Anecdota

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Chris Bliss: Comedy is translation


Gabriel García Márquez is one of my favorite writers, for his storytelling, but even more, I think, for the beauty and precision of his prose. And whether it’s the opening line from “One Hundred Years of Solitude” or the fantastical stream of consciousness in “Autumn of the Patriarch,” where the words rush by, page after page of unpunctuated imagery sweeping the reader along like some wild river twisting through a primal South American jungle, reading Márquez is a visceral experience. Which struck me as particularly remarkable during one session with the novel when I realized that I was being swept along on this remarkable, vivid journey in translation. Now I was a comparative literature major in college, which is like an English major, only instead of being stuck studying Chaucer for three months, we got to read great literature in translation from around the world. And as great as these books were, you could always tell that you were getting close to the full effect. But not so with Márquez who once praised his translator’s versions as being better than his own, which is an astonishing compliment. So when I heard that the translator, Gregory Rabassa, had written his own book on the subject, I couldn’t wait to read it. It’s called apropos of the Italian adage that I lifted from his forward, “If This Be Treason.” And it’s a charming read. It’s highly recommended for anyone who’s interested in the translator’s art. But the reason that I mention it is that early on, Rabassa offers this elegantly simple insight: “Every act of communication is an act of translation.” Now maybe that’s been obvious to all of you for a long time, but for me, as often as I’d encountered that exact difficulty on a daily basis, I had never seen the inherent challenge of communication in so crystalline a light. Ever since I can remember thinking consciously about such things, communication has been my central passion. Even as a child, I remember thinking that what I really wanted most in life was to be able to understand everything and then to communicate it to everyone else. So no ego problems. It’s funny, my wife, Daisy, whose family is littered with schizophrenics — and I mean littered with them — once said to me, “Chris, I already have a brother who thinks he’s God. I don’t need a husband who wants to be.” (Laughter) Anyway, as I plunged through my 20s ever more aware of how unobtainable the first part of my childhood ambition was, it was that second part, being able to successfully communicate to others whatever knowledge I was gaining, where the futility of my quest really set in. Time after time, whenever I set out to share some great truth with a soon-to-be grateful recipient, it had the opposite effect. Interestingly, when your opening line of communication is, “Hey, listen up, because I’m about to drop some serious knowledge on you,” it’s amazing how quickly you’ll discover both ice and the firing squad. Finally, after about 10 years of alienating friends and strangers alike, I finally got it, a new personal truth all my own, that if I was going to ever communicate well with other people the ideas that I was gaining, I’d better find a different way of going about it. And that’s when I discovered comedy. Now comedy travels along a distinct wavelength from other forms of language. If I had to place it on an arbitrary spectrum, I’d say it falls somewhere between poetry and lies. And I’m not talking about all comedy here, because, clearly, there’s plenty of humor that colors safely within the lines of what we already think and feel. What I want to talk about is the unique ability that the best comedy and satire has at circumventing our ingrained perspectives — comedy as the philosopher’s stone. It takes the base metal of our conventional wisdom and transforms it through ridicule into a different way of seeing and ultimately being in the world. Because that’s what I take from the theme of this conference: Gained in Translation. That it’s about communication that doesn’t just produce greater understanding within the individual, but leads to real change. Which in my experience means communication that manages to speak to and expand our concept of self-interest. Now I’m big on speaking to people’s self-interest because we’re all wired for that. It’s part of our survival package, and that’s why it’s become so important for us, and that’s why we’re always listening at that level. And also because that’s where, in terms of our own self-interest, we finally begin to grasp our ability to respond, our responsibility to the rest of the world. Now as to what I mean by the best comedy and satire, I mean work that comes first and foremost from a place of honesty and integrity. Now if you think back on Tina Fey’s impersonations on Saturday Night Live of the newly nominated vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, they were devastating. Fey demonstrated far more effectively than any political pundit the candidate’s fundamental lack of seriousness, cementing an impression that the majority of the American public still holds today. And the key detail of this is that Fey’s scripts weren’t written by her and they weren’t written by the SNL writers. They were lifted verbatim from Palin’s own remarks. (Laughter) Here was a Palin impersonator quoting Palin word for word. Now that’s honesty and integrity, and it’s also why Fey’s performances left such a lasting impression. On the other side of the political spectrum, the first time that I heard Rush Limbaugh refer to presidential hopeful John Edwards as the Breck girl I knew that he’d made a direct hit. Now it’s not often that I’m going to associate the words honesty and integrity with Limbaugh, but it’s really hard to argue with that punchline. The description perfectly captured Edwards’ personal vanity. And guess what? That ended up being the exact personality trait that was at the core of the scandal that ended his political career. Now The Daily Show with John Stewart is by far the most — (Applause) (Laughter) it’s by far the most well-documented example of the effectiveness of this kind of comedy. Survey after survey, from Pew Research to the Annenberg Center for Public Policy, has found that Daily Show viewers are better informed about current events than the viewers of all major network and cable news shows. (Applause) Now whether this says more about the conflict between integrity and profitability of corporate journalism than it does about the attentiveness of Stewart’s viewers, the larger point remains that Stewart’s material is always grounded in a commitment to the facts — not because his intent is to inform. It’s not. His intent is to be funny. It just so happens that Stewart’s brand of funny doesn’t work unless the facts are true. And the result is great comedy that’s also an information delivery system that scores markedly higher in both credibility and retention than the professional news media. Now this is doubly ironic when you consider that what gives comedy its edge at reaching around people’s walls is