Skepticism

AI: Make Funny Long Time

Today’s AI comes from one of last week’s Comment of the Week winner, Skrap!

We all like to laugh at the woo. Particularly when the woo causes epic fails. That said, there are some things its probably not okay to  laugh at. Like, say, homeopathic dead babies, which is to say babies who died due to the application of homeopathy, not a single dead baby  in a whole bunch of water whose molecules will gain the memory of post  mortem infantility. Possibly a bad example. Regardless, for most of us  there are things we wont joke about, either because real damage has been done, or because the joke undermines the cause.

Where is the line for you? Are there things you wont joke about?  Times where you think the funny gets in the way of the message?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Masala Skeptic

Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. She currently lives in Atlanta and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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152 Comments

  1. I don’t think there’s anything I won’t joke about. If there is a line I wont cross, I haven’t found it yet.

    There are situations in which I will not joke because either, as you say, the funny gets in the way of the message, or because it would be too painful for someone present. In the right environment, I don’t consider anything to be out of bounds.

    I am a Hedge

  2. I’ve always found that humor makes they easier, but obviously not everyones sense of humor is the same.

    Some times the message can get across better with humor. Here in California there’s a guy that is collecting signatures for a bill to make divorce illegal and some friends of mine did the PSA for it. It’s funny but it does get the message across about how silly the whole idea of “defense of marriage” b.s. is.

    A friend and I once riffed our way through a TV movie about baby Jessica the kid that fell down a well twenty or so years ago. The kid was rescued, and the film was made years after the event yet my friends wife, sister and mother were extremely mad at us for making light of the situation, that it was in poor taste.

    All we were doing was coming up with much easier solutions to the problem. Such as trying to suck the kid out of the well with a shop vac, placing a concusion grenade under the kid and blowing her back out of the hole, and the one that got to them was sealing up the well forgetting about her, and just making another kid, heck it was only 18 months old how attached could they be? I’ve lost cars that I’ve owned longer than that and wasn’t broken up.

    Too crass?

  3. I don’t think it’s off-limits to joke about offensive things like racial/ethnic stereotypes, but I rarely hear an actual good joke about it. However, it’s a different story when someone uses a slur to insult someone or a group of people, and uses the excuse that it’s just a joke! Those “jokes” aren’t even funny, and it’s a very weak excuse. Theoretically, there could be some actual jokes that are even funny on that subject, but I’ve never heard one. Same thing with rape, as Imrryr said.

  4. @Imrryr:

    Rape. That’s one subject I just can’t find any humor in.

    Come now. Here’s just a couple from Blazing Saddles.

    Hedley Lamarr: Qualifications?
    Applicant: Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
    Hedley Lamarr: You said rape twice.
    Applicant: I like rape.

    Taggart: I got it! I got it!
    Hedley Lamarr: You do?
    Taggart: We’ll work up a Number 6 on ’em.
    Hedley Lamarr: [frowns] “Number 6”? I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that one.
    Taggart: Well, that’s where we go a-ridin’ into town, a-whompin’ and a-whumpin’ every livin’ thing that moves within an inch of its life. Except the women folks, of course.
    Hedley Lamarr: You spare the women?
    Taggart: Naw, we rape the shit out of them at the Number Six Dance later on.
    Hedley Lamarr: Marvelous!

    Just because the subject itself isn’t funny doesn’t mean it can’t be incorporated into humor.

    I am a Hedge

  5. If humor’s the purpose, then I’m like to joke about any auld thing. But if you’re out to convey a message, well heck, humor can be a distraction no matter how mundane.

    I do, however, understand how something like the Holocaust can be a touchy subject. Being of German descent, I had a great-grandfather who died in Buchenwald concentration camp. He fell from the guard tower.

    (I actually got that printed in an editorial in my college paper. Still one of my prouder moments.)

  6. Nope, rape is still not fucking funny. And, I am a Hedge, you may want to reconsider your position on it. Perhaps the problem is you don’t know anyone who has ever been violated in that way. The way it changes her (or his) entire life. The way it makes you distrust humanity itself. Not funny.

  7. Well… George Carlin did say (he’s still my hero) and this is not an exact quote:

    “Rape can be funny[…] Think of Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. I mean, there’s a reason they call him Porky[…]” and so on. Why is it that rape is somehow considered more terrible than murder? You can recover from rape, in my opinion. You can’t really recover from being dead.

    It’s an issue of tact. Pretty much anything can be joked about, in the right context. For example, where I’m from, jokes about people’s mothers do not fly. That’s reason to get your face re-structured. I’m not sure of what I wouldn’t joke about, given the context. I make jokes about my friend’s mothers here in the States, because people don’t take it seriously. I’m not about to do that at a business meeting, or with people I don’t know. I’m not about to go to a feminist rally and take the mike and make rape jokes, because I like counting myself among the living and not being maimed in any significant way.

  8. @faith:

    As I said, it’s not about whether or not the subject is funny. It’s about whether a joke can incorporate the subject and still be funny.

    You can put a serious downer on all kinds of jokes by focusing on the serious and negative components of it. You can limit your concept of what is funny to things that in no way incorporate any questionable subject matter, but I would find the result of that to be very unsatisfying.

    I could never enjoy South Park, or anything by Mel Brooks. Heck, you couldn’t even chuckle a little a Tom & Jerry. He’s trying to kill that poor little mouse and eat him. And he stuffs dynamite into the little guy’s home. You could only possibly find that amusing if you’ve never known anyone who’s had their house blown up.

    I am a Hedge

  9. However, it’s a fucking mouse. Mice carry diseases and eat your food and all sorts of shit.

    I wish Tom would’ve gotten him at some point. Rid the house of a pest. I think the racial stereotype of the black maid in Tom and Jerry is far worse than a cat trying to eat a mouse. Maybe you never had mice in your house eating your cereal.

    However, ditto on the South Park and Mel Brooks. I think South Park gets way stupid, but I enjoy Mel Brooks. I think he knows just how to be transgressive.

  10. I agree with Imrryr and Faith. I do not find any humour in rape. I also find nothing funny about child abuse and child sexual abuse. I realize that some people might, but I’m not one of those people.
    Aaron, BTW, I think reality makes rapists look like terrible people.

  11. Applicant: I like rape
    Hedley Lamarr: You spare the women?
    Taggart: Naw, we rape the shit out of them at the Number Six Dance later on.

    And you consider these funny? I consider these violent and threatening. For someone to joke about rape, they become, in my mind, Schroedinger’s rapist or apologist. Equally bad in my opinion.

    Here’s why I don’t find rape jokes funny.
    I was raped in 1986 by a member of our proud U.S. Marine Corps. Fucking someone when they don’t want to be is violent, really scary, humiliating and life changing. When you joke about rape you make it acceptable on a minute level. When you don’t say anything about someone telling a rape joke, you make it just a little bit more acceptable.

    It’s pretty fucking unacceptable.

  12. I think the only way you could make rape funny is if you’re poking fun at the rapist. And you’d have to tread pretty lightly and have the right audience. Family Guy and South Park do it right *sometimes* but even they miss the mark almost always.

