I was doing some light doomscrolling last night after a fun Dark Souls session (I killed a hydra after a dozen tries, got the Capra Demon in one). I came upon a very unfunny video in which a comedian attempts to convey just how “not okay” comedies from the early 2000’s are:
The joke here is that being a sex pest is bad. I’m on board with that. Here’s the thing, though: are the jokes funny? Well, in the case of this video, no, because this guy’s joke depends on them not being funny. The facial expressions are a lot, too. He’s really hamming it up!
There were many, many films released in this genre (bro humor?), and they have a wide variety of jokes within them, and some of them are funny, and some aren’t. Humor evolves, which is why it’s hard to go back and watch, say, Ace Ventura. Not because it’s offensive, but because we’ve moved on. Although Ace talking out of his ass will remain a classic.
In the comments, I noticed this exchange, which I found by turns hilarious, frightening, and kind of sweet: a couple of folks trying to figure out what exactly is and isn’t funny anymore.
I don’t need to tell you that this completely misses the point of what makes things funny or not, in the same way you can’t pin down something that’s sexy…it just kind of is. Everybody has a line, where things they used to think are funny (or sexy) aren’t anymore. We individually feel when a comedian goes over a line…but that’s their job, and we have to be lenient with them. The worst thing you can do is simply not laugh.
One of my favorite podcasts is Cum Town, which is noted for being very offensive. Sometimes I’ll be in my car and think to myself c’mon man… and other times I’ll be laughing my ass off. It’s a private experience, though, something I’m allowed to do as an adult in the privacy of my own home (or car). And if they “cross a line” with my own personal boundaries as to what I think is cool and not cool…hey, I signed up for it. I clicked the buttons, I subscribed to the podcast, I made the choice to potentially be offended. Then I let it go.
And that’s why both these well-meaning people and the people who are just generally controlling and fascistic in nature (it is what it is…some people have cops in their hearts) have it completely wrong: you can’t dictate what people are allowed to think and respond to privately. Or in the safe space of a comedy club.
Everything on Twitter is kayfabe, so I don’t take most of this seriously. It seeps out into popular culture, but I can’t pretend like art was great up until the scolds showed up. Shitty stuff has always been around. I’d say on balance it’s about the same ratio of good to bad stuff. The pearl clutching and moral panic around this shit, however, is going to be embarrassing for a lot of people in a few decades. They’re going to look back on this and think damn, I can’t believe I asked Twitter for help in deciding for me what is and isn’t funny. Like bro, just laugh, man. You’re literally by yourself! No one can see you.
I remember when I was a kid, I used to think God was watching everything I did, so if I’d blaspheme, I’d apologize to empty air. There’s power in transgressing that, and one day people will find power in transgressing this newest iteration of piety.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep laughing at Cum Town.