the way that it uses deliberate misdirection. A great piece of comedy is a verbal magic trick, where you think it’s going over here and then all of a sudden you’re transported over here. And there’s this mental delight that’s followed by the physical response of laughter, which, not coincidentally, releases endorphins in the brain. And just like that, you’ve been seduced into a different way of looking at something because the endorphins have brought down your defenses. This is the exact opposite of the way that anger and fear and panic, all of the flight-or-fight responses, operate. Flight-or-fight releases adrenalin, which throws our walls up sky-high. And the comedy comes along, dealing with a lot of the same areas where our defenses are the strongest — race, religion, politics, sexuality — only by approaching them through humor instead of adrenalin, we get endorphins and the alchemy of laughter turns our walls into windows, revealing a fresh and unexpected point of view. Now let me give you an example from my act. I have some material about the so-called radical gay agenda, which starts off by asking, how radical is the gay agenda? Because from what I can tell, the three things gay Americans seem to want most are to join the military, get married and start a family. (Laughter) Three things I’ve tried to avoid my entire life. (Laughter) Have at it you radical bastards. The field is yours. (Laughter) And that’s followed by these lines about gay adoption: What is the problem with gay adoption? Why is this remotely controversial? If you have a baby and you think that baby’s gay, you should be allowed to put it up for adoption. (Laughter) You have given birth to an abomination. Remove it from your household. Now by taking the biblical epithet “abomination” and attaching it to the ultimate image of innocence, a baby, this joke short circuits the emotional wiring behind the debate and it leaves the audience with the opportunity, through their laughter, to question its validity. Misdirection isn’t the only trick that comedy has up its sleeve. Economy of language is another real strong suit of great comedy. There are few phrases that pack a more concentrated dose of subject and symbol than the perfect punchline. Bill Hicks — and if you don’t know his work, you should really Google him — Hicks had a routine about getting into one of those childhood bragging contests on the playground, where finally the other kid says to him, “Huh? Well my dad can beat up your dad,” to which Hicks replies, “Really? How soon?” (Laughter) That’s an entire childhood in three words. (Laughter) Not to mention what it reveals about the adult who’s speaking them. And one last powerful attribute that comedy has as communication is that it’s inherently viral. People can’t wait to pass along that new great joke. And this isn’t some new phenomenon of our wired world. Comedy has been crossing country with remarkable speed way before the Internet, social media, even cable TV. Back in 1980 when comedian Richard Pryor accidentally set himself on fire during a freebasing accident, I was in Los Angeles the day after it happened and then I was in Washington D.C. two days after that. And I heard the exact same punchline on both coasts — something about the Ignited Negro College Fund. Clearly, it didn’t come out of a Tonight Show monologue. And my guess here — and I have no research on this — is that if you really were to look back at it and if you could research it, you’d find out that comedy is the second oldest viral profession. First there were drums and then knock-knock jokes. (Laughter) But it’s when you put all of these elements together — when you get the viral appeal of a great joke with a powerful punchline that’s crafted from honesty and integrity, it can have a real world impact at changing a conversation. Now I have a close friend, Joel Pett, who’s the editorial cartoonist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. And he used to be the USA Today Monday morning guy. I was visiting with Joel the weekend before the Copenhagen conference on climate change opened in December of 2009. And Joel was explaining to me that, because USA Today was one of America’s four papers of record, it would be scanned by virtually everyone in attendance at the conference, which meant that, if he hit it out of the park with his cartoon on Monday, the opening day of the conference, it could get passed around at the highest level among actual decision-makers. So we started talking about climate change. And it turned out that Joel and I were both bothered by the same thing, which was how so much of the debate was still focused on the science and how complete it was or wasn’t, which, to both of us, seems somewhat intentionally off point. Because first of all, there’s this false premise that such a thing as complete science exists. Now Governor Perry of my newly-adopted state of Texas was pushing this same line this past summer at the beginning of his oops-fated campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, proclaiming over and over that the science wasn’t complete at the same time that 250 out of 254 counties in the state of Texas were on fire. And Perry’s policy solution was to ask the people of Texas to pray for rain. Personally, I was praying for four more fires so we could finally complete the damn science. (Laughter) But back in 2009, the question Joel and I kept turning over and over was why this late in the game so much energy was being spent talking about the science when the policies necessary to address climate change were unequivocally beneficial for humanity in the long run regardless of the science. So we tossed it back and forth until Joel came up with this. Cartoon: “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?” (Laughter) You’ve got to love that idea. (Applause) How about that? How about we create a better world for nothing? Not for God, not for country, not for profit — just as a basic metric for global decision-making. And this cartoon hit the bull’s eye. Shortly after the conference was over, Joel got a request for a signed copy from the head of the EPA in Washington whose wall it now hangs on. And not long after that, he got another request for a copy from the head of the EPA in California who used it as part of her presentation at an international conference on climate change in Sacramento last year. And it didn’t stop there. To date, Joel’s gotten requests from over 40 environmental groups, in the United States, Canada and Europe. And earlier this year, he got a request from the Green Party in Australia who used it in their campaign where it became part of the debate that resulted in the Australian parliament adopting the most rigorous carbon tax regime of any country in the world. (Applause) That is a lot of punch for 14 words. So my suggestion to those of you out here who are seriously focused on creating a better world is to take a little bit of time each day and practice thinking funny, because you might just find the question that you’ve been looking for. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Chris Bliss: Comedy is translation