    “We rape the shit out of women” is not, and will never, be funny.

  13. I think that the humor is overdone frequently. There are times when we don’t so much discus, disprove, discredit, or otherwise debunk so-called “woo”. Instead, we just jump to labeling it woo, and then it’s open season.

    And nothing against COTW, either, but I think it shares some of the blame. More often than not, the COTW goes to whoever can come up with the funniest/dirtiest joke, and rarely goes to a thoughtful or poignant comment.

    There are times when I wonder if I really believe that something, say chiropractic medicine for example, really is bunk, or if I just think it’s bunk because a few blogs I happen to follow say it’s bunk. They’re reasonably intelligent people, right? They seem like it. They use a lot of big words and stuff. Some of them even have letters after their name. I’ve never met any of them face to face, but they seem nice. And they think something’s silly, and they’re laughing at it, so it must be silly.

    Humor definitely has its place, especially among those who have been doing this sort of thing for a while, and get to know crackpot when they see it. But it can get to be too much at times. It’s too easy to declare something “woo”, laugh at it, and be done with it, without having to go through the effort of actually trying to prove or demonstrate anything.

    We need to balance humor with honest, open, discussion, frank and open access to information. Be a resource for skeptical investigation, not a morning lark over coffee.

  14. It seems to me that most rape jokes simply rely on shock value to be “funny”. Comically, that’s just lazy. Going for the “I can’t believe they just said that” reaction over actual wit seems to be an unfortunate trend in comedy. So I agree 99.99% of “rape jokes” are not funny, not because they are offensive, although some are, but because they are lazy and genuinely not funny. The Blazing Saddles jokes are a good example of these. But I don’t hold anything taboo. It is possible to say something genuinely witty that involves something horrible such as rape, murder, child abuse, or racism, it just takes more work. It’s not the subject that offends me, it’s the laziness.

  15. @Peregrine:

    There are times when I wonder if I really believe that something, say chiropractic medicine for example, really is bunk, or if I just think it’s bunk because a few blogs I happen to follow say it’s bunk.

    …So? Isn’t it your responsibility to look up the facts *yourself*? It seems more than a little lazy to blame humor, if you’re unwilling to look at the facts yourself. Those people laughing? Have already looked at the facts.

  16. @Im a Hedge: @Imrryr: @Im a Hedge: @faith: @marilove:

    It was not hard to anticipate that in a blog called “Skepchick”, being a chick would weigh more than being a skeptic as far as the issue of rape is concerned. People can joke about Holocaust and not joke about rape? That’s just true-believish.

    By this I don’t mean I agree with I am a Hedge; I am actually on the restrictive side of the debate and for me the threshold of laughability of topics is usually high. I can think of no topic that cannot be made fun of, but I can think of many restrictions on the way the rule applies.

    In any case, skepchicks will reject the idea of joking about rape as strongly as any conservative will reject a joke on god, but that’s a question of each one’s pet-beliefs and has no bearing on the hypothetically intrinsic evil nature of rape as opposed to absolutely any other possible human action.

    Behaviorally, rape is just another use of force in order to reach a goal. And when this leads to funny outcomes, that’s laughable, as long as one is a rational unbiased observer.

  17. @marilove: Also, South Park and Family Guy rely *heavily* on irony, parody, satire, and sarcasm, and not necessarily straight punch-line humor, and I think you can have a ltitle more leeway with certain offensive topics if you do it well.

    The Blazing Saddles is using none of the above. It’s “lolol I rape women lolol”.

    I agree: That’s just using shock value, and is lazy.

    And I’m no prude when it comes to my comedy.

  18. @SkepPunk:

    Yeah, I’ve never heard a rape joke that is actually funny. Honestly, does anyone actually think that Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd is funny? It’s not even offensive, it’s just dumb.

    As for the Blazing Saddles jokes, it’s the same thing. I’ve only read the transcripts that were provided rather than seeing people actually perform the jokes, but I don’t see how they are considered funny. I’m not offended by them; they’re just stupid jokes. It seems to me that the people who are amused by this stuff would also get a big kick out of “Man Getting Hit In Groin With Football”, just like Homer Simpson. Of course, America’s Funniest Home Videos seem to have a strong enough following, so maybe there are really a lot of people out there who laugh at things that aren’t funny.

  19. @catgirl
    About AFV, while they do show some groin hitting every episode, there are other instances of human and animal behaviours that are really funny. Also, it’s all about schaudenfreude. “Look at that idiot, what a doofus, he did something so stupid, hahahah!” or something like that. Of course, the irony is that everyone has probably done something as stupid as that, but let’s face it, people generally don’t like to dwell on their own mistakes.

  20. @catgirl:

    I think you may be unfairly taking one line out of Skepthink’s reply and using it out of context. If I read the comment correctly, the comment really was that one should look for why they believe something is or isn’t funny and perhaps secondarily, that you need to know your audience.

    Let’s take it another way…retitle the blog “Skepjew” and many more of the comments would focus in on how the Holocaust was not a laughing matter; read a blog entitled “Enraptured” and I’d be willing to bet that Christianity jokes would be off limits (see: blasphemy). I don’t think that Skepthink meant the issue is only cared about by women, but rather that in a forum mostly populated by women, it is possibly more of a hot button issue than any of these other possibilities. The comment was not that rape is funny and women should just get over it…rather I saw the comment as trying to force a broadening of one’s point of view beyond this one issue to how almost any subject can be found to be off-limits by one party or another.

    In fact, if you go on to read the rest of the post, Skepthink goes on to rather toughtfully point out that if rape is not funny, why isn’t murder? Why not slavery? In any situation where one party is injured, it is only natural that this party would not be able to find humor (if it exists or not) in the topic.

    The point to be made was to look at your values system for internal consistency. Where and how do you draw the line on what is joke-worthy and what isn’t?

  21. @catgirl: Nope. My remarks simply state that males can be expected to be objective on this issue as opposed to females, which may reasonably feel inclined not to remain impartial, particularly since they are the victims of rape in 99% of cases. In any trial, such a circumstance would directly disqualify women in order to judge on the issue, and I am using the same standard.

    @marilove: That’s exactly the problem, you didn’t say anything about not joking about Holocaust, though you did jump in the wagon of not joking about rape. I would have had no problem with the latter had you first made some remark on the former, even in some general form.

    Personally, I see as another consequence of this blog being Skepchicks’ the fact that the first suggestion of a non-laughable topic was rape instead of any other much more relevant topics such as traffic accidents, hunger, corruption or inequality, about which virtually anybody can, however, joke uncontroversially. The concept of rape is in no way holier, which means that the objections against I am a Hedge’s comments cannot be taken to hold.

    As Letterman would say, are we guilty of bad taste? Doubtlessly. But is there anything else to it, some superior truth whereby rape cannot be joked about? Skeptically, no.

