fuzzy notepad

[blog] Maybe you’re just not very funny

Jeez. Seems like everyone’s outraged over something these days.

Take for example this guy:

Why don’t you try focusing your civil unrest at something that dearly needs it, like the fact that today the Israeli air force struck a school with a missile killing 10 people, most of which were children. I suppose you’re all ok with that, as long as the missile didn’t call the school ‘retarded’ first, right? … I encourage you to look at yourselves and think about what really matters.

He’s outraged that people could ignore his pet issue in favor of something he doesn’t think is important. God, why can’t he shut up about it and go on with his life like everyone else?

So, the clown above is “jontron” (some YouTube celebrity, famous for playing video games or something?), who only recently appeared on anyone’s radar because of this exchange:

The quote is from his Twitter response, in which he doubles (triples?) down on the use of the word “retarded”. It also contains this bit:

My job as a comedian is to make people laugh and feel better about their lives.

Ha, get it? I’m laughing and feeling better about myself because at least I’m not retarded, like those peop— err, like the PlayStation 4. What a knee-slapper!

Along with various other comedians who have recently become outraged over discovering that not everything they say is comedy gold, jontron is missing what actually happened here. When I read the above sequence of events in order, I see:

  1. Some Internet funny man makes a joke that hinges on the word “retarded”. That’s kinda gross. But a lot of people do gross things sometimes. Alas.
  2. Funny man responds to polite criticism by throwing the same word back in the face of the person who asked him not to use it.
  3. Funny man responds to resulting crapstorm by going on about the REAL problems in the world, which he doesn’t talk about either. Oh, and then he thought maybe a Hitler joke would show how hilarious he is.

Look carefully. What happened immediately before the mention of a crapstorm? It wasn’t the use of the word! It was the part where he responded to “hey this is a sore spot for me” by punching the other person right in the sore spot. Because that’s when he shifted from maybe, accidentally, being a bit of an asshole… to conclusively and deliberately being a total asshole.

Why? What’s the fear here? That if you break the flow to say something serious like “Oh, my bad” or even “I’m aware but I’m not willing to stop” or even just nothing, you’ve failed at being funny? Here’s a hot tip: if someone is upset at what you said, you already fucked it up, at least for that person.

Because, here’s the thing: you can tell jokes about horrible and tragic things. It really is possible. The trick is that they only work if the audience finds them funny; otherwise, you’re just being horrible. You take that gamble when you decide to go for that flavor of joke. If you lose the gamble, it doesn’t mean everyone else is super sensitive; it just means you lost the gamble. Or maybe you’re not as funny as you think you are.

He also did an interview in which he quadrupled-down, with gems like this:

I can guarantee you, without naming names, that every big YouTuber or Hollywood celeb that apologizes for saying a ‘bad word’ does NOT mean it 99 percent of the time. It’s all public relations nonsense. Unless something truly hateful is said in an definitively hateful context, like in the case of Michael Richards at the Laugh Factory, I would take their apologies with a grain of salt.

See, he didn’t double down and aim a slur directly at another person. He doubled down and aimed a slur directly at another person. It’s completely different, and that’s why he’s way better and doesn’t deserve any of this. Also, even if he did apologize, he still wouldn’t mean it, and no one else does either, so there, neener neener, he still wins.

Way to make me laugh and feel better about my life!

But maybe there’s a good reason for all this. Maybe there’s a good reason this guy decided to repeat his failed joke, rather than turn the failure into a better joke. Maybe there’s a reason he defends “retarded” as though he literally can’t imagine how to tell jokes without it.

Maybe he’s just not very funny.

Sorry, bro. But don’t take it out on everyone else when you suck at your job.

This is, of course, something of a running theme. Jim Norton, the man who had plastic surgery to get his frown permanently etched onto his face, semi-famously went on a TV show to debate the merit of rape jokes with a token feminist, and subsequently earned the world record for saying “free speech” the most times in ten minutes.

He was right, of course: he is perfectly allowed to joke about rape all he wants. No one is proposing we make it illegal. But maybe, hey, uh, could you think twice before cracking jokes about things other people are sensitive to that you only personally experience via other people’s jokes?