  1. It's deliberately that LOUD so it upsets you, SquareWaveHeaven. After such an unexpected disturbence, you forget what the video was all about and watch it all over again. [an idea so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel]

  2. @freesk8 Because the primary goal of politicians is telling voters things they don't want to hear, like they should curb their energy use. It really brings the votes in.

  3. why is everyone complaining about this clip not being funny???
    It was NOT meant to be funny.

    It was just a talk on how comedy affects real life, and in most of his examples, how it affects politics!

    For me, great talk on how diverse the seemingly 'off-topic' topic of comedy can make a difference in such far-out reaches, hence the title!

  4. @patricksoo Well, he does attempt to make a joke and then talks about why it was funny when it really wasn't, but that's mainly due to the fact that his delivery isn't good, you can tell he's just repeating rehearsed lines.

  5. @Generosities Satire is above all a point of view. It's been one since Aristophanes. If you were expecting Chuck Lorre-type of humour, then I can see why you are disappointed.

  6. Hold on how does carbon tax = a better world exactly?
    Who collects that tax again?
    And how is it spent again?
    And how does that create a better world again?
    How the fuck can creating greater need to produce more crap that nobody needs to earn enough to live on be good for the planet again?

  7. @freesk8 I can agree. The manipulative will use whatever works to their advantage. In my business I try to reach people in a way that will serve them in the long run.

