I think it’s harder to be funny these days because so many things are off-limits.
Used to be, you would look at someone, note how they’re different from you and make fun of it. Then, they’d find something peculiar about you and make fun of that in a game of oneupmanship.
When I was a kid, I loved Polack jokes. I don’t think you can even call them Polack jokes, anymore. Now, they’re Polish jokes, and they’re very offensive. Yeah, that was the idea.
I didn’t know anyone who was Polish, so I wasn’t afraid of insulting anyone. I was just trying to find a chuckle.
Then, someone got the idea that you can’t make fun of Polish people, but I think the objectors were mostly not Polish. They’re just concerned about how Polish people might feel. I was concerned about that, too, which is why I didn’t tell Polack jokes to Polish people.
But it furthers stereotypes and marginalizes people. Take out “Polish” and insert, “Italian,” “Jewish,” “Black,” “Asian,” etc. They all have had to endure stereotyping that is fed largely through misplaced humor.
Then, I met a Polish guy, my cousin’s husband. Turns out, he loves Polack jokes and collects them. I have a lawyer friend who collects lawyer jokes and keeps books of them in his office lobby. The best doctor jokes I’ve heard were told to me by doctors.
It got to the point that you could only tell a joke with a stereotype in it if you were of that same persuasion. Only gay people could tell gay jokes. Blonde women could tell blonde jokes and so forth. But even that is dubious today. If somebody somewhere might be offended, the joke is suspect.
I realize that not all humor is insult-oriented. But if you take out all the offensive material, what’s left? Puns and knock-knock jokes?
I’m not much of a humorist, anyway, but if I can’t make fun of people, it’s like making a joke with one hand tied behind my back, which might be offensive to one-handed people.
In an effort to avoid getting ticketed by the PC police, I took all the yuks in my little joke bag and tried to rewrite them to make them acceptable to anybody. I tried them out at the cigar shop. It didn’t go well.
“A person, another person, and a third person walked into a bar,” I started.
“Hey,” said Jed, “I’m a person, and that offends me.”
So, I tried another one: “Why did the new incompetent Navy have glass-bottomed boats? So they could see the old incompetent Navy.”
Just doesn’t have the same zing, does it? “How do you sink an incompetent Navy’s ship? You put it in water.”
Turns out, three of the guys had been in the Navy and were sensitive to any jokes with the word “Navy” in them.
Paul, who knows it all, had to dissect the joke: “If the ship sank, it doesn’t mean the Navy was incompetent,” he said. “Wouldn’t that be the shipbuilder’s fault?”
“Yeah, I suppose,” I said, “but ‘shipbuilder’ is too pretty specific. There might be a shipbuilder in the room who might feel slighted.”
“Why don’t you just go back to the way the jokes are supposed to be told,” Clyde chimed in. “If someone gets offended, that’s their problem. I don’t care if I tick people off.”
“The problem with your jokes, Porter,” Big Vince said, “isn’t that they’re offensive to someone. The problem is, you just aren’t funny.”
© Copyright 2019 by David Porter, who can be reached at email@example.com. I feigned being offended by Vince’s comment, but I couldn’t pull it off. I mean, you can’t argue with the truth.