Monday, December 24, 2007

stand-up comedy

Are all comics infatuated with telling racial jokes?

The external differences we have are the most obvious so maybe they are the easiest to exploit when you're trying to think quick. But it feels like so many comics are making a living by capitalizing on these differences for petty, shallow laughs.

Or do these jokes serve a greater purpose? Humor does help unite people. But can it help us actually understand someone who is different? Break down barriers?

People seem more amiable, approachable and non-threatening when they're laughing. And when people are sharing in the same joke it humanizes them. The unfamiliarities and diversities between the individuals don't matter. Everyone is human and everyone is laughing. Everyone shares something in common.

I think the above is true, but I think that too many comedians resort to jokes using stereotypes and race. Why is this so prevalent? Are we really required to have stereotypes to understand our world?

Here are some I heard recently at comedy club: blacks guys have big dicks, people from the Middle East wear turbans, Asians have suped-up cars but drive slow, or all white people are middle class suburbanites. And why assume that two guys sitting together at a table are always gay? And almost every other joke involved sex and race... in the most elementary of terms.

So is this phenomena progression and changing attitudes, or is it regression? Are we still just boiling things down to offensive yet comical stereotypes? And in doing so, are we creating a negative conscious or subconscious mentality among those who tell and hear them? Do we have to continue the trend of highlighting our differences rather than discussing the things we have in common?

Maybe humor can teach us, but it is the comics' responsibility to enable our learning. Comics must be smart enough, savvy enough, and clever enough to really tap into culture and society and avoid resorting to lowbrow, ignorant and insensible humor. Try talking about universal truths, feelings, thoughts, relationships... things we all share in common. How about a Muslim who identifies with Woody Allen?

Talk about differences but remember we still share so many things. We're both still human. We still share a laugh.

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