Knowing When to Hold Back

I remember that a couple of times I told a joke that was questionalbe in its offensiveness and it’s funniness.  I decided to tell them anyway, no matter what the response will be.  Sometimes things like that can be funny, but sometimes they can be deadly.  This is why you have to consider who or what the joke is victimizing before you decide to tell it.  My advice to you is to avoid victimizing the following groups unless you are one of them:

  1. Mentally Retarded People
  2. Black People
  3. Jewish People
  4. Handicapped People
  5. People Who Have Recently Died

The reason is that most people will think you’re just mean if you tell a joke about how handicapped people don’t know how to park.  Because they feel tha handicapped people have enough trials in their life, why victimize them again.  And don’t joke about the Jews unless you are one because they’ve certainly been through enough.  With respect to people who have died, if they were loved and national celebrities, don’t joke about them for at least ten years.  And if the person is John F. Kennedy, wait about seventy years.  Try not to seem mean unless it’s really funny.

How can you tell if it’s really funny?  Well, do a reality test.  Tell five to ten people the joke, but don’t tell them it’s a joke, just weave it into the conversation.  If they say, “That’s awful!” you can decide not to do it.  But if at least 75% laugh and they’re not all part of the KKK or in jail, thn you culd definitely give it a try.  But sometimes a particular audience doesn’t cater that kind of joke.  Like if you were performing at a Catholic church, I wouldn’t recommend talking about birth control and abortion.  And don’t say anything that will get the congregation chanting, “You’re going to hell!” 

But it’s all about what kind of spin you put on the joke.  You can joke about things that would seem bad if you put a positive spin on it.  For example, if you want to talk about homeless people, point out the advantages of it.  Don’t let a great premise become dead because of social conditioned values.  I’ve done a joke about Alzheimer’s.  It’s funny because the joke has good intentions and it’s funny at the end.  It’s bad in one way, but it’s good in another way. 

Slavery isn’t funny either.  Don’t joke about slavery unless your ancestors were slaves themselves.  And don’t talk about people who are lower in status than you and make fun of them for having no money.  Only joke about them if you are one of them.  It’s common sense.  Also,, don’t use the N word unless you’re a minority.  Unless you want the cast of Showtime at the Apollo chasing you off the stage, you’d better not tell anything to do with that.

These are some of the unwritten rules of comedy.  And I did you all a favor by writing them down.  It’s about time.  I’m surprised no one did this sooner because I’m sure it will help people decide what kind of jokes to tell and what to tell.  But always try them out on people you trust and know before going out with an offensive joke and losing the entire crowd to an angry mob that is about to attack you.  I sure hope this helped.


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