  22. For me humor is all about context and company. The documentary film by Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza about the joke called “The Aristocrats” was in my mind extremely funny, irreverent, shocking and the best piece of work Bob Saget’s ever done. I’m not prepared to say there is one aspect of human life or the human condition that should be exempt from the barbs of humor, wit, irony, sarcasms, and ridicule.

    Now Daffy Duck raping Elmer Fudd, that’s funny. I demand that you shoot me now!

  23. To defend the hilarity of the “Blazing Saddles” quotes, they are a complex example that exist within a specific context for a specific purpose, and it’s unfair to characterize them as “lol rape” or simple shock humor. More like, well, complex shock humor. ;-)

    But even so, part of the core of humor is subverting expectations, so what’s wrong with a little shock now and then? Though I do agree that it can be overdone… it serves better as a seasoning than as a main dish. I just personally don’t think “Blazing Saddles” overdoes it.

    One year, my college film society inadvertently scheduled a screening of “Blazing Saddles” (and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” as a double feature) the night before Martin Luther King, Jr, Day. Now that’s entertainment!

    (PS – Regarding my first comment, I just want to point out that, colorful a character though my great-grandpa was, he and the family were out of Germany before the rise of the Nationalist Socialists. I just love that joke too much.)

  24. @Skepthink: The rest of the world is free to find humor wherever they like. But chances are you’re not going to get me to laugh with a rape joke.

    @Im a Hedge: Never really cared for Blazing Saddles, unfortunately. But it wasn’t because of those particular lines. All I can say is if we were watching the movie together and you laughed heartily when those lines were delivered, I wouldn’t laugh, but I’d leave it at that. I wouldn’t walk out of the room and be all offended or anything. Different senses of humor is all it is. And fortunately, there are other Mel Brooks movies that I do enjoy.

  25. To answer originals questions posed. No. No. Yes.
    I can joke about anything but don’t always depending on the situation. I try don’t use humor when discussing religion around my in-laws because I don’t want to offend them.

    I don’t joke about rape around the women I know have been raped but don’t mind cancer jokes (both grandma’s died and a step-grandma had cancer before we’d met).

    I lost a job due to a link to onion.com in an email so I don’t joke at work now even if I know people would appreciate the humor. I knew at the old job too, obviously wrong on one account.

    The lack of joking with potentially offensive humor really sucks because _everything_ is potentially offensive. It’s an unacceptable risk these days and I think lessens the experience for everyone.

    By preventing something because it may be offensive to someone is a form of censorship, and is unacceptable. I recognize that some jokes will be offensive to others but don’t think that should prohibit them unless you think there is a message that would not be served in its telling.

  26. @marilove:

    @Skepthink: ” People can joke about Holocaust and not joke about rape?”

    I didn’t say that.

    You didn’t come right out and say it, but it is interesting that a holocaust joke goes by without comment, while a couple quotes from a comedy film that mention rape get the ire up. (Of course, it wasn’t just marilove who displayed this particularly odd preference. There’s a point at which one cannot make distinctions between levels of evil, but I am comfortable saying that the Holocaust > rape on the evil scale.)

    I’m sure there are people who haven’t seen Blazing Saddles, or who think it isn’t funny, but do you think Brooks and Pryor are saying rape is funny? When, in the same film, someone panics to rescue a handcart from quicksand, but leaves two men to die, do you think Brooks and Pryor are suggesting that a hand cart is more valuable than two humans? This would be approaching the same level of misunderstanding as decrying The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as racist because “there’s nothing funny about calling someone a nigger”.

    Do I really need to be defending the fact that Blazing Saddles is funny?

    One can curmudgeon just about any joke, and it is difficult to explain to someone why any particular thing is funny. Once you’ve decided it isn’t funny, it’s pretty much impossible to be persuaded otherwise. A lot of humor involves taking something unpleasant and placing it in a particular context. Pain, embarrassment, failure… these are common themes in humor. If you refuse to find humor in things that have something unpleasant at their core, you are likely to find your life quite humorless.

    I am a Hedge

  27. I don’t find things where people get hurt to be funny; especially when one person is deliberately hurt by another as in rape, torture, murder, abuse, and so on.

    I don’t find the porky pig example funny at all.

    I do think that anyone, male or female, who does consider that they are a sufficiently “rational unbiased observer” and so can find jokes about rape funny has a pathological deficit in empathy.

    I didn’t like “the Producers”. I found it to be unacceptable. It turns out the Mel Brooks enlisted at age 17 and was in the Battle of the Bulge. I heard an interview (I think by Terry Gross) where he talked about it. I still don’t find it funny.

    Drug monkey had a good blog about the Overton window.

    http://scienceblogs.com/drugmonkey/2009/08/weekend_diversion_how_to_argue.php

    That is the conceptual “window” between where an idea is acceptable to think, and where it becomes policy (i.e. should be done). Much of what amounts to “framing” the debate is framing what ideas are acceptable to think, and implement into policy. For a long time the idea that women could vote was unthinkable.

    I think that is the purpose of most “jokes” about rape, bigotry and about harming other people. It is an attempt to make those ideas more acceptable to think, and so move the conceptual Overton window such that they are included. That is what Sarah Palin was doing when she lied about “death panels”. That is what the GOP is doing when they lie about Obama and “joke” about seceding, about a military coup deposing him, and about assassinating him. That is what they are trying to do when they make outrageous lies about health care. They are trying to expand the window of what is acceptable discourse to include what they are thinking.

    I can’t joke about things like abuse and rape. I don’t find them funny under any circumstances, not in any group, not in any way, shape or form. I think that people who do find such things funny are either perpetrators themselves, or are trying to protect themselves via some perverse “attachment to the aggressor”. In either case I think they need serious psychological help. It is like people who torture animals “for fun”.

  28. There are some things I wouldn’t joke about, but more because I can’t come up with anything that I think other people would find amusing. Necrophilia is one, but I’ve certainly heard some howlers about it.

    Speaking of rape, Sarah Silverman told this one:

    “I was raped by a doctor… which is, you know, so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.”

    Utterly tasteless and offensive to at least three different groups and I still giggle about it.

    I think there is a huge difference between saying:
    A) topic X is offensive to me so please don’t joke about it in my presence
    B) topic X is offensive and no one should ever tell a joke about it

    I’m totally down with A). That’s just part of being a polite human, and if I find this too constraining I can always avoid your company and/or you can avoid mine. Option B) is unrealistic and unreasonable. I do avoid people who hold this view because our personalities are likely to clash in many different ways.

    (Some folks should just have “I am easily offended” tattooed on their forehead and save the rest of us a whole lot of grief. Humph.)

  29. In the right context and with a little tact, almost everything can be funny. I actually find that humor can sometimes help convey a deeper understanding of an issue. Jokes about rape never suggest to the viewer that rape is OK. They make fun of rapists, either directly or through satire/sarcasm. In this way, they are quite funny.

    The blazing saddles example makes the men sound like terrible people with a backward mindset because of their unabashed acceptance of rape. They’re so backward that it’s funny. It’s this sort of context when most potentially offensive topics become acceptable parts of a joke. More direct jokes or jokes that cast rape in an acceptable light generally, IMO, cross the line from funny to offensive. Just like jokes about other potentially offensive topics.