  8. The clever sales designer will use whatever to land the sale, but from my experience, are never present at the completion of the job– when the buyer has to face their remorse.

  9. @mazdaplz Generally, conservatives seem to be less creative and less humorous than liberals. This gives them a disadvantage when it comes to persuasion, since comedy is such a powerful tool.

  10. @kargelr That may be the case, but what politicians actually DO is tell their target audience exactly what they WANT to hear in order to actually bring votes in. Green voters WANT to hear about energy reduction. This is why no politician will cut spending before the US goes bankrupt. The pain of cuts will be all short-term, and they will be voted out of office. Prepare now for the coming economic collapse.

  11. @PBrofaith You may humor her into bed, though logic and experience tell us that no man has ever made love to a woman after winning an argument with her. 😉

    Central planning may not be so humorous after the one night stand. Power hierarchies require taxation and distribution from top down– which has been demonstrated in the past three decades– does not work for long, or benefit the individuals with independent creative intelligence.

  12. Evidence may support the theory that I am a direct descendant of Sir William Shakespeare; which may also favor Sir Winston Churchill in the same creative light; though history demonstrates that Sir William and likely Sir Winston, will go 180 years past their death before they are fully recognized for their great gifts of insight into the human condition. Academics still have not accepted fully that a country bumpkin could create such illustrious work.

  13. @ennot Well, that is certainly the case now. However when I posted it yesterday it was at the top. The idea is is that people thumbs the comment up so it stays in the top comment box for others to use. It's just a community courtesy. I wouldn't think too much about it, I mostly did it cause it makes some people happy which in a small way reduces the collective stress :]

  14. @BenU314159

    If you're referring to the political satire in the video, political comedy is one of the oldest kinds of comedy. It has been around since ancient Greece (Old Comedy). It's a pretty popular brand of comedy, so I don't see why one shouldn't refer to political examples. If you're referring to the comments, I have nothing to say as I haven't read most of them.

  15. For me, this filled in some grey areas from Dan Dennett's lecture on what the darwinian purpose of humor might be. He basically said the same thing, but this talk crystalized it. Good Talk 🙂

  16. His ending premise was that we create a better world by introducing stringent and regimented taxes? He should move to Greece. Apparently it's the best country on Earth at the moment by his standards.

  17. There is a discussion about "how complete the science is" not because the science, but because the political considerations (i.e. statism/collectivism instead of justice/individualism)

  18. @GeofsFilms Ah you see, you either didn't get the point of the cartoon, or you are trying to mislead people. The part that you labeled "never mind the rest" is the important part. The message is that we shouldn't create a better world to maximize profits, minimize pollution, work towards god, save certain countries, certain people etc. The message states that we should just create a better world, without needing a particular excuse for such action. An amazing point! 🙂

  19. This is super boring for the first 7 mins… it finally gets interesting after that. I think that Steve Martin's book "Born Standing Up" essentially says the same thing, only it does a much better job.

  20. @Tolstoievsky

    I think you missed my point. The point is: political examples in comedy don't come out of nowhere. There's a whole tradition of political comedy that's been around for a while, so he's not just pulling all those examples out of his ass (although I don't think the lecture was all that funny). Authority is not the point.

  21. I obviously don't comedy during the class of math unfortunately there is no way in which you could apply comedy to math itself))

  22. Laughter is acceptance.
    Which is good if the comedy is progressive, but very bad if the comedy is not.
    Shows like Family Guy use laughter to reinforce prejudices and confirm patterns of inequity rather than challenging them.
    It's too bad he doesn't talk about the dangers of mass-produced comedy that promotes bigotry.

  23. I disagree, and I think you're underthinking the power of comedy. I'm not suggesting that "laughter is acceptance" on a conscious level. Laughter is so powerful because it subtly, slowly, and over time reorganizes the brain without the listener consciously rethinking their beliefs. If you laugh at a progressively satirical expression of your beliefs, that challenge generates cognitive dissonance that will, over time, result in a change of your beliefs.

  24. Chris makes a good point here.

    Unfortunately, he constantly wraps it in his political and (a)religious agenda. A shame — I'd share this video, but I don't endorse his views.

