Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Espenson: On Comedy

This is why former Buffy, Firefly, Angel, and Battlestar Galactica, et al, writer Jane Espenson should be the supreme czar of all media. Writing at her blog, she notes:

"...[O]n almost every show in my career, I’ve found myself in a political argument at some point with someone to the right of me. (To the political right I mean, although in half the cases they were also literally to the right of me.) Sometimes these writers self-identified as conservative. But usually they thought of themselves as liberal, but just felt that 'some people' 'took things' 'too far.'

I think this is because comedy writers tend to see sensitivity to the feelings of others as anti-comedic. Political correctness is the enemy of funny, they declare. If we eliminate jokes at the expense of those who are different than us, we’ll be left shivering and naked in a comedy landscape made of nothing but self-deprecation and puns. This is nonsense, of course. Any joke that’s only funny after you’ve glanced around the room to check the demographics, is probably not a joke worth telling. And I don’t just say this because such jokes are mean-spirited. Although that would be reason enough. Here’s why I say this:

Racist/sexist/homophobic jokes in fact tend NOT to be funny not only because they cause pain, but because they are bombs instead of scalpels. A joke that pokes fun at a person is sharpest, funniest, when it finds that perfect detail, the most subtle observation of what sets that person apart. Someone’s race or gender is unlikely to be the most subtle thing about them, and certainly it’s not the most specific."

That's why I grant people no points for "politically incorrect" humor. In general, a lot of people think they're being Incredibly Brave and counter-cultural for saying things they think are "politically incorrect."

It's as though they don't fully understand that the label "politically correct" is actually a slur that's a synonym for an uptight, unfunny, stick-in-the-mud buzzkill. And because being called "politically correct" is generally seen as a negative, being "politically incorrect" isn't brave at all.

Indeed, "political incorrectness," in my lexicon, is usually code for being an uninspired asshole. I mean, does the world really need more "women: so naggy, right?" and "men: sure like sex a lot" jokes?

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