  30. Thank you @daedalus2u. As though on cue, making my point about ending up humorless.

    I didn’t like “the Producers”. I found it to be unacceptable.

    My congratulations in your impressive accomplishment, and your valuable contribution if furthering the field of Missing the Point.

    I am a Hedge

  31. @daedalus2u: “””I do think that anyone, male or female, who does consider that they are a sufficiently “rational unbiased observer” and so can find jokes about rape funny has a pathological deficit in empathy.”””

    “rational observer… funny rape jokes”, a link which you have indeed spotted but that nobody actually stated. The unbiased rationalism applies to resolving the contradiction that would result from having problems with rape jokes and not with other jokes. It could have not referred to anything else than that contradiction (e.g. jokes), because rationalism applies to jokes as much as it applies to color categories.

  32. @faith: One of the functions of humor, as I’ve seen it, is to diffuse fear down to a point where one can act rather than spend all day quivering in a corner. That doesn’t make the object of that fear any less serious, of course, but it does make it easier to approach and deal with rationally.

    I don’t find rape is a good example for this effect, but not everyone agrees with my assessment.

    @daedalus2u: That is some aggressive and unwarranted stereotyping in your last paragraph. I can’t say I’d want to converse with someone who draws conclusions about entire persons from one small aspect of their personality as a friend, though I’d love to meet such in a debate.

    Laughing at another’s pain in one instance does not make a person a sadist or a sociopath, and you should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting such nonsense.

  33. @daedalus2u:
    In defense of the Carlin joke (yes, I mentioned Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd, and I think it’s cruel, but still find it fairly funny), the point isn’t the joke itself. It’s about the excesses of political correctness, in many ways a defense of free speech. The bit is worth listening to.
    A lot of people find dead baby jokes funny. I find some of them funny in that they are cruel and “wrong”. It doesn’t make it so that I won’t be broken-hearted when I see a dead baby. You think that joking about stuff like that desensitizes us to it? I think it exposes us to things we don’t want to think about and make us consider what we believe and where we stand. Humor is different for everyone.
    YOu don’t find the humor in it? Too bad. It doesn’t preclude someone else from finding it funny. As I said before, it’s about context. If you don’t enjoy those kind of jokes, don’t listen. Or cry about it. Whatever you feel is most appropriate or convenient. And if you think laughing at a joke about abuse is equivalent to torturing animals, I think you’re the one who has skewed priorities.
    I make jokes about Puerto Ricans all the time. And to be honest, I don’t get offended when other people make them. Call me thick-skinned. But making a joke of that sort among friends is very different from some random person telling me to swim back to Puerto Rico and go cut some sugar cane and knock someone up. Even then, I don’t get offended. I just happen to think they either lack tact, or are racist fucking bigots.

  34. @phlebas: Do Polack jokes count? I mean, it’s not like Polacks understand them well enough to know to be offended.

    Then again, are Polack jokes even funny anymore? I hope so… it would be nice if the other half of my heritage were good for something.

    (In Case Of Emergency: If you’re offended by the above, replace all instances of “Polack” with “blonde” or “crustacean”)

  35. Hmmm…seems that I’ll need to dial my humor back in skepchick circles

    The guy & I wooed each other with a blistering round of competitive dead baby/child molester jokes. We made chemotherapy jokes when his mom was dying.

    Life can toss some pretty ugly stuff at you, my response is to reduce it to something that can be ridiculed. It’s not even just the scary bugbears. Even normal stuff can sometimes be phrased in such a way that it sets off my inner snot-nosed 4th grader. Perhaps that’s a defense? Sick humor to keep the world at bay and to weed out those who won’t ‘get’ me?

    Hard to tell. But obviously there are boundaries and judging from these responses, I’ve crossed them. A lot. Best to stick with knock-knock jokes from here on out.

    “Who’s there?”
    “Grape”
    “Grape Who?”
    “Graped the shit out of them!”

  36. @marilove: That’s not my point.

    What does any highschool science or math teacher worth their salt say over and over from day one? “show your work!”

    It’s SCIENCE! You don’t expect your audience to understand, even when they do. Sure, they’re perfectly capable of looking it up themselves. Sure, some of them are even educated enough to understand it all. But even then, you’ve got to show your work. You can’t just assume you’re right, and everyone agrees with you on face value.

    There are newcomers coming in all the time. And if all they see is jokes, and they think we’re laughing at them, guess what they’re going to do? They’re going to go back to the New Age forums, and tell them what a bunch of no-account nay-sayers we are. They’re not going to go off and do their own research. That’s what they’re here for! They’re here doing research. They’re here looking for a resource. And if you want them to find accurate information, you need to be that resource.

    I’m not expecting someone to handhold them all the way. All I’m saying is that you’ve got to give them the information they’re looking for. Point them in the right direction. Let them in on the joke.

    The Internet is not a pier reviewed journal. Good pier reviewed journals are hard to come by, seldom publicly available, often very costly, seldom free, and quite frequently over the heads of the average surfer. The internet is a cesspool of filth and misinformation with tiny little nuggets of truth. But it’s so good at finding a dry-cleaner or booking a flight, or ordering pizza, that how could it possibly steer you wrong?

    Winning is not being right. Winning is coming in on the first page of a Google search.

    If you’re going to open a blog dedicated to telling the truth, providing accurate, up-to-date information, then people are going to rely on you to provide the service you’re promoting. They’re not going to be regulars. They’re not going to be laughing and joking along with the rest of us. They’re going to be some guy who found the place from Google. They’re going to see the morning quickies, see all of us laughing at the homeopathy story and telling dirty jokes about herbal Viagra, and then they’re going to move on to the next search result, which is some blogger named Storm who swears that herbal medicine can cure the common cold.

    If you’re not going to show your work, and let them in on the joke, then you might as well close up shop. Because the masseuse parlor down the street with the healing crystals in the window are far more open and willing to give them the information they’re looking for.

  37. Zach, what I said was limited to those who enjoy humor about abuse and rape. The example you give is exactly what I was talking about, a protective mechanism that mitigates the damage of things such as abuse and rape.

    There are better ways of dealing with the adverse effects of abuse and rape than finding them humorous. If the only way you can think of to be not paralyzed by fear in the context of abuse and rape is to find them funny, then I think you do need some serious psychological help.

    In that respect I am George Bernard Shaw’s unreasonable man. I will not adapt myself to a world that finds abuse and rape acceptable or humorous. I don’t care that you don’t want to be my friend because I don’t buy your BS that finding abuse and rape humorous is an acceptable adaptive mechanism. It isn’t, and a real friend would tell you so. Correcting your faulty world view is more important to me than being your friend. It would be more important to a real friend too.

  38. A friend of mine sent me a link today to a YouTube video. It was a clip from some wacky Japanese show. In the clip, they took some innocent dupe and made him think he was going to conduct a simple interview, but instead, they faked a terrorist shooting of everyone in the room but him.