  25. Stunning! What a great study…and a funny delivery as well. I need to listen to this more than once to even begin to get the scope of the terrain he covers in 'comedy as translation. .

  26. Very interesting talk. He could take a cue from stand-up comedians and not pause after a statement waiting for the laughter. It's why comedians always say something like "…but uh…" after a joke and then they pause for laughter if it happens, but keep going if it doesn't. In this case I think it'd be better just to do the talk and pause only when people are making noise laughing, because they are not drunk.

  27. Carbon tax doesn't make change, the same levels of pollution go on unchanged. It's written in the very dna of the carbon tax itself. The heaviest polluters are 3rd world and have so many carbon credits to sell that they continue to pollute at the same level but sell their extra credits to collect huge dollars from 1st world countries with tight restrictions, who pay to continue to pollute at their current levels. Imaginary currency which hands money to corrupt entities.

  28. I think you miss the point of Family Guy-esque humor on bigotry much the same as you could The Colbert Report.on politics. McFarland uses such prejudices to get the cheap laugh via his characters… to illustrate the absurdity of such thinking. We laugh at the naked stupidity of the character's beliefs- they are not offered as positive attributes of the characters nor the beliefs of the show's creators, just.as Colbert's politics lampoons the far right by taking up their mantel sarcastically.

  29. In Season 10 ep. 1 of Family Guy, Quagmire takes a penis enlarging pill and rapes a woman until she splits in half and her organs are spilling out of her body. That's presented as a joke. Please explain either how that's funny or how laughing at that could be progressive.

  30. Moving the goal post already? We were talking about bigotry. Now you're suggesting Family Guy's intent was to suggest rape is okay by depicting a physical impossibility? I saw it & laughed at the absurdity while still retaining the belief all rape is wrong. Was it a failed attempt to brainwash me or just a tasteless joke that flopped? Walk about with a chip on your shoulder, eventually it'll fall off with nobody touching it. Humor & beauty are in the eye & mind of the beholder. No like,no watch.

  31. Bigotry can apply to any pattern of discrimination, including misogyny. If you wanted to just talk about race, my apologies. My argument depends on the concept that not all beliefs are conscious beliefs. Though you consciously abhor rape, if you laugh at a joke which positions fatal rape as funny, you may think you're laughing at absurdity, but deep down Family Guy might be reinforcing violent or misogynistic beliefs you didn't realize you had. After all, you're the one defending rape jokes.

  32. Or your need to judge others on superficial qualities to feel better about yourself is distorting reality. If I laugh at a 'frog in a blender' joke, I'm an animal cruelty supporter? If I chuckle at dead baby jokes or blonde jokes, I must not respect blondes & children as well? It's fine if you don't find them funny. But to suggest they betray an inner bigotry of the author? That conclusion hangs on the thinnest of thread. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, dude. And a joke is just a joke.

  33. A joke is never "just" a joke. That's where I suppose we'll have to permanently differ. Just as all atoms are constantly on the move and interacting with all other atoms in diverse ways, there is no idea which does not interact with other ideas as it circulates. Everything means something (often many different things to different people), and every idea functions within an ideological or discursive regime of power. It's our responsibility to rationally consider how.

  34. Your theory is much like the God myth- a self-sustaining fantasy created with built-in excuses. If I don't recognize such interactions as real, well then they must be unconscious. No proof needs to be offered- just 'have faith'. At the extreme, we can play Minority Report and start jailing people for making rape jokes, cuz they must be precursors to actual rape. See 'Paranoid Delusion'. This is the kind of stuff that earns intellectuals a bad rap- the grasping for imaginary straws.

  35. As an atheist, it hurts to read that. The Family Guy joke in question is communicated through a combination of visual and verbal languages. The viewer receives it into their brain through their sense organs, and then through some set of cognitive processes weighs the joke's concepts against other concepts, generating an interpretation, perhaps including laughter. Can we consciously consider all interactions? No. Do ideas interact with other related ideas? Yes. What's unreasonable about this?

