Issues of Humour – Does Comedy Give You The Right To Offend?

While a utopic world has never existed (and probably never can), society, especially modern society – now more globalised than ever, is always trying to push itself towards an ideal state (pun intended). Many people in a plethora of different nations around the globe are waging political campaigns over increasingly diverse social issues, one of the biggest being equality and justice for every individual, regardless of race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation, among others. Basically, trying to bring about the end of discrimination, no matter what form it may take. In light of this, many organisations, governments etc. who are in favour of this have, over time, started introducing euphemistic terms to describe members of these various groups, as, gradually, many common terms once used to refer to these have been deemed offensive. This led to the rise of a phenomenon which developed into the now hotly debated topic of ‘Political Correctness’.

In principle, Political Correctness seems like a good idea, opting for modes of expression that do not offend whichever demographic they are referring to. However, there are arguments about political correctness being taken to the extreme, and reaching a point where, in the name of being inoffensive, political correctness crosses the line into censorship. My personal qualm with political correctness though, is not the censorship argument, although that does have a part to play in it.

There is an exception to every rule, just as there is a time and a place for everything. In general, the concept of political correctness is with good intentions, and for the most part beneficial, however, I believe it should not apply in the case of comedy. Vast swathes of comedy are based on the right to offend, and there are many situations which can be exploited for the purpose of humour, designed and delivered in an offensive manner. The intent behind this is not a malicious one, offence is not the intent, it is merely the system used to deliver humour. And as long as the intent is purely comedic, then limits shouldn’t be imposed on comic offense. This is not to say that tact and decorum should be thrown out the window, humour should not be a tool someone uses to directly offend, and then shield themselves behind the mask of humour. It all lies in the intent, and the context of humour, rather than the construction and content itself of a joke.

Comedian Jim Jefferies

Many comedians considered wildly offensive, among them Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle, and Jim Jefferies are known to be opposed to senseless hate and offense. The last in that particular list, while known for incredibly offensive humour, is also known to go off on tangents during his live shows and promote agendas such as responsible gun control, and speaking out against religious discrimination. It’s all about finding a line between humour and tact. Offensive humour does not imply an offensive mentality, and in the right context, can be enjoyed by all. I’d like to end with a quote from Frankie Boyle, which I believe can provoke some thought about this situation regarding freedom of speech versus political correctness. After the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, he Tweeted:

“I’m reading a defence of free speech in a paper that tried to have me arrested and charged with obscenity for making a joke about the Queen”

Ian Zerafa

Witty, charming, eloquent, and handsome. And that’s what the people who DON’T like him say! A new face on The Yuppie’s new team, Ian is a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma who can throw shade like it’s nobody’s business. Armed with a sharp tongue and a penchant for overly long sentences, this fiery young writer admits to be looking forward to a long career as a struggling novelist.

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