Last night in Vancouver comedian Ian Harris came to town as part of his “Critical & Thinking” Tour. The show has been promoted by the BC Humanist Association and other skeptical groups, so naturally many of my friends in town went to the event.
From the reports, it sounds like Ian Harris was funny and a hit.
Unfortunately, the host for the evening at Yuk Yuk’s, the comedy club that hosted the event, was less humorous: discussing rape, ranting about feminists, and generally complaining about half* of the human species. When his ‘jokes’ fell flat, he suggested men would pretend to not find them funny or boo him just to get laid.
This line isn’t unfamiliar to anyone who tries to defend their jokes against the “politically correct police” or the liberal censorship brigade.
What it misses though is one of the keys to good comedy and satire: The targets of your jokes should be at least as well off as you.
Consider the medieval court jester. This ancient comedian’s job was not to mock the poor and destitute but to provide some relief to them by satirizing the nobility.
Jokes and comedy are a means of social equalizing. We make fun of ourselves, those like us, and poke fun at those in positions of privilege relative to us.
When the jokes are used the other way – when the rich mock the poor, when men make fun of female stereotypes, when white people joke about Asians or people of colour, etc. – it’s merely another form of oppression. Making fun of someone beneath you is pathetic. It’s kicking someone when their down.
There’s a human need to cheer for the underdog. We like it when our team comes from a few points behind to win and feel outraged when a dictator prosecutes their citizens. Similarly, the most effective comedy breaks down privilege and gives the otherwise disadvantaged a chance to stand up for themselves.
Aim your jokes up, otherwise you just look like a dick.