  36. The unreasonable part is the assumption that within this there is cause & effect beyond either laughing because it's funny, or outrage because it isn't, based on the viewer's pre-existing attitudes. Similar to all the long-claimed, never-proven 'link' between violent video games and violent behavior. While such stimulus can be the 'last straw' affecting the already-violence prone player, to suggest it can take a person with no such leanings over the wall is a giant, unfounded reach.

  37. I follow that. I don't argue that rape jokes cause rape (nor do I argue that depictions of violence directly beget violence), but certain kinds of enjoyment of violence and (I would argue any) enjoyment of rape jokes reinforces an embedded ideological pattern in the viewer. It's reasonable to believe that some might laugh because the joke came as an outrageous surprise, but I worry about those who genuinely find a rape joke funny. Besides, even if it's not the last straw, it's still A straw.

  38. This was a great talk, especially since I dabble in stand up and improv out here in Hawaii in front of the tourists in Waikiki. Your joke, however, about the radical gay agenda has a similar setup and punch as that of Chris Rock's. Ya'll are probably just on the same 'wavelength' there on that issue. Thank you for the info here though.

  39. "enjoyment…reinforces an embedded ideological pattern" So the pattern is pre-existing, not caused by the joke. I don't concede the straw is real. Tell me 1000 rape jokes, it won't change my ideology. The other part of Family Guy/TOSH 'humor' is they are intended to bother the over-sensitive, to drive off the hyper-critical who won't just change the channel and always want to be banning something. To stretch free speech. We're free to be offended. Mom said 'just ignore them'.

  40. I think that if you laugh, 1000 rape jokes could.
    I have no interest in banning Family Guy or Tosh.0, but I think that we should be cognizant of the kind of the hateful or violent or bigoted attitudes which they can promote and ask ourselves why we watch them and why we defend them.
    This isn't about being "oversensitive." I don't think that it's appropriate to normalize violence against women in a joke, so if I oppose such a joke, I'm not being oversensitive. I'm being appropriately sensitive.

  41. "Could" …the video game debate. I *could" spontaneously combust tomorrow. How likely is it? Appropriate is both fluid & individual, as unique as each person. 'Normal', too. I've laughed at many dead baby jokes. They are absurd &, like a fart sound to a child, 'inappropriate' to others. As for 'normalizing', I still can't concede the joke/s has/have any such power. Appropriate, normal…might as well say beauty, too. Eye of the beholder. I wonder- do you know a truly funny & victimless joke?

  42. Freud once divided jokes into "harmless wit" and "tendency wit," but then admitted that he couldn't think of any truly harmless jokes – they all had some "tendency," which meant that every joke has a butt. Every joke is probably a joke against something.
    This was my original point about the progressive power of humor – we can choose what our jokes will mock, and shouldn't we choose the realities of life or institutions of power which we wish to dismantle, or to humble, or to fight back against?

  43. Could we choose a less effective path to change than going after crude jokes? Would the raped prefer the rapist locked away or just forced not to tell any rape jokes? Why man the deck of a boat between the whale and the whaling ship when I can just push others to stop telling whale jokes. This is even weaker than the self-righteousness promoted by signing on-line petitions, making the signer think they 'did their part' to end 'the problem' without ever putting their pants on. Faux activisim.

  44. If one's activist position resists sexism, racism, rape culture, and all forms of bigotry, structural inequality, and social injustice, then resisting sexist or rape-normalizing jokes would necessarily have to be part of that. But let me re-emphasize, I'm not an anti-Family-Guy activist. I just believe in spreading awareness of their content when the opportunity arises. Because even if there were nothing offensive or oppressive about their humor, it would still be second-rate.

  45. 1st sentence: With no proof of causality, it can't be labeled necessary. 1st & 2nd: That you don't like it isn't proof it's dangerous nor 2nd rate. In the end- YOU don't care for it, and there's nothing more to it. I can't stomach jazz, country nor rap 'music'. My view of it doesn't mean it's lousy. It's simply lousy to me. Family Guy, Tosh.0, Howard Stern all tickle me about 10% of the time. I remember when Carlin was railed against the same way. Today, few would say he was less than a genius.

