Musings on Amusing: Did I Offend You?
A blogumn by Jessica Glassberg
A journey through the struggles, insecurities and over-analyzing that make a comic funny
This past Sunday night, I performed at the comedy show, “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday” in Westwood. One of the comics was onstage discussing how he tried to get excused from jury duty by pretending he was racist. Fearing getting jumped by the Latinos and African Americans serving on the jury, he decided to say he had a deep hatred for Filipinos….
The audience laughed…
The comic was not Filipino, nor Asian, nor Spanish…he was Caucasian… Should the audience have been offended? Was it not just as “offensive” to assume he would be jumped by the Latinos and African Americans?
After he finished with his set, two Asian girls left the theater…
Were they offended?
Was it just a coincidence and they had to meet some friends down the street?
We’ll never know.
Are we racist for wondering why they left?
Was I offended?
No…I was more upset that I have been telling my own jury duty joke for years than by the fact that he singled out Filipinos. The joke was funny because it was unexpected…not because it was specifically about Filipinos.
I am a comedian. I am a female. I am a brunette. I am only child. I am five foot-three and three quarters. I am Jewish. I am from Long Island. I am a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. I am a lover of Nilla Wafers and a hater of exercise. I am a self-proclaimed half-bulimic…I binge, I just don’t purge.
There are innumerable categories that can encompass who I am. And, as a comedian, there is an unwritten law that I have free reign to discuss, poke fun at, or shine a light on ‘my own’ categories.
But is that really true?
If I tell a joke about always being hungry and dirty and say that it stems from a fear of using an oven and taking showers in relation to ‘my tribe’s’ experience with the Holocaust…many people will be offended, but would it be more or less so because I am Jewish?
If a non-Jewish comic jokes about how cheap Jews are…I might be offended. Honestly, it would all depend on how it was delivered and more importantly, how funny it was. If you’re going to make jokes about stereotypes, they’d better be damned funny and put a new spin on the stereotype…or don’t bother.
After being made fun of for various reasons, from flat-chested-ness to being opinionated, I made the decision that I am completely comfortable making fun of myself in any incarnation…as a female, as a Jew, as a nerd, but I avoid crossing the line of mocking what is outside my own self-deprecating boundaries.
Personally, I strive to write material that still makes you think, and (I hope) laugh without dropping an “F-bomb” every five seconds, discussing the inner workings of my clitoris or making broad generalizations about race, religion or sex. I like to think I tell personally specific and intelligent stories with punch lines. Perhaps I am fooling myself. (Self-deprecation…party of one…I’ll take a table by the window.)
But does ‘going blue’ and getting ‘racial’ mean you’re not intelligent? I think the works of Pryor and Carlin at the very least would suggest otherwise. Have you seen the incomparable Mel Brooks’ masterpiece, “Blazing Saddles?”
To some extent, are stereotypes, stereotypes for a reason?
Are Asians bad drivers?
Are Asians good at math?
Do African Americans have bad credit?
Are African American males really well endowed?
Do Mexicans have lots of babies at a young age?
Do Mexicans work harder than others?
Are all Italians in the Mob?
Are Italian women the best cooks?
Are all Catholic girls who went to Catholic school sluts?
Are Catholics more pious than others?
Are females not funny?
Are females better multi-taskers?
Are the “good” stereotypes just as detrimental as the “bad” ones?
As long as a joke is told cleverly…does it matter?
Can stereotype jokes be used to shine a light on how horrible stereotypes actually are?
If you are going to watch a comedy show… political correctness should be left at the door the minute you order the first of your two-drink minimum.
This does not exempt the Michael Richards of the world from blurting out racial epithets just because he/she holds a microphone. If you’re going to cross the racial line…you better have a damn good punch line to back it up.
If a joke is written and told well…funny is funny…no matter how “offensive.
Jessica is a FEATURED performer at the LOS ANGELES COMEDY WALK DOWNTOWN on THURSDAY 9/18You “walk” (as the name would indicate) venue to venue, checking out a few different shows going on at once.She’ll be doing 2 sets: (8:50PM and 9:30PM)
Check out this link for info on parking, location and to print your FREE ticket.