude but funny comment and tell it in a way it's obviously a joke and not your own personal take on the subject. My point is: everything can be funny if you know how to make it funny. Funny does not equal politically correct or even polite and people need to stop taking personal offense in that.

Out of curiosity, what word in what language are you talking about?

OT: I think that asking someone to apologize for having bad taste is in itself in bad taste.

You have the right to make a joke of any quality. In fact, barring a few things, you can say anything you want. But, people have all the right in the world to be offended, to be insulted and to not enjoy your joke.

No, they don't have the right to tell you that you cannot make such jokes, but if you don't take into consideration who you're telling the joke too, and you offend someone, you are in the wrong.

Sure, it's fine to make a drinking and driving leading to death joke. You shouldn't feel bad for telling such a joke, unless you told it to the victim of such an incident. Like a mother who lost their son to such an accident, at that point, your 'comedy' protection wears off and you're an ass hole.

Some people will always be offended no matter what you do. Humor should not be censured.

I think it's unfortunate so many people seem to think that all reasons for getting offended are equal and that politeness should be ignored. And apparently disliking someone for what they say is censorship.

I heard a quote about comedy which I think pretty much sums up the situation here: "Humor only really works when its coming from the powerless against the powerful. The other way around and it's just crass. A janitor making jokes about a CEO is funny, a CEO making jokes about a janitor is just nasty."

This is something to keep in mind when making 'offensive' jokes. Are you punching down, or up? If you're telling a Holocaust joke, is the butt of the joke the victims, or the Nazis? Because one of those is funny, the other is making fun of people who have suffered enough without being mocked. Same with rape jokes. Is the butt of the joke the rapist (or the society which tacitly condones it) or the victim?

Becuase the difference is that between an outrageous joke that makes you laugh at much in horror as not, and you being a colossal arse.

Yes.

I'm of the belief that you can say just about anything you want because all that really matters is the context. I'm not personally offended by a racist/tasteless/crude joke because the intention is typically shock value humour and not to promote hate.

This is why I find it sad when public personalities have to apologize to the masses for a comments that were merely unprofessional. The party they were speaking to never seem to be the ones that are asking for the apology either. Our world just seems WAY to sensitive.

Note: I don't actually enjoy racist/tasteless or crude jokes.

Anything can be funny, but unfortunately I think some people take that to mean "You're not allowed to be offended if it's funny."

If you wanna make a 9/11, or a dead baby, or a rape joke, go for it, but don't expect that just because you're making a joke everyone has to accept or like it simply because it was a joke. It's like how some people think freedom of speech also grants them freedom from criticism.

Comedy functions entirely on subverted expectations. If the expectations you're subverting aren't important enough to someone that they object that joking about said expectations is inappropriate... then your joke clearly wasn't actually a joke in the first place. This is why comedic sociopathy has been a staple of human literature since we invented literature... the correlation is so strong that most of us actually automatically assume that any offensive or reprehensible behavior that's not clearly intended as such is a joke.

tl;dr version is "if no one's offended, the joke wasn't funny".

shameduser:

viscomica:
There is a literary term that I can't translate to English but means this: something that, when made fun of, is funny, but when you think about it seriously it's really just sad. The thing is, you can make a rude but funny comment and tell it in a way it's obviously a joke and not your own personal take on the subject. My point is: everything can be funny if you know how to make it funny. Funny does not equal politically correct or even polite and people need to stop taking personal offense in that.

Out of curiosity, what word in what language are you talking about?

OT: I think that asking someone to apologize for having bad taste is in itself in bad taste.

Hmm, according to my sister it's called "humorismo" in Spanish. She made a (kind of) rude joke to her best friend using that word and it stuck.

Either everything is okay to joke about, or nothing is.

I have never been a fan of the slippery slope argument, but in this case I'm going to use it.

What if, for instance, dead baby jokes are considered a no-go. Never go there, ever.
Because they are offensive. What is to stop this from happening to rape jokes, murder jokes or even religion jokes.
Soon everything is offensive to someone and we're stuck only making jokes about jews, because they can take it!

What does matter is timing and location.
If you want your joke to be funny, and not just raise eyebrows, make sure it's the proper time and place.

Even the greatest dead mother joke is going to fail at a funeral.

Master of the Skies:
I think it's unfortunate so many people seem to think that all reasons for getting offended are equal and that politeness should be ignored. And apparently disliking someone for what they say is censorship.

