Is there an invisible line in comedy that shouldn’t be crossed?
Some comedians are considered more outrageous than others. This has always been the case. Some people are just more edgy, more willing to test the limits of our social accepted norms in an attempt to make us laugh. If done right, these comedians are lorded by fans. If not, they are quickly attacked by the public, the media, and fellow comedians.
But when does a comedian jump from outrageous to obscene and offensive? Is there some line where people will universally go “ooh, too far!”? Or is comedy and humour the ultimate niche, where the varying tastes, cultural references and life experiences will all play a part in your appreciation (or loathing) of a comedian?
To give an example, you may remember that small incident of the Russell Brand phone call to Andrew Sachs. I listened to that show on air, and later downloaded the podcast, and never felt that the phone call really overstepped the mark. Yes, it was perhaps in bad taste – although after airing the BBC only received two complaints, and only one of those was related to the phone call. The situation only exploded once the media, spearheaded by the Daily Mail, got a hold of it and turned it into a scandal. The final aftermath was over 42,000 complaints, several high level resignations and suspensions, and politicians wading in to comment and criticise. Noel Gallagher, who often appeared on the show, said, “It’s so typical of the English in general – 10,000 people get outraged, but only five days after it has happened.”
Does he raise a valid point? With initial complaints of only two people, and outcry only happening after the media told us to feel angry? Is it perhaps that our boundaries of taste are artificially imposed by the media, and we in fact are actually a highly tolerant society? Is it the case that we want to laugh, but have to look around to make sure everybody else is first? Should comedians who are paid to shock and entertain us be persecuted when they overstep the line?
Other comedians who have ‘got it wrong’ include Frankie Boyle, who some say is prejudice towards essentially every ethnic and social class due to his material. I would personally argue that that would surely make him more inclusive, as nobody escapes his critical put-downs. Would excluding or including only certain elements of society into your material be worse than ripping down everybody?
I’m not saying that his approach or style of comedy will appeal to everyone, but the most effective way to convey your disdain towards him, or any comedian, is surely to just not engage with their material go to my site. By not paying for tickets or buying their DVD’s you are voting with your wallet, and abstaining from the ‘offensive’ comedy. Don’t get caught up in the maelstrom of media influenced fury. These people are not walking behind you at all times, shouting their content at you. It is easy to ignore.
So is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed? I think there is, and that is when comedy is used to mask obvious, vitriolic hate against only a certain segment of society. Then a comedian’s career should go the way of Jim Davidson. But lenience should be afforded to those who are really just pushing the boundary of acceptability in an attempt to create innovative and shockingly funny content for their paying fans.
What do you think? Leave your opinions below!