Sometimes, I feel guilty over laughing at comedy. A lot of it is mean.
The mean stuff often makes me laugh, despite the understanding that a real person is the butt of the joke. Comedy often attacks real people. I believe there is a law that lets them rip apart politicians with comedy, and celebrities have always been fair game it seems. Late night talk shows just crack jokes freely at other people’s expense.
I was watching an episode of Chelsea Lately just now, and the panel was all ripping Whitney Houston’s daughter apart, comparing her to a back woods Southern hillbilly, and then made 3 mean jokes about the gap in her teeth.
Now all I know about Whitney Houston’s daughter now, is that she has a gap in her teeth.
It seems much of the comedy on late night television is all about attacking somebody. In order to stay topical and appeal to a mass audience, they pick on people we all know. Sometimes it’s somebody famous like a politician, but thanks to the Internet and YouTube, often it’s a regular person who appears in a photo or video clip that has gone viral. Regular people are becoming the nightly punch line for millions of strangers to laugh at.
TV often gets its biggest laughs by putting somebody else down. By being a bully. A mean bully.
If we saw this sort of thing in a schoolyard, we’d protest. You’re not supposed to make fun of the weird kid, or the accidental banana peel slip, but on stage it seems fine. In front of friends it’s bad to point and laugh – but in front of strangers, we’re allowed to applaud at you falling into a fountain, or down a hole while checking your phone.
All the late night shows do it. They pick clips from the media of the day and present them with a punch line. Some innocent people have become famous overnight while we all giggle at them. We don’t think about how it may have changed their life. Imagine going to work the next day and Jimmy Kimmel has just made you a laughing stalk. Suddenly everyone knows you’re an idiot.
I confess I often laugh. I like to laugh and somebody slipping off stage or running into a tree can be funny. America’s Funniest Videos has been on the TV for years letting us laugh at mistakes. I’m talking more about the mean jokes that punctuate these videos. Personal comments and jokes that cut deeper needlessly. These days I often divert my thoughts to the victim. A visual image if how they might feel hearing this and possibly experience related behaviour change from everyone.
One joke can literally be life changing.
Bullying is bullying.