I grew up listening to the work of Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Ray Stephens, and many more comedians. When I was young one thing my family did great was laugh. I always knew that laughter felt better than almost anything. It was the best when we stayed up late listening to the radio, or playing records and laughing together. My mother never even kept us from the raunchy parts of Eddie Murphy comedy. Later my sisters got deeper into hard core comedy with every cuss word, and every kind of talk. We laughed, and listened. Perhaps that is why I can laugh now at a rape joke, or sexual harassment joke, or racial joke. Because I know laughter lightens a tense situation. It can help us cope with things we otherwise would avoid. It can enlighten us to new perspectives, and give us pause to think of something so profound in a new light.
I will never forget the first time Eddie Murphy told the joke about women not leaving a man with a big dick. I was in my teens, and I wondered if that was true. He gave me some thought. Some people might say it is wrong to say such a thing. Or accuse women of being with a man because of his dick size, but really how else could he imagine women staying with a man they know is cheating. He could have been dead wrong, but it made you think. Not so much about the anatomy of the man, but how senseless it is to stay with someone you know is cheating.
I love the controversy comedy causes. It seems to me that shocking people out of their comfort zone is the only way to get their attention. We often just ignore what seems mundane and trivial. When it comes to the shocking and unusual, well then we suddenly perk up, and for me that was comedy.
It was when I learned to laugh, that I learned somethings need our attention. I also learned about life, and sex, and relationships. I learned about criticism and most of all men. Being a woman who was exposed to the comedy of men it let me share a little of their world. Suddenly it was not such a mystery their thinking. Men go through things the same as women. They just express their selves differently. Mostly because they are taught to. But comedy gives people an outlet. Especially one needed to connect men with other men. because the exchange of ideas between men is not always that direct. but in comedy a powerful message can be sent which can be thought provoking for the best and worst of us.
I think censorship of comedy equates to silencing our ability to interact with one another, and take risks. I am sure it isn’t easy to stand on stage and never know the full reaction you will get from one bad joke. That joke may offend people, not because it was wrong, but because people want to be angry about the subject. They react because there is a truth hidden in the words they may not want to accept. Sometimes though it is one we all need to see. And we can all use a good laugh even if it is at our selves.
Context and content are everything. What amazes me is that people will take the best of context and make it into some tragedy. Comedians often risk everything on the words they say. They often face angry mobs of people who completely want to misunderstand the intent of the joke. Something which suggests that they were probably right about what they said.
We are a society of free speech, and as such should have to learn to deal with what we hear. if you don’t like it don’t listen. If you really don’t like it, then say something to counter it. But silencing the only method we have of being brutally honest with our selves while lightening the tense situations would be a tragedy. I have all respect for comedians. What they do is force us to see the ugly, horrible, snide, crass, apathetic parts of ourselves. They do it in a way that lets us not be defensive about their efforts, and they help shape our society. I am grateful to those who stand up and make the world laugh a little more, especially at our own expense.
Comedy, it’s just fucking funny. So laugh.