Heh, that's not even the worst. The worst kind are those who go all "Oh, so you dislike what I'm saying? I GUESS THAT PROVES I'M RIGHT AND THAT I'M JUST TOO SMART FOR YOU."

No foul cry about "censorship" irks me as much as that self-absorbed smugness...

But, as a personal opinion, the best jokes are far from polite, even when they're not even offensive. But, as I said before, audience is half the joke anyway, so...

Vegosiux:

Master of the Skies:
I think it's unfortunate so many people seem to think that all reasons for getting offended are equal and that politeness should be ignored. And apparently disliking someone for what they say is censorship.

Heh, that's not even the worst. The worst kind are those who go all "Oh, so you dislike what I'm saying? I GUESS THAT PROVES I'M RIGHT AND THAT I'M JUST TOO SMART FOR YOU."

No foul cry about "censorship" irks me as much as that self-absorbed smugness...

But, as a personal opinion, the best jokes are far from polite, even when they're not even offensive. But, as I said before, audience is half the joke anyway, so...

That definitely is more annoying than the 'censorship' thing.

And yeah, I'd agree some of the most amusing jokes aren't exactly polite, but then that ends up depending highly on context. When I was talking about politeness I was thinking of considering your audience. Some things you'd say between friends may not be polite, but it's alright since it's between friends. That's the sort of thing I was thinking of, some jokes just aren't appropriate depending on the audience.

It depends on what's being accomplished by the joke. The greatest comedians tackle the most difficult subjects, since they offer the most potential gain at the greatest risk.

When jokes work they free people to experience truth where before they only experienced pain. When jokes fail they just drive the knife deeper into the heart.

The problem with explaining or speculating about humor is that it's quite subjective. However, it's helpful to understand the foundation of what humor is. There are number of theories, but they all tend towards a general sense of humor being a way of coping with conflicting information. With this premise in mind, the "joke" isn't just the joke, but it's context of the joke.

If I see a person who I tend to not think is racist tell a racist joke, it's surprising. If I hear someone who appears racist saying something racist, it's just a racist being racist.

No, my example is this: Dead baby jokes are awful and not funny, they are not funny because they involve dead babies. It's not cool to kill babies and illegal in some places to get an abortion. Humour does not suspend morals or offensiveness.

Well, if i remember right i posted this a while ago and got panned for it.
http://imgur.com/a/2YcNt
I dont mean any offense, i just think its fucking funny. I wouldnt go out of my way to insult anyone if they didnt deserve it (the artist here did) but this to me is funny.
Maybe im a misogynistic pig, maybe im not. I just found it funny. Humour can be cruel, but it doesnt make it any less humorous.

Damn that title was misleading.. Looked like it was going to be wicked.

You don't give any lead to what extremes you mean, and ask a rather broad question.
Its an issue of taste not morality. Although people with extremely poor taste that I worked with seemed to screw up fairly often, and rarely do they take the blame.

In a word: no. Offensive so-called "jokes" are often aimed directly at disempowered, vulnerable minorities in humor derived by the privileged for the benefit of the privileged. What you're asking for is the right of the privileged to make abusive jokes at the expense of the non-privileged, without having to justify that authority or think about the possible ramifications of their speech. And that really shows the anti-intellectual aspect of the request; this idea that we should want the right to speak without the obligation to think and, more importantly, to not be criticized for failing to think.

And it's patently obvious that no one here is really asking for the ability to joke about anything or else "dystopia! End of freedom!". You aren't going to go tell rape jokes to a person who was recently raped, even if you want those people to shut up and stop complaining about your rape jokes. And you aren't going to make jokes about the transgendered to your recently transitioning friend, even if you want them to stop complaining about those jokes. I don't know anyone lacking that much in self-awareness. And you certainly aren't going to tell your sister's/friend's/acquaintance's black boyfriend that a park bench can support a family better than him.

And, you know what? You aren't going to tell any of those above people that they need thicker skin either.

On a side-note: The "free speech" and anti-censorship responses are quaint and adorable but also completely off-base. The responses here about what you'd expect, lots of people more comfortable with grinding the disenfranchised under-heel than tearing down existing power structures.

It depends on the intent of the humorist. In general though, people should grow thicker skin when it comes to offensive humor.

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