HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST I'M OFFENDED?
When it comes to comedy some people claim that nothing can offend them. But the truth is that everyone can be offended - if you try hard enough.
In the same way that everyone has a price, everyone has something they're sensitive about - because everyone has beliefs. Rationalists believe it's stupid to hold irrational beliefs, and you can make them quite angry simply by professing faith in something, especially if you invent it yourself and make it as weird as possible. But it's sometimes hard to offend people who are so certain of their religious beliefs that they radiate that creepy, contemptuous serenity. With them you might have to get personal. Stuff about their mother often does the trick. But how do you offend a comedian who tells offensive jokes? I'll tell you later.
On May 19th I'm chairing an event at London's Southbank Centre. It's called "No Offence But..." and the panel includes Richard Herring, Brendon Burns, Francesca Martinez and Oona King, Channel 4's Head of Diversity (see link at the end of this post). We're going to challenge some basic assumptions about comedy.
Why does comedy have to be offensive at all? Why can't we just make nice, silly jokes that make everyone happy? Why do we need comedy that might offend some people? The answer could be in the word 'some'. If everyone in the world found something offensive it wouldn't be funny. But there are some very sick people out there, who find even the most vile, repulsive jokes amusing, if you tell them properly. Thank God for diversity. What one person finds funny, another person finds distasteful. But there can be lots of different reasons why someone takes offence. It could be because of beliefs they hold, or it could be because of something that's happened to them. And even then, two people can react differently to the same experience. Here's an example. It's not strictly speaking comedy, in the sense that it's about someone dying of cancer. But lighten up...