I’m firmly of the belief that a joke can be made on ANY subject. Race, sexual orientation, murder, rape, the whole gamut. The problem is making those jokes tastefully. This isn’t a simple case of “calling someone a nigger is politically incorrect.” It’s MUCH more subtle than that.
Offensiveness in comedy is a huge topic, and is always debated. People’s tastes are always going to differ, and people’s prejudices are also going to differ. I’d like to think that when I laugh at a joke about race, it’s because the joke is funny, not because I’m laughing at the expense of a racial minority.
Why bring this up now? Because of a couple of articles currently in the Australian press, the first a video by comedian Ben Pobjie, defending offensive comedy; and the second a piece by Age columnist Craig Platt, who gets a little bit more shocked by offensive lines (or at least wonders how people react to them). Platt makes a really good point, pondering whether some American jokes aren’t racist but instead have entered a post-political-correctness era. I think he’s right on this. Unfortunately I think that the sort of on-the-fence-racist jokes that shows like Family Guy get away with are WRITTEN in a post-political-correctness point of view, but are VIEWED by an audience that mostly takes the jokes at face value. Where does that leave America? Darned if I know.
Platt’s column has gotten lots of comments, and while some of them are inevitably written by idiots who feel like they need to voice their opinion on every topic, some of them make a lot of sense. One commenter points out that there is a difference between “racial humour” and “racist humour.” Bingo.