  46. BTW- I should pay respect to you on the fact this back-n-forth has gone on this long without degrading into the usual YT flame war. It's nice to find a good argument, rare as it is. 🙂

  47. I think you might have missed what I said. A sexist joke doesn't have to CAUSE sexism to be a problem. A sexist joke IS ALREADY sexist, which means it's problematic. No causal proof necessary.
    As to your dislike of certain kinds of music, I can't tell whether you object to style or to content (but since you included jazz, which is generally instrumental, I suspect style). My dispute with Family Guy concerns its content, not the style of its animation, its pacing, etc.
    Why settle for 10%?

  48. No settling at all. I can worship Money and still enjoy my nephew's finger painting. Steaks and hamburgers. If the joke is sexist, so what? Doesn't make the author nor the laugher a sexist. How is it 'problematic' beyond being personally distasteful to you? If it isn't causal, it isn't a straw… so again…nothing but personal taste is at issue. When we started this, you were assigning causal factors to it…but now?

  49. As to your other comment, I was just about to say something similar. The respect is appreciated and mutual.
    As to causality, I've merely maintained that jokes can reinforce and confirm negative patterns of belief rather than productively challenging them. You suggested that such stimuli could be a last straw and I agreed.
    But I also think that certain jokes can hurt people. You write "so what?" about sexist jokes. Do you oppose other forms of sexism? If so, what makes jokes uniquely harmless?

  50. I say 'so what?' about jokes on many subjects, as they aren't automatically based on the teller's personal prejudice, but observation that such thinking can exist & it's fodder for a punchline. 'Get hurt': If jokes caused physical wounds, that would be 'hurt'. If we're talking about upsetting someone emotionally, video of trees falling in the Amazon 'hurts' me. Pro-Choice stickers 'hurt' pro-lifers. Free speech always risks offending & I do 'so what?' To avoid offending, say and do nothing.

  51. I see where you're coming from, but I think you're leaving out two crucial things: first, it seems that you're assuming that a sexist joke makes fun of sexism, which in my experience is rarely the case. Generally, a sexist joke makes fun of women for an assumed inferiority to men. This confirms inequality in a patriarchal society. Second, you seem to assume that all offense is equal. A hypothetical deforestation joke is unlikely to trigger you the way a rape joke might trigger a rape survivor.

  52. A 'sexist' joke makes females the butt. A sexism joke would poke fun at sexist beliefs- the opposite of a sexist joke. However, many a sexism joke is delivered as a sarcastic sexist joke…as when Tosh ends a bad driver joke saying "I'm talking to you, ladies". I again don't concede jokes influence our beliefs. Offense: So we're all equal but some less entitled to be offended? So much for equality. Again, free speech assures someone will be at some point. Don't like the joke? Change the channel.

  53. Some sexism jokes actually give the audience an excuse to enjoy something sexist while still believing that they aren't sexist. To me, that duplicitous position might be worse than an overtly sexist joke.
    It's like when Jon Hamm did blackface on 30 Rock; clearly the idea was to make fun of the whole cultural apparatus that ever sanctioned it to begin with, BUT he still put on the burnt cork and became a vile stereotype.
    As for changing the channel, I agree, and I'm encouraging everyone to do it.

  54. The jokes require no excuse & laughing at them doesn't make me bigoted. I'm laughing for the same reason 30 Rock performed it- BECAUSE the stereotype is over-the-top & skewers real bigots that enjoyed it back in the day. I'm not at all confused nor influenced by the joke. I think your position grants far too little respect to those that laugh, & you're so burdened with unearned guilt that every depiction of such things rends your heart. You might reconsider if it's my side that 'doesn't get it'.

  55. Perhaps I overstated my position. I'm not angry at the 30 Rock gang or at Jon Hamm; I'm just wondering why they thought that blackface was the best place to go for a joke. Not that they shouldn't skewer the bigots who once performed in blackface; I just want to know why they thought it was a good idea to recreate it. Recreating is a step beyond joking about. I say that nearly any appearance of blackface insults and oppresses because it cannot not resurrect a history of insult and oppression.

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