Is A Presidential Clown Mask Funny?

images[1]Daily Prompt: Too Soon?

Can anything be funny, or are some things off limits?

Years ago comedian David Brenner commented that humor trumps everything. As much as I like Brenner’s work, he is wrong. You have to know your audience. Some things are funny, thought-provoking, and honest to some people while causing tears, anger, and embarrassment to others.

Recently I posted a story about how I handled an episode in my life when I was accused of using an ethnic epithet. My accusers were wrong. Their motive was clearly to make an issue where there was none. I referred to them as “Amos and Andy” to their faces. Amos and Andy were two black characters from a radio and TV program by the same name who were always scheming mischief.

A reader was offended. I defended myself. In one sense there was a serious side to my remark, in another sense there was a humorous side to my remark, and yet in another there was an offensive sense to my remark.

Certainly you can’t please everyone, nevertheless if someone is offended there should be some sort of acknowledgment and an apology for causing offense. (That was an apology.) Does that mean such a reference should never be used again? Certainly not. You merely acknowledge and move on. You don’t stop dancing because just one person in the room doesn’t like the way you dance.

Recently there is a big hubbub about a clown at a rodeo wearing a mask of President Obama. Some have taken offense. They fired the clown. That’s humorous in itself; who fires a clown?

Have we not heard of political cartoonists? Saturday Night Live has the highest ratings when they poke fun at the President. George Bush (the elder) invited Dana Carvey to the White House, because he liked his imitations of him. No one found them offensive.

The clown in a rodeo is the hero. He saves the lives of contestants from Brahma bulls and bucking mustangs. What is a more fitting symbol than the President to save lives?

Gilbert Gottfried loses his gig as the AFLAC duck’s voice because of a remark he thought was funny. Alec Baldwin makes offensive remarks about homosexuals in earnest that might end the career of some and life goes on for him.

I recall asking a black man why a black man can tell black jokes and black people laugh, but when a white person tells the same joke black people are offended. My answer to the question was that it is what is in the mind of the one telling the joke, it is what the audience feels he is thinking. His answer surprised me; “If you are proud of who you are no one can offend you.”

There are clearly areas that are simply not funny and inappropriate. Much depends on the context, audience, and intent. It is an area where there are no set rules, you just kind of know it when you hear it or say it. I always say people would hardly recognize me without my foot in my mouth.

Check this one out:

http://joantwarren.com/2013/07/03/making-fun/

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21 comments

  1. I recall asking a black man why a black man can tell black jokes and black people laugh, but when a white person tells the same joke black people are offended. My answer to the question was that it is what is in the mind of the one telling the joke, it is what the audience feels he is thinking. His answer surprised me; “If you are proud of who you are no one can offend you.”

    I find this an interesting thing because I have always felt the same. I am fat, I already know that without people laughing at it and notifying me of the fact. But I think it is because of the way I feel about myself that has me balking at their remarks. If I was more confident, then nothing they could say would hurt me.
    Good article 🙂

  2. Hello Kenton:

    I read with great interest your story about how a simple, innocent and good-natured exchange between Armando and yourself exploded into something horribly unanticipated and, for me, even vicariously, quite embarrassing. Moreover, I read the ensuing dialogue between an irate blogger and yourself. I was very sad and dismayed by the increasingly ramped-up level of acrimony; it seemed to me that emotions began to dominate the situation. While I am Canadian, I’ve learned a great deal from outstanding American scholars. It was no less than Benjamin Franklin who said: “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

    My tongue is calloused from the bites entailed in trying to live by that sage aphorism. LOL !

  3. “If you are proud of who you are no one can offend you.” But what about others at the receiving end of so-called humor which is blatantly offensive? Is the line perhaps somewhere around the universal and the very personal? Things which speak to universal experience are perceived as humorous because we can all see ourselves there (think slipping on a banana peel); but trying to make light, say, of the sudden loss of a loved one in the moments of first grief would never be OK. With time and distance, humor might emerge; but not initially. Sadly, I think much of today’s so-called ‘humor’ misses this mark. Thanks for your post, and for listening!

  4. Thank you for expounding on your prior blog on PC. I had some similar thoughts regarding humor (on my blog, post called Making Fun) — as a Severely Empathetic soul I want to be fun and funny but often end up stifling it, out of concern someone will get their feelings hurt. Some people mellow with age, I am lightening up.

Blather away, if you like.

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