    The audience watching the show was laughing uproariously at the horrified expressions on the poor guy’s face. When the “terrorist” dragged the guy across the room and put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger…and nothing happened, the audience went wild.

    That’s my line. I cannot and will not laugh at a joke made at someone else’s expense like that. I can’t watch America’s Funniest Home Videos or its ilk because it’s all that same kind of humor. I listen only to podcasts or NPR because most radio stations seem to find it the HEIGHT of hilarity to pull “pranks” like the “terrorist” on people.

    I’m not even sure what bothers me more: that my friend found this horrifying thing funny or that he thought *I* would.

  39. Zach, just an addendum. If you had been a victim of abuse or rape, you would have a better understanding of why it isn’t funny. I hope you can figure out why it isn’t funny without having that experience. Like Faith said, it is a life-changing experience. Losing the ability to laugh at abuse and rape jokes is the least of it.

  40. @daedalus2u:

    There are better ways of dealing with the adverse effects of abuse and rape than finding them humorous.

    So what makes you laugh?

    Also, can I find a joke about rape funny without finding rape itself funny? I laugh at the “a cuddle? I was rapin’ ye!” line in Yellowbeard, but I don’t think I would chuckle if I happened upon an actual rape. (Hmm. Well, I did laugh when I caught my mom’s chihuahua sexually assaulting her cat once.)

    I had surgery a few months ago, and I found it awful. I imagine there are other people who have had surgery that also found it awful — maybe even more awful than I found it. Is it inappropriate to mock the surgeon or the process because I might do so in front of someone who found it horrible?

    I think you (and others here) are working so hard to make sure everyone knows that you’re sensitive that you’re turning yourselves into the least humorous people on the planet. No one is that unfunny now that Red Dwarf is off the air.

  41. I don’t find rape jokes funny. I loved the film Blazing Saddles, but the rape jokes parts? yeah, didn’t like ’em. I’ll never find them funny, and will never understand how someone else could. But I recognize that a lot of people do, and I’ll venture to guess that most of them are not horrible people. My husband, for example, finds the jokes in Blazing Saddles funny. I happen to take general offense to the jokes. Difference of opinion there. But then one gets people like @faith: suggesting my husband is a Schroedinger’s rapist and people like @daedalus2u: suggesting he’s a sociopath. To that, I take personal offense.

  42. Attention, everyone: as a member of an extended family whose members have variously survived and died from Alzheimer’s, testicular cancer, multiple sclerosis, fraud, alcoholism, deviated septums, scoliosis, electroshock therapy, divorce, cardiovascular disease, car accidents, sexual abuse, genocide, root canals, miscarriage, hysterectomies, heart attacks, and other life-changing experiences, I hereby give you all permission to makes jokes about them. Seriously, go nuts.

  43. I’m someone who finds just about everything funny, however I do understand that all people are going to find different things funny. I saw Lewis Black and thought he was hilarious, it turns out a co-worker was at the same show and said he hated it.

    Many years ago I had a good friend who was killed in a train accident, about 6 months later on South Park, Kenny was hit by a train, which was really not funny to me, but at the same time I understood that my personal pain shouldn’t reflect how others joke.

  44. @daedalus2u: I think you missed my point a bit. The first bit wasn’t really directed at you, and I did leave a disclaimer about rape specifically. Still, you’re right, it’s not a healthy way to deal with such trauma in the long term, and not the most effective way in the short term.

    Look, I understand having a sore spot for rape jokes, especially if that sore spot is a gaping, everlasting emotional wound. I also understand that such a wound is the normal consequence of being a victim of rape.

    What I am trying to say is that not feeling any such pain does not make a person bad, just insensitive.

    Also, I was expecting a cry of hypocrisy on the “you can’t be my friend” comment. I was, after all, judging your whole person on one small piece! Ah, well, it was terribly phrased anyway.

  45. @Bookitty: The Grape joke came so totally out of left field that I felt like someone had hit me in the side of the head! And then I laughed my ass off!

    I never would have thought I would find a rape joke funny, but Bookitty and Sarah Silverman have shown me the error of my ways.

    Some people here need to stop pretending that there is some sort of objective quantification of what is funny. As we have seen in these posts, something can be +infinity funny to someone and -infinity funny to someone else. Only an idiot would suggest that this means that there is something inherently damaged about either person.

    If I am ever dying from anal cancer, I am totally calling Bookitty up for a few well aimed ass-cancer jokes.

  46. There is a difference between humor and things that make us laugh. Humor involves an intellectual twist on cultural norms. Humor requires a degree of callousness; things cannot be funny if you cannot be callous to them.

    Laughter, unlike humor, is an emotional discharge. It is healthy. Laughter can represent discomfort or strong emotion, for example. I am reminded of the man who laughed at my grandfather’s funeral. He didn’t laugh because it was funny, he laughed because it was how his mind and body were manifesting his emotional response.

    If humor were to be an emotion, I see it being closest to vengeance. How can Jesus jokes, jokes about people’s God, be funny? Because “fuck the people who don’t think it’s funny.” How could someone think rape is funny? Because “fuck the people who don’t think it’s funny.”* The callousness required for something to be humorous necessarily is harmful to those who don’t share that callousness.

    If the emotional discharge of laughter were to be cultural, I see it as being the ability to change how one interacts with their environment by changing their perception of their environment. This is not unlike how Willie Coyote and Roadrunner work, perhaps.

    When laughter (the emotional need to change how we perceive our environment) turns into humor (callousness to others), people start to get not just passively hurt. It’s a fine line between a black joke and dropping the n-word.

    A black guy walks into a bar with a beatiful parrot on his shoulder. “Wow,” says the bartender. “That is really something. Where’d you get it?”

    “Africa,” says the parrot.

    The above joke is implying that parrots are not only smarter than black people, but that they are able to own them. That is actively hurtful. It’s also humor. And, if it is based in an emotional response (e.g. a genuine dislike for black people, as opposed to an appreciation for history and irony), it becomes something worse than hurtful. It becomes a self-feeding cycle bigotry, bitterness, and isolation. Oh, and hurting other people.

    When people are writing “rape jokes aren’t funny”, I don’t think they don’t mean they don’t get the joke. What I think they mean is rape jokes hurt them and that the joke teller’s callousness to this pain (as evidenced by telling the joke) makes them feel uncomfortable, oppressed, or even contempt for those expressing the humor.

    Oh, and that reminds me of the one about the woman who was locked in a 3’x3’x3′ cage and beaten and raped by twelve men every day for over a year until the authorities found her bloody, near life-less body after a neighbor called 911. I mean, who’s ever hear of a woman outside the kitchen for so long?! Ridiculous, no?

    *Anyone catch that joke? It’s not funny, but it works on so many levels I had to leave it in.

