Comedy and Its limits

by Portia Uwase | Jan 20, 2017

I am convinced that comedy can be and should be free of shaming, generalizing, and dehumanizing.

The word funny means causing laughter or amusement. Closely related to the word funny is a sense of humor which means a person’s ability to appreciate humor or comedy or jokes. Now I know that what is deemed “Funny” is a purely subjective matter, but the comedy shows I have been watching have made me wonder if jokes have become synonymous with insensitivity.

Recently, I watched a comedy show, and I thought it was uncool to say the least. The established comedian started the show by saying that he liked obese people, because he thought they looked healthy. He proceeded to say that the only problem he had with fat people was in the means of public transport, where he dreaded that they would sit next to him, and dreaded even more that they would talk to him. The comedian concluded by saying the following: “I don’t like fat people who talk too much.” By the end of the episode the following questions were in my mind: Does your dislike for people who talk too much extend to only fat people?” “Don’t you think your joke might make the other aspiring comedians feel entitled to make jokes targeting fat people?” Watching the show made me realize that most of the comedy shows, and some memes were inclining to a certain level of cruelty, and it saddened me.

I am convinced that comedy can be and should be free of shaming, generalizing, and dehumanizing. I believe we as humans must take responsibility with our words, and public figures (in this case comedians), should take even more caution. Actress Meryl Streep emphasized this point in her recent Golden Globe award acceptance speech:

“This instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public… by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same”.

I dedicate this review to comedy that makes people laugh, but not at the expense of sensitivity. I can’t wait for the day comedy will be a platform of sharing humorous educative stories, instead of the inconsiderate bunch of remarks it is now.

Portia Uwase
Portia Uwase Zuba’s academic interests are Economics, International Affairs, and French.