Where does one find the funny bone?

Shock horror! I’m writing again! Yes, I am aware it has been a number of months since my last post, but I’m not even going to go there. This blog is already far too full of apologies for tardiness.

I’ve been musing recently on the topic of comedy, in no small part because I am now part of the cast of a comedy revue. It’s a sketch comedy show, with each skit lasting anywhere from ten seconds to a couple of minutes, and we’re performing in a couple of months as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

One vital part of the rehearsal/workshopping process is our test audience; when a group experienced in comedy watch our show and give feedback on the sketches. So this poses the question: will they find it funny?

And this has got me thinking, why is it we find things ‘funny’? And why is it that comics can so easily cause uproar by making jokes that are deemed ‘inappropriate’?

Following the death of Whitney Houston, an Australian comedian was technologically crucified for Tweeting something along the lines of “Whitney Houston now regretting hiring Michael Jackson’s doctor” (I can neither remember nor find the exact wording of the Tweet). According to critics, it was ‘too soon’ to make light of her passing. So what is the time limit? Is there one? Will we at some point come to an unspoken agreement that it is suddenly okay to joke about it?

When rehearsing our show, there is always a little part of my mind that is aware that my family and friends will likely come to see it. And in a way, this makes me rethink some of the sketches. I wonder if my parents will take offence to jokes, if some of the content will be too risqué for my younger sister, or if my friends will be surprised to see me in such a production.

But why should I worry? There seems to be some unwritten understanding that drama can cover sticky concepts, but comedy must steer clear. Whilst I may not always agree with making jokes about someone’s death, I can not rationally explain why it should never be allowed. I’m sure it is no one’s intention to imply that Whitney’s death is insignificant or that it wouldn’t be devastating for her nearest and dearest, and many of her fans – but why is it seen as sacrilege to find something funny to say about it? When you dissect the aforementioned joke, it really has a stab at the wrongdoings of MJ’s doctor and his track record with famous patients, not at Whitney’s death.

There is something very personal about comedy. If someone doesn’t like a dramatic work, a non-fiction piece of writing or a piece of music for example, they will say they dislike it. But if someone doesn’t like your sense of humour, it instantly becomes personal. People can easily be offended and repulsed, and many a critic has gone on a rampage against one comic or another for content they disagreed with. But if it appeals to someone’s sense of humour, what right does anyone else have to say that it isn’t funny?

Again I seem to have written a post that has no conclusion, but I guess all there is to say is this: I think our show is funny. We have a mix of gags that should cater for just about any sense of humour (those rather twisted included). I think we’ll put it on and enjoy ourselves and entertain some people. And if anyone doesn’t like it, then they don’t have to laugh. No one’s making them.


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