Sunday, February 12, 2006

Going Troppo just Encourages the Clowns

GOD, Buddha and Mohammed walk into a bar...Just joking.

But jeez, it's tempting. That's the danger with insisting certain subjects should only be discussed with superlative gravity and reverence. Mighty bursts of impolitic sniggering are sure to follow.
Schoolteachers charged with educating students about the gassy rings of Uranus have possessed this knowledge for some time. In fact, such is the delightfully perverse complexion of human nature that the urge to high jinks is often in direct correlation to the grimness of the consequences.
But is this really so sacrilegious?
Any supreme being responsible for whipping up the human race must have a well-developed sense of whimsy. Just look at the cathartic power of black humour. The physiological benefits of laughter. The slapstick nature of external genitals (good Lord, they're punch lines all on their own).
Hardliners seem to be suggesting the almighty is a humourless bastard who is completely bereft of comedy stylings and is never heard cracking droll one-liners after a hard day's omnipotence.
But surely such an awesome entity would be capable of weathering occasional earthly tomfoolery - even if it's as unfunny and badly drawn as the Danish cartoons causing all this kerfuffle over in Mecca.

In some ways, the grumpy Muslims of the world are right to be shirty. The cartoons in questions are gratuitously inflammatory, irresponsibly provocative and depressingly Bart Simpson-esque. C'mon tho, we've been poking fun at Jesus Christ forever.

If drawing a pair of devil's horns on Mohammed is the best our comics can muster, the end really is nigh. But, as with classroom clowns who discharge armpit flatulence during Uranus lessons, overreaction keeps the culprits fuelled with attention and street cred. Ignore bad Danish comedy (apart from, say, a restrained announcement explaining Mohammed's sensitivity about having his portrait taken) and it really would go away.

Before getting all heavy about Islam's need to lighten up, however, it's worth remembering that many of us in the West also suffer from humour bypasses. Perhaps the moral of the story is: Let he who has never taken a joke the wrong way draw the first "does my bomb look big in this?" turban...
Speaking of sanity, an obsession with political correctness and victim mentality is also taking a grave toll on the West's ability to take a joke.

At, a US support group encourages people to write to media outlets saying that jokes about mental illness make their blood boil or cause them to "cry from pain and anger". Suggested targets include an advertisement for Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast (because it includes the line "you must be out of your mind") and McDonald's (because its Happy Meal boxes feature "Animaniacs"). Similar campaigns are run by well-intentioned groups in Australia.

While misinformation and vilification are indeed unfortunate problems, encouraging vulnerable groups to feel violated every time they pass a Maccas doesn't seem all that helpful, especially as insensitive humour isn't going to disappear any time soon.
Real empowerment - for puritanical Americans, Australian's, the mentally ill, Muslims and anyone else you care to mention - requires developing a Teflon skin and learning to expect and deflect spiteful jokes. Sure it's tempting to chuck a hissy fit, respond in kind or threaten the infidels with decapitation. But these are exactly the sorts of responses that keep off-coloured comedians in business.

till next time, Michelle.


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