  47. Is any joke really universally taboo? Anyone can find a person who finds a specific joke insensitive or cruel. Make a joke about PETA, for instance — most of the people I know would laugh at a joke about PETA, but I know a couple who wouldn’t. I’m all about animal rights, but I eat meat. While I think Michael Vick is an asshole, I enjoy eating chicken. Some people will find me overbearing, and some will find me to be a disgusting barbarian. It’s a continuum.
    In order to keep from offending everyone, you simply must stay quiet forever. That is unacceptable to me. Everyone has graduated levels of “Acceptable”, which must be determined moment by moment, and with empathy and understanding on the part of BOTH parties. I HATE rape jokes and casual references to someone being a “Nazi”. I don’t hold it against those who find such jokes to be high comedy. But I frown a lot at them.
    It’s the human condition, really. We’re all just stumbling around in the dark.

  48. I am nearly impossible to offend and the things that offend me are … strange, so there is very little I can’t laugh at.

    I wouldn’t laugh at a joke about the suffering of a specific, real person unless I thought that person deserved whatever they were getting in the joke. But other than that, I can laugh at anything, given the right conditions.

    Oh and I will cop to having a deficit of empathy (seriously, it makes it really hard to deal with people in social situations), but I’m not pathological.

  49. All comedy is tragedy. ALL comedy IS tragedy. I challenge anyone to produce a joke that contains nothing tragic. You can’t do it. It can’t be done.

    Humor may be tasteless, crass, politically incorrect, or just plain mean-spirited. That said, even the most innocuous joke MUST contain an element of tragedy for the human brain to find it funny.

    Here’s the “nicest” joke I know, and it’s still tragic:

    What did one pebble say to the other?
    “I wish I were a little boulder”.

    There’s nothing funny about an inferiority complex, and there’s certainly nothing funny about the act of rape, but the human mind simply cannot find humor in a situation where there is no tragedy present. If someone can cite an example proving otherwise, I welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong.

  50. @boygenius: …the human mind simply cannot find humor in a situation where there is no tragedy present. If someone can cite an example proving otherwise, I welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong.

    They exist, but I admit they are rare. My favorite joke ever:

    Q: What did the snail say when he was riding the tortoise?

    A: Wheeeee!

  51. @davew: another one with no (apparent) tragedy:
    Buddhist goes up to the hot dog vendor, says “Make me one with everything.”

    Also A Sign on a couch “Heisenberg may have slept here”

    Semi tragic: 2 guys walk into a bar, the third one ducks.

    Guy walks into a bar. Ouch.

    Peta unfriendly: 2 baby seals walk into a club.

  52. It’s odd that the same rhetoric concerning various subjects of woo returns with regards to what jokes are funny.

    For example, I’ve more than once heard someone say something similar to: “Yeah, alien abductions are so crazy, and cold readers are totally fake, but accupuncture really works!“.
    Or “I”m a skeptic about many things, but I don’t see why people keep attacking [insert favorite woo] like that.“.

    No replace with “you can make everything funny, except rape“.

    So it’s a subject at least some (or perhaps even many) people might not really find humourous. And it doesn’t take a genius to understand why. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find jokes about it or that people won’t ever laugh about it. It’s unreasonable to insist those people who laugh at something you don’t find even the least bit funny are soul-less, evil, psychopathic bastards for doing so. By that definition, everyone is a soul-less evil psychopatic bastard to someone out there …

    As for actual rape-jokes, I’ve heard some funny ones, but I think the one thing they all have incommon is that they’re not actually making fun of rape in particular, but incorporating the rape as part of the expectations that the joke then flips on you. For example:

    A guy is given a few tasks by some natives, among them he is asked to kill a ferocious bear that’s been bugging the tribe’s people, he has to rape a woman from an enemy tribe, etc…
    After hearing an awful howling from the bear’s cave, the guy exits the cave, clothes all torn up, bleeding, at which point he asks: “OK, now where’s this woman I have to kill?“.

    I think that’s hilarious. But not because it’s about rape …

  53. @killyosaur: Also A Sign on a couch “Heisenberg may have slept here”

    Love this!

    This opens up a duffel bag of geek/science jokes that are all harmless:

    Two hydrogen atoms are walking down the street. One says “I just lost an electron.” The other asks, “Are you sure?” The reply, “I’m positive!”

  54. @boygenius:

    All comedy is tragedy. ALL comedy IS tragedy. I challenge anyone to produce a joke that contains nothing tragic. You can’t do it. It can’t be done.

    I think a couple examples have been given already. I’d be interested to know if you can find tragedy in them.

    There are classes of humor that I don’t think involve tragedy. Various word-play and such. Things like, there are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don’t. I suppose you could claim that a difference in level of understanding of number systems is tragic, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

    @Jparenti:

    I HATE rape jokes and casual references to someone being a “Nazi”. I don’t hold it against those who find such jokes to be high comedy.

    I don’t think they are high comedy. Definitely low comedy. Very low. Still potentially funny, but low.

    I notice we have had silence from a few since it was pointed out that they took offense at rape jokes but not holocaust jokes. No defense? Not even a mea culpa? Is the fictional suggestion of rape more taboo than the actual systematic mass murder of millions of people based on their genealogy?

    I am a Hedge

  55. I don’t find jokes about rape or domestic violence funny. Those are my main blind spots*. I might find making fun of the rapist/abuser humorous, but I can’t think of any examples now. As a whole, I laugh at Blazing Saddles, but there are lots of parts that I do not find funny. Obviously, others do.

    Most of us do have blind spots when it comes to humor. I find some things hilarious that appall others (like Eddie Izzard talking about babies on spikes–that makes me giggle). When my father died when I was a teenager, I joked about it to friends. It was my way of coping.

    I recognize that nobody has the right not to be offended, but I do think that generally we should be polite in day-to-day life. Know your audience. Since humor is so subjective, people assuming that what they find funny will obviously be shared by others makes me cranky.

    *Not the best term, but it’s all I’ve got right now.

  56. If holocaust jokes are the only way to keep what happened during WWII in our collective memory, then I say that’s a good thing, even if it is making light of what was essentially on of the (if not the) most evil thing that took place in the last 100 years.
    I think the main difference between the holocaust and rape is time. The number of people likely to be directly offended by holocaust jokes are dwindling in number as this event is now more than 65 years ago and those who were actually the victims of it are now all well above the average age of human life expectancy.
    Rape is something that still occurs every day, and to people who’ll still be around for a long time to come.

  57. Another rape joke: Two muffins are sitting in an oven. First one says, “Boy, it sure is hot in here.” Second muffin says, “Yeah, but we were asking for it by sitting in this muffin tin. Maybe in the future I will not feel comfortable sitting around so cavalierly.”

    Bewildered, the first muffin says, “You’re a muffin now, not batter. You can’t go back to sitting around like you used to. This process is changing you, us, whether you like it or not.”

    A third muffin says, “Woah! Talking muffins!”

  58. (btw, after seeing two other muffins talk, the third muffin felt more comfortable talking, too. In fact, it probably wrote a book with the word “survive” or “hope” in the title that will never get published.)

  59. Zach, I will try to explain it again. It isn’t about finding rape and abuse jokes painful or not painful, it is about finding them funny or not funny. Funny, not funny, painful, not painful are all different states of feeling. One can find something not funny irrespective of whether it causes pain or not.

