“There are a lot of people out there whose job it is to be offended for other people,” says comedian Adam Carolla in the new trailer for the documentary Can We Take a Joke?
In the age of social media, people always seem to find something to be offended about. Hiding behind their keyboards, social media offers the public a platform to do what they can to challenge, berate and ridicule the offender. Sometimes, it goes well beyond to something much worse.
That’s why Can We Take A Joke? comes at a good time. It offers an examination of ‘outrage culture’ through the POV of stand-up comedy, featuring key players like Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Lisa Lampanelli, and Adam Carolla.
Collectively, the comedians agree on one thing: most of society is losing its ability to take a joke.
“If you’re easily offended, don’t go to a comedy show,” says Heather McDonald in the trailer. I’ve learned the hard way that you simply can’t take every single one of your friends (or dates) to a comedy show. As a lover of live comedy, I’ve noticed most shows feature at least one person who throws up his or her arms and lashes out at the comedian because they’ve been offended.
Of course, doing so will only inspire the comedian to take it further, making sure that you’re not escorted out by the bouncer until you’re nothing short of mortified (having wasted their time and money in the process).
Comedians’ jokes have resulted in everything from death threats to being arrested for what they said, raising concerns over the right to free speech. “Free speech is extremely important because, me being a Jew, I don’t want to have to pay for speech,” jokes Gilbert Gottfried in the film’s trailer.
When it comes to the easily offended set, most people tend to be reactive rather than proactive in their response. They may be quick to slam an article or a person, but they stop short of offering any proactive suggestion or trying to start a meaningful dialogue.
If you’re so passionately ‘offended’ by something you see, lashing out at the world for it isn’t accomplishing much. You’re not changing anything by crusading around in anger.
Try using that passion and channeling it into something constructive or positive. Stop being ‘offended’ and start being ‘interested’ in things. You’ll find you’ll accomplish a lot more that way.
The thing is, people are often offended by things that are so minimal compared to the actual problems in the world to which they turn a blind eye. You don’t tend to see many people being ‘offended’ by the fact that there are starving children in third world countries, or making rambling Facebook posts about how access to clean water offends their sensibilities. Yet the second a joke or an ad is slightly offside in their eyes, they lash out like they’ve been a victim of the greatest injustice known to humankind.
With so many horrible things happening in the world, sometimes it’s refreshing to find humour in otherwise depressing situations. Often, it can be the only way to deal with grief. If we start to dissect everything through a politically correct or incredibly sensitive lens, we quickly become an intellectual shadow of ourselves.
Perhaps most importantly of all, humour is inherently subjective – something people often forget. You don’t have to like someone else’s jokes the same way you don’t have to have the same taste in music, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to start a social media campaign called #stopjazz because you’re not a fan.
It’s a creative form of expression, emotion and communication, which makes it something everyone is going to have a unique perspective on. But a world with creativity and freedom of expression is always going to be better than one where we censor everything that might risk offending someone. Some of the most beautiful and historically significant things have been born of ideas that walked the line of ‘offensive’ at the time.
In the end, you’re going to be a lot happier focusing your energy on things other than being exasperated and frustrated by the latest things some comedian on Youtube has expressed.
Maybe we should get back to taking a joke for what it is: an opportunity to find laughter in an otherwise chaotic world.