Laughter is the Best Medicine

Humor on Campus – Laura Kipnis

So I’ve been hearing a lot lately
about comedians saying they’re not gonna play college campuses cuz
students are too easily offended. And I think this is a great loss because
offensive humor is one of the great gifts I think that we’ve been given. And I remember one of the really formative
experience of my life was hearing this Sarah Silverman joke when she just
started out God knows how many years ago. It was a joke, I’m not gonna
be able to do this very well. She said something like,
I was raped by a doctor, which is such a bittersweet experience for
a Jewish girl. And I though, my gosh,
at the time I was so taken aback. She’s making a rape joke. And not only that, she’s adding the Jewish
stereotypes about Jewish women and doctors to it. That’s bold i thought. And also she’s reclaiming the subject and
saying, I can make jokes about whatever i want. And I just thought that was great and
interesting and ballsy. And I think if college students
are going to try make themselves immune from experiences like that,
that’s a real loss. But I’ll also say that as a teacher
you often have students, and I teach on the creative
side of the curriculum. I teach film, and so my students
are writing scripts and shooting films. And they’re oftentimes
interested in taking on social stereotypes and
playing around with them because they’ve seen that happening a lot on cable
TV, on roasts, on Saturday Night Live. And you never exactly know
where this is going to go. The students need to be able
to risk being offensive in order to do work that’s meaningful,
I think. One of the weird things about
this moment is that it seems like the social proprieties
are actually becoming heightened. There’s more likelihood for people to take
offense now then maybe there was in say the 1950s which we think of
as a more repressive era. So it is a question mark as
somebody who’s working in cultural areas to where the proprieties are. And jokes are a good way of mapping
where the boundaries have shifted, where the social sensitivities are,
and where the permissiveness is. I have students I’ve noticed in the last
few years who seem to be making a lot of references to anal sex in their scripts. And that’s a new thing, so
it’s like that boundary his shifted. Whereas other boundaries, I mean having
to do particularly with race and gender, have become more touchy. So jokes are always I think pressing
against where those social boundaries are. They’re kind of like a map. As someone who’s a writer and who teaches
students who are in the creative area, I mean, it’s not like you want
there to be central committees of censors deciding what is and
isn’t appropriate. And I’m somebody who wants
to give advice to students. I think that every generation has
to figure out their own politics. But to the extent that students
are setting themselves up as censors or would-be censors,
I’m not sure that’s a great direction.

10 thoughts on “Humor on Campus – Laura Kipnis

  1. Humor is, in many respects, the one avenue left in which a person can voice otherwise objectionable sentiments. Humor requires a creative mind which is free to find new and different ways to cause the audience to "see" a thing differently. The set up leads you one direction and the punch line is the direction you didn't expect it to go. It is a pity that small, easily offended, censorious minds will never experience the wonder, surprise enjoyment of a good, well delivered joke.

  2. I consider Sarah Silverman to be a huge tool, her politics are poor & she's not too bright. However, I support her right to be offensive anytime she wants.

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