    Rape and abuse are both about the deliberate infliction of harm to someone so as to hurt them. It is not like an accident, it is not like a natural disaster, it is not like an illness, it is not about karma. People who are abused and raped did nothing to “deserve” what happened to them. People may pretend that the victim did something to deserve it, but those who blame the victim are either protecting themselves by imagining some causal flaw in the victim, so that the abuse won’t happen to them (and so they can just ignore it), or they are protecting the perpetrator by minimizing the evil of the action.

    Jokes about the Holocaust are not going to keep it from happening again. Jokes about rape are not going to keep it from happening again. There was a slogan “never again” that was mouthed following the Holocaust. Since then there have been genocides in China, Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and no doubt others. Clinton did act to stop Serbia from killing Muslims in 1995, but not before they had raped and killed many tens of thousands of civilians.

    I remember that when Serbia was using rape as a weapon of war that some women came forward claiming they had been raped, and that a Serbian official said that was impossible because the women were too ugly to rape. Is that a “funny” rape joke? It isn’t to me, but then I don’t find any rape jokes funny.

  60. @daedalus2u:
    It appears that the fundamental concepts underlying humor evade you.

    I remember that when Serbia was using rape as a weapon of war that some women came forward claiming they had been raped, and that a Serbian official said that was impossible because the women were too ugly to rape. Is that a “funny” rape joke? It isn’t to me, but then I don’t find any rape jokes funny.

    It’s not just ‘not funny’. It isn’t even trying to be a joke.

    It appears that you have somehow missed whatever it is that allows people to recognize and appreciate humor. I would recommend that you avoid being involved in discussion about humor, lest you continue to make a fool of yourself.

    It’s like listening to a blind person telling you why Picasso isn’t good art.

    (Unless you are performing a satire, in which case, Bravo.)

    I am a Hedge

  61. If it appears as though everyone else is missing the joke, or everyone else is laughing and you don’t see the funny, perhaps the problem is you, not the joke.

    I remember reading (on this blog I think) about a study on people’s sense of humour.
    They found that while everyone thinks of themselves as having an OK (i.e. above avergae) sense of humour, even people who don’t have any sense of humour at all, we all know people who we think are REALLY funny. They could tell a bad joke, or even something that isn’t a joke at all, and just the mere timing and inflection will make you chuckle.

  62. @exarch: I remember reading (on this blog I think) about a study on people’s sense of humour.
    They found that while everyone thinks of themselves as having an OK (i.e. above average) sense of humour, even people who don’t have any sense of humour at all, we all know people who we think are REALLY funny.

    This is a tangent, but what is a “good sense of humor”? Is it finding many different things funny? Is it being able to detect when someone else is trying to tell a joke? Is it being able to explain why a joke is/should-be funny? I’m not trying to be argumentative. I really wouldn’t know how to define it myself. I mean if someone is a wine lover they are almost defined by how many wines they don’t like. It’s the person with no sense of wine who will drink any swill you put in front of them. Either that or they’re a graduate student.

    I’m pretty sure my family has a good sense of humor, but I rarely laugh at the Blue Collar Comedy Tour stuff my sister sends me and she plain doesn’t get the funny in Quantum Cat despite a detailed explanation.

    (I oversimplified. For the record if I were King of the World Ron White would be knighted and that cable guy guy would be composted. The rest I can take or leave.)

    (And you misspelled “humor”.)

  63. Hedge, I think you have the mistaken notion that there is such a thing as abstract “funny” and it is something that you can objectively see. A cartoon I saw recently made me laugh out loud and I had to share it. The person I sent it to replied back lol.

    http://www.partiallyclips.com/index.php?id=1569

    I think that journalism majors won’t find this cartoon funny. Scientists who often get misquoted and their research highly distorted by main stream media likely will (that is just about every scientist), but it is somewhat cruel. Journalism majors are not trying to write painfully bad science articles, but they can’t help it because they don’t understand science well enough to write accurately about it. They think their wrong-content science articles are good because they are unable to perceive that they are bad.

    I think that people who perceive rape and abuse jokes to be funny do so because they are unable to perceive that they are not funny. I think that some of this mindset is self-protective, blocking empathy so as to not be overwhelmed when talking or thinking about overwhelming subjects such as rape and abuse.

    Rape and abuse are overwhelming subjects. Rape and abuse victims often dissociate during the rape and abuse so as to survive them. Being able to dissociate and ignore things is a very powerful protective mechanism. It is a short term survival mechanism that is detrimental in the long term.

    Just because most people think something is ok, doesn’t make it ok. They once thought that slavery was good, blacks were inferior, and women were chattel. Many people still think those things. They once thought that whites wearing blackface and acting out their perceived caricature of blacks was funny too.

    Jokes about abuse and rape are only funny to those who have sufficient privilege that (they think) the adverse thing won’t happen to them, or that they will be able to deal with it without much damage if it does. Whites wearing or watching blackface could think it was funny because they would never have to experience being discriminated against, beaten, raped, or lynched simply for being black. Did blacks who didn’t find blackface funny have a deficit of humor? Or did whites who found blackface funny have a deficit of empathy in thinking about blacks as real humans and their status as second class citizens something to laugh about?

  64. I’ve had a change of heart. I was watching an episode of M*A*S*H and a character on the show died from a massive myocardial infarction. The body was laying there on the bed, not even cold yet, and these callous doctors kept spewing vile jokes about him and his cause of death. Then they unceremoniously dragged his body around the camp, all in a vulgar display of uncaring coldness. All the while, a laugh track is playing. The man had just died. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. How many people watching that show have had a heart attack? How many people watching that show know someone who died from heart disease? Don’t the producers of this show realize that their attempts at humor will make some people uncomfortable? Don’t they understand that things that make anyone uncomfortable are never funny?

    I think anyone who watches M*A*S*H and finds it at all funny is a cruel heartless bastard that thinks heart disease is funny. This can only happen if they themselves have never suffered from heart disease, or known anyone who has suffered or died as a result of heart disease, and they never expect to become victims of heart disease. I will never think that M*A*S*H is funny.

    I am a Hedge

  65. @Im a Hedge: “Pain, embarrassment, failure… these are common themes in humor.”

    Very much so. Even things as benign as Mr. Bean have, at their root, frustration, failure, and pain (slapstick).

    I had this discussion with a friend, and we came to the conclusion that all comedy has an element of the negative ranging from horror to ridicule.

    I am a huge fan of comedy, and I like most everything (from Larry the cable guy to Andy Kaufman) except the painfully unfunny Dane Cook. I tried, I really did, but it was so bad it was bad.

  66. @davew: That’s my favorite rape joke, too…

    For the record, I am extremely against rape. Especially when the victim is a child. So why do I find this joke so funny?:

    “a man brings his 12 year old daughter to the doctor. After the examination and a battery of tests, the doctor asks the father, ‘sir, is your daughter sexually active?’

