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I hate offensive jokes when they're lazy.

I was going to start today's post by mentioning that I was listening to a back episode of WTF, but then it made me think I might be boring everybody by constantly talking about podcasts I listened to.  So instead, I decided to bore you by talking about how I'm worried I'm boring people.

....and that's enough of that.  Maron had a pretty interesting interview with Kurt Metzger, a stand-up comic and current writer on Inside Amy Schumer.  I'm not at all familiar with Metzger's work, but he and Maron got into a good discussion about offensive material, progressiveness, liberalism, feminism, comedy, and rape jokes.


There were a lot of the same points made that you'd expect from that kind of discussion, but what I thought was really interesting about it is that I ultimately agree with virtually everything Metzger was saying even though I kinda didn't like the way he was saying it.  When you boil it down, I'm pretty sure he and I would agree on the same basic points:

1) Freedom of speech means that anybody can say whatever they want, so you need to toughen up and learn to deal with it.

2) Just because you're dealing with it doesn't mean you can't also still call people out on their bullshit, so feel free.  Try not to be an idiot about it, though.

3) On the other hand, if you are going to say objectionable stuff, you can't pretend to be hurt when people don't want to hang out with you.

4) Nobody should be professionally maligned or fired for being an asshole.

5) Even so, it's still a good idea to not be an asshole if you can help it.

And most importantly:

6) When you're writing comedy, being offensive isn't as much of a problem as being unfunny.

Metzger comes off as prickly and defensive - which makes sense since he was talking about it from the perspective of somebody who was dealing with the blowback from public shaming.  (I don't envy anybody who's gone through that, no matter how big or small the "crime" was.)  In this particular case, it had something to do with a joke about rape - I think.  That got a little bit buried in the shuffle.

I'm going to give Metzger the benefit of the doubt and assume his joke was actually a joke, and if that's the case, then he's right to be frustrated.  Do you know how hard it is to tell an actual joke about something vile?  If somebody can actually be funny with that kind of material, we oughta hold them in high esteem and give them a pay raise, not scream at them.

Rape is one of those topics that people try to be "funny" about a lot - especially on the Internet - and almost nobody does it well.  Everybody just assumes that you can throw it out there and it'll get a laugh because it's outrageous.  But that's not really how comedy works.  Unless you just enjoy making other people uncomfortable, but then you'll be the only one laughing, you weirdo.

The most recent example I've seen is in A Haunted House 2. There's a scene where a guy goes to prison, a bunch of tough guys surround him, and it's implied he'll get raped.

...and that's it.  That's the whole joke.

My problem isn't that the guy is going to get raped; my problem is that the scene isn't funny.  Where's the punchline?  Where's the comedy?  Explain to me, like I'm a four year-old, why anybody thinks this is funny.  Without any exaggeration, without any regret, and without exception, I can conclude this: if you think that scene is funny, you're either an idiot or a bad human.

Pretend it wasn't rape for a minute - pretend the joke is about plumbing equipment, or dogs, or anything.  Suppose the scene is that there's a guy who hates bananas, and then he goes to the grocery store and sees some bananas.  That's the exact same joke.  Is it any funnier with bananas?  No, of course not, because there's still nothing happening.

An actual joke would involve a setup and a payoff of some sort, or some physicality, or some absurdity, or a goofy sound effect, or a funny face, or a non sequitir, or something.

If the guy said, in the previous scene, "There's no way this day could go wrong!" and then you suddenly cut to him in prison looking scared while some mean guys stared at him, then that's a little bit closer to a joke.  Or maybe if he just whined about it in a funny way, like the guys close around him and he pouts and throws a tantrum and goes, "Aww... but I don't wanna!"  That would at least give you some room for some physical comedy.

Maybe if there was a montage of him trying to convince people to sodomize him, but nobody wanted to, and then he was arrested for paying a male prostitute to do it and you cut to him in prison surrounded by six guys and he just smiled.  That's a joke.

Or maybe there's a montage of the guy running around town shouting, "I'm rape-proof!  You can't rape me!"  And he keeps running into precarious situations and waving his butt at menacing looking people and saying, "You can't have this!" and then he farts, points in their face, laughs, and runs away.  And that goes on for a bit until he gets behind the wheel of his car and he's driving somewhere, and then he sees a scary looking guy on the street, so he tries to point his bare ass out of his car - while driving - to moon the scary guy and mock him.  But because it's hard to drive while mooning, he loses control and kills somebody, and then finally you cut to him in prison looking really scared of all the other guys.

Or maybe you don't even want to use rape as the punchline.  Maybe you just want rape as the setup.  You could open the scene with the rapists glowering at him, and then one of them undoes his pants and advances menacingly - but then the rapist trips and smacks his head into the bed-frame, and the other guys get really concerned about him and they're all upset that the guy has a bloody nose.  And then maybe they start bickering about how it's not sanitary to rape a guy while you have a bloody nose "because of AIDS."

Jesus, I would've even accepted it if the joke was just that he was wearing a frilly sombrero for some reason and he slowly used it to cover up his ass.

I'm getting side-tracked here.  My point is just that Metzger is right to be upset, assuming he actually put any effort into his comedy.  There's no shame in being offended by certain topics and it's totally reasonable to admit that, but real progress isn't going to come from simply yelling at people about the subject of a joke.  Simply reacting to a joke that has rape in it by shouting, "You can't do that!!!!" is every bit as intellectually lazy as simply putting rape in your movie and saying, "That's funny, right?"

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