Again, you’d think Jim literally cannot find anything to tell jokes about besides rape. Why else would he go on national television to argue why he really really really needs to be allowed to tell rape jokes?

Hey, speaking of Jim Norton, I got this awesome fan tweet from him earlier:

. @eevee You don’t tweet enough. You should weigh in more often because you say such important, interesting things.

Thanks for the shoutout, Jim! I’ll be sure to let you know what I think more often. But you replied to the wrong tweet. This is what I said to you:

i’m reminded of Guy Who’s Really Offended When Not Everyone Thinks He’s Really All That Funny, @JimNorton

True to form, Jim was offended enough that he felt the need to supertweet1 a complete nobody to his third of a million followers. Damn. You really need to learn to take a joke, Jim.

To round out the trifecta, today I also bumbled upon an article in Playboy written by Gilbert Gottfried, in which he advises his readers to not apologize for being offensive, and also calls them all cunts. I’m led to believe that latter part is funny, because it has a naughty word in it.

He summarizes:

Ninety percent of my speech was devoted to making jokes about Anderson’s vagina and whether it would ever be tight again. …

… Afterward, when the show was over and everybody was shaking hands and pretending not to be pissed off, Anderson gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “I hate you.” That’s all she said. She didn’t demand an apology or tell me she was going to ruin my career. All she said was “I hate you.” And that was the end of it. …

Do you have the same emotional maturity as somebody with gigantic fake breasts whose main cultural contribution is running in slow motion on the beach?

Perfectly reasonable. Why can’t we be subtle and mature about these things? There’s no need to, I don’t know, get a two-page article published in a magazine with five million readers when you’re offended over something. Exercise some discretion!

Like Jim Norton, Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian who chose to make a name for himself being “controversial”, which is a cutesy way of saying “offensive”. Now, when it turns out some of their jokes are offensive, they get outraged at the people who have the audacity to not find them funny. How dare these Internet people! Why can’t the entire world just sit and be quietly uncomfortable, like the audience members I want them to be? Don’t you know who I am?

The funny thing is that this article has an entire paragraph of self-deprecating Jew jokes. It might be the only funny part of the article. Because when someone makes jokes about themselves, there remains a shred of empathy, of shared understanding of a tragedy. Someone in this conversation actually knows what the experience of being a Jew is like, and we can laugh at his ha-ha-only-serious jokes together.

That’s pretty different from jokes about recent tragedies, or serious handicaps, or rape. With the self-deprecating Jew jokes, “Jewish” is the setup. With those other things, the terrible thing is usually the punchline. There’s no empathizing there: it’s just playing Mad Libs with problems you’ve never had to worry about.

If you didn’t notice, I’ve been calling these people “offended” or “outraged”. Let me drive that home, because it kinda grinds my gears.

Why, exactly, is it “outrage” when someone finds a joke distasteful, but not when the comedian takes that reaction personally? It’s still a person feeling something was a personal slight, or that something broke social rules, or however you want to define these terms. But the writhing masses are outraged, whereas I guess the poor celebrities only have righteous fury, which is funny beause I’m pretty sure “rage” and “fury” mean basically the same thing.

This leads to some really fucked-up interpretations of events, too. Earlier on The Twitter someone hypothetically defended jontron to me, essentially saying “maybe he reacted poorly because people yelled at him”.

Well, wait, hang on. Even if they had, who fucking cares? Presumably those people thought using “retarded” as a joke was super fucking rude, so why would yelling at a rude person be inappropriate? And if it is, why doesn’t that apply to him?

This is a recurring pattern, I don’t understand it, and it’s complete bullshit.

  1. Person A does some dickish thing, possibly directed at person B.
  2. Person B calls out person A for it.
  3. Multiple onlookers rush to admonish person B for being so rude.
  4. Why aren’t you yelling at A? And how are you idiots not being rude as well? What the fuck is going on here?

If you only ever harp on “nice” people to stay nice 100% of the time, you’re giving assholes a free pass to be assholes. That makes you an asshole. Knock it off.

OK that’s all I got and I am bad at conclusions. Also honestly I only wrote any of this to see if Jim Norton will reply to me again.

  1. you know, the opposite of subtweet, i.e., reply to someone with junk in front so all your followers see it 

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(illus. by Rumwik)