When Does Dark Comedy Cross the Line?

If the joke had no malicious intent, then it shouldn’t be “problematic”

Benjamin Jacobs, Contributor

These days, political correctness has dictated what is considered “funny” and what is considered “problematic”. However, there is something that needs to be noted with comedy – there are two parts to a joke: context and intention.

Of course, both of these could be considered the same thing, as context is how a joke is used and intention is why it is being used. For example, controversial comedian Louis CK, after receiving sexual harassment backlash, now has leaked audio of him making jokes about the Parkland shooting. The response went as far as to have a father of one of the victims respond. After all, the outrage is not surprising, as gun policies and school shootings are touchy subjects. However, it does seem like this type of humour is normal for CK, considering he makes many jokes that are considered “edgy”, including one comparing America to a partner in a dysfunctional relationship. These types of jokes are normal for him, and it is obvious he does not mean anything by it.

With context and intention in mind, people can blow a joke out of proportion even if the former or latter are clearly presented. For example, Marcus Meechan, aka Count Dankula, was under scrutiny for training his pet dog to do a Nazi salute and making it react to multiple reactions to holocaust references. This could have been brushed off as just dark comedy, but there was an uproar in response, including even being convicted of “inciting racial hatred”. While people argue that “it was a tasteless joke”, that’s the very problem – it was meant to be just a joke.

Even without context, there needs to be a discussion on free speech in comedy. Yes, despite the name “free speech”, there are limits to it, such as inciting hatred or violence. However, comedy is an expression of this freedom of speech because it can help us laugh about our problems or make satirical commentary on current events that seem too heavy to come to terms with and discuss. If people are silenced for voicing their opinion, then there can’t be any thought-provoking discussion about an issue, because people won’t be allowed to talk about it at all.

If there is no intent to target and harass a group or an individual, there should not be a commotion about the content presented. Considering that there are individuals that can get offended over the slightest things, it seems impossible to think of dark comedy without backlash from the public.

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