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Robin Hobb's Infrequent and Off Topic Blog

Unpopular Opinion

I'm making a comment here, on my very own platform, and it's about comedy.

 

It's not about whether Chris Rock should have been slapped.  Not going there. So, please, no 'violence is not the answer' comments.  We all know that. 

 

I love comedy.  It's wonderful to tune in to something truly funny  at the end of a stressful day.  I admire shows like "Whose Line Is It?"  I grew up with the Red Skelton Show, and Carol Burnett.  Steve Martin.  Martin Short.  Chevy Chase.  Even the Three Stooges.   With some exceptions, there is a lot of physical comedy here and often the target of the joke is the comedian himself.  

 

There are some people who are, in my personal opinion, a legitimate target for comedians.  They are people who have and exploit their own platforms, as themselves.  Politicians are a prime example.  

 

What I do not enjoy is when any comedian targets a person in the audience to mock or make the butt of a joke.  When a comedian targets an individual on the basis of a characteristic they cannot change, it's bullying, not comedy.  Some people laugh, some nervously, some cruelly.  

 

If I stood on a stage and publicly mocked a veteran for the loss of a limb, or a cancer survivor for the removal of a breast, if I called them out by name and held them up to ridicule, would you laugh?  If I mocked a teenager with terrible acne, or someone who is too tall, too short, too thin, too fat, for US beauty standards,  is any of that funny?  Can I mock Bruce Willis for what he is going through, and get a laugh from you? How about Terry Pratchett's Alzheimers?  Are you giggling yet? Or appalled?

 

You can argue that actors, singers, etc are public people (just like writers!) and don't enjoy the protection that should be extended to private citizens.  But I don't agree.  People who share a performance are not the same as a politician who promotes themself or their views.  But I also believe that if you are mocking a politician about a physical characteristic, be in their posture or small hands, or the set of their ears,  then you don't deserve a hearing.  

 

When someone stands on a stage, any kind of stage,  and mocks someone, by name, over a physical condition, it's not a targeted attack.  It's a shotgun of little bits of hurt that hit anyone listening/viewing who also suffers from that condition.  Teachers who make fun of a lisp or a stutter or a thick accent are bullies.  I don't think I know anyone who has not suffered that sort of public humiliation in their life.  So how can we laugh when a very lame joke targets someone by name?

 

I'll add something.  SF and fantasy fans, we mock outselves about how clueless we can be, or how socially awkward.  It's our family in-joke, and when it's done lovingly (Galaxy Quest!  Bimbos of the Death Sun!) we laugh at ourselves.  Years ago, I was at a Norwescon during the costume contest. The MC-- I don't remember his name, only that he was a minor local celebrity, drafted for the honor.  As one contestant was assisted to the stage, in a lovely dress and coiffed hair, as Galadriel, the MC thought he needed to comment on the obvious.  She was blind.  It did not affect her grace, until our clueless MC had to point out that she couldn't see where she was going.  We all groaned or booed at his insensitivity.  She wasn't up there to show us that she was visually impaired.  She was there to be Galadriel and dazzle us with her splendour.  The audience recognized her as one of our own, and we threw that  protective mantle around her.

 

But it still pains me that when she looks back on her moment as Galadriel on a stage, she has to remember his words.  I hate that I remember his words and that moment more clearly than I recall anything about the rest of that convention.  

 

So.  I'm done.  This is my opinion and yours may be different.  But for me?

 

It's not about the slap.

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