Offensive Humor Is Everyone’s Guilty Pleasure.

Have you ever heard a very offensive joke and then laughed maniacally and hysterically? Have you then said to yourself and/or those around you in a low voice, “Wow, that was really bad.” as if that would somehow cushion the reality of how bad the joke is? 

Well, I certainly have, and I can guarantee that almost everyone has done the same. There is just something about those extremely offensive jokes that you can say online – reddit – and with your “friends” group that you can’t say in public places – like your job – because you may get fired, have your reputation destroyed; all the outcomes that people dread in today’s “You will walk on glass” society. 

I was at a close friend’s house yesterday, and we literally spent at least 3 hours reading through this reddit thread of very offensive jokes and laughing our asses off. I was crying at one point.  After essentially every joke, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “Wow that’s really bad.”  No, these we actually really bad.  These were jokes that you would have to utter in the dark cobbles for fear of people overhearing them and shunning you. 

I’ll post a sample of just the Princess Diana jokes as well, those might only be very offensive to the British. Observe, and of course laugh:

What was the last thing to go through Princess Diana’s mind before she died? The stereo.
How are a cell phone signal and Princess Diana alike?
They both die in tunnels.
How are Princess Diana and Pink Floyd similar?
Their last big hit was the wall.

I couldn’t help post a few of these on facebook and at least one of my friends did not find these funny – or at least she doesn’t admit to it. She made a valid point however in that, “Nothing about someone dying is funny.”   From a moral standpoint, mine that it to say, she is right.  Some dark corner of myself however found all three of those jokes about someone dying to be absolutely hysterical. I couldn’t help but laugh. 

Is this just a guilty pleasure that I have? Should I be laughing at the misfortune – understatement indeed – of others?  Why am I so amused by the rather horrid nature of some of the reddit jokes I saw? I wonder if knowing how bad the jokes are makes them that much funnier because of just how bad they are. 

There is however a disturbing thought I have regarding comedy in general: The concept of comedy at its root is pointing to the misfortune of others at some level and being amused by it.   I think this is true of even the most “innocent” jokes. There is some sort of stupidity, ignorance, misfortune, ect that we are all poking fun at. Seriously, think about it. 

One final thought: Is comedy really an “all or none of the above” kind of concept? Either all comedy is off limits, or nothing is for comedy to truly be an art that can freely express itself? Beats me.