    ‘no’ the father replies,’she just pretty much lays there”

  67. @davew: Eh, jokes like that are not really very funny, more witty. You mean like “how many zen buddhists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Two – one to screw it in, one not to screw it in”?

    or

    “how many lighting technicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? UM, IT’S CALLED A GLOBE.” (apparently that’s funny to lighting people)

    I still think that even these jokes are making fun of something…and being mocked is painful…I don’t know.

    Now here’s one for the musicians (stop me if you’ve heard it here before):

    what’s the pope’s favorite chord?
    Gsus

  68. ..Or what about the scene in “Life of Brian” where Brian is horrified to learn that he’s a product of rape – he says “you were raped?” to his mother . The mother replies “well, at first…”

    See, it’s funny because rape is so obviously bad. Just like blending a dead baby in a blender is bad (what’s grosser than that?…), that’s why “grosser than gross” jokes work (well, on 14 year old boys, mostly).

  69. Hedge, just for some context. Vojislav Seselj, Yugoslavia’s deputy prime minister, denying charges of sexual assault by claiming that Albanian women are “too ugly” to rape.

    http://www.freeserbia.net/Documents/Kosovo/Phillips.html

    If you do a google search on “too ugly to rape” you get 454,000 hits. Are none of those attempts at “jokes”? Or do you lack the finely tuned sense of humor of those making the “too ugly to rape” jokes?

    I think you are confused between what is a “joke” and what is a “good joke”. It is similar to the distinction between what is “art” and what is “good art”.

    Art can only be “good” in a context where the observer derives some emotional or cognitive response. The same is true of a joke.

    Ann Coulter says many outrageous things, such as liberal politician xyz should be assassinated and then claims it was a joke; a joke that those in the GOP find uproariously funny, but which liberals don’t find funny at all. Is the problem that liberals lack the finely tuned sense of humor of the conservatives?

  70. Yikes….Maybe I shouldn’t weigh in…..

    And yet….here I am!

    I’m a firm believer that *everything* can be funny, but FFS, that doesn’t mean that everything is funny! Jokes and humor don’t follow hard-and-fast rules, because the context is what makes a joke/gag/stunt/performance funny, not the joke (et. al) itself.

    Look at the difference between two major comedy sites online:

    At ebaumsworld, the joke is often “Hahahah! Racism is funny!”. I find this to be horsesh*t.

    At Cracked[dot]com, the joke is “Hahahaha! It’s funny because RACISM IS HORRIBLE”

    That’s the difference.

    Rape, mental illness and racism aren’t funny. But rape, mental illness and racism can be funny in a context, because it is the context that is funny, not the content.

  71. @daedalus2u: Woah, woah, woah…how do you know that he meant it as a joke? I think it’s telling about you and your sense of humor that you would perceive that to be a joke. See, if that were in a Monty Python sketch “sorry sir, no, we coulnd’t carry out that aspect of the genocide, the women were just too ugly to rape” I could see how THAT would be a joke.

    But a bona fide war criminal saying that? That’s not even a joke! (ESPECIALLY because the women WERE raped). By denying that they could have been raped (when they were) because they were too ugly is just further viciousness.

    But a joke like “you’re so ugly you couldn’t get any in a Janjaweed prison camp”… I don’t know. Pretty bad. But “you so ugly” jokes are meant to be as insulting and effed up as possible.

    So what does everyone think of insult comedy?

  72. @daedalus2u:

    Hedge, I think you have the mistaken notion that there is such a thing as abstract “funny” and it is something that you can objectively see. A cartoon I saw recently made me laugh out loud and I had to share it. The person I sent it to replied back lol.

    http://www.partiallyclips.com/index.php?id=1569

    I’m a journalism major, and I am appalled that you think this is funny. Journalism majors go to the same schools, work just has hard, and get degrees just as important, and do their best at difficult jobs.

    I can only assume that your laughter at this means you are some sort of tactless deviant. As are all your friends.

    BTW – I am assuming the last panel was cut off? If that was the whole cartoon, then I assume you are a very young tactless deviant.

  73. @Some Canadian Skeptic: +1.

    @daedalus2u: Okay, I concede that when I go on an actual raping spree, tell my fellow rapists that what they’re doing is A-OK, talk about how the victims had it coming, and then rest easy secure in the knowledge that no one I love will ever be raped, ever… that comes across as a little callous. I’ll try not to joke like that in the future.

    Gosh, it’s a good thing I don’t have the power to cause Alzheimer’s, otherwise I’d look like a real asshole.

  74. Apropos of this topic, Jon Stewart did a segment on the Jamie Leigh Jones rape case and the subsequent action by Al Franken in Congress. Stewart’s point was that 30 Republican senators voted against the bill, with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) saying that it was a “a political attack directed at Halliburton.”

    Stewart trashed those who voted against the bill, and he used humour to do so. Admittedly, mocking may not be joking in the tell-a-joke sense, but it uses humour to point up something that needs to be noticed. Stewart’s bit, complete with stylised double-take at the notion that anyone would vote against legislation that was anti-rape, highlighted the social disconnect of Republicans in Congress, and did so effectively. His subject was clearly more “attitudes about rape held by rich white conservatives”, but the connection was there.

  75. @daedalus2u: Jokes about abuse and rape are only funny to those who have sufficient privilege that (they think) the adverse thing won’t happen to them, or that they will be able to deal with it without much damage if it does…

    Not so much. In fact it might be the opposite – that those who make jokes about rape and abuse have so much empathy that that can not take it seriously. These things come up on a regular basis, not just in humor but the news, dramas, etc. If you allow yourself to fully feel for the victims, you’ll end up in a near constant puddle of tears. Then nothing gets done.

    That’s only one side to it. Sometimes the only response to a sacred cow is to tip it. Priority to raping the shit out of it, of course.*

    *Sorry, it’s pretty much obligatory at this point. Because, as a woman who walks at night alone on a regular basis, I can not and will not let rape be some huge deal that I am supposed to fear. I mock it, it has no power in my life.

  76. @Some Canadian Skeptic: If I may put it another way:

    There’s a huge difference between making a joke about rape, and making a joke of rape. The latter is unacceptable, the former can be hilarious.

    The context is the subject of the humor, not the content. Can we please stop talking like people are laughing at rape victims? NOBODY is doing that, FFS.

  77. @Im a Hedge, @daedalus2u, @Im a Hedge

    I think this thread can be awarded to I am a Hedge (COTW, COTW, COTW) for how he has torn apart daedalus2u aka Mr. Empathy. Nice work laughing at his GROSS contradictions.

    daedalus2u, for your information you’ve just been skeptically raped, and it’s indeed funny.

    Plus, when saying:

    “””Jokes about abuse and rape are only funny to those who have sufficient privilege that (they think) the adverse thing won’t happen to them”””,

    you are effectively arguing that the majority’s behavior (non-raped population) and their right to joke about rape or whatever they see fit, must be subordinated to the partial opinion of the corresponding affected minorities, which is obviously antidemocratic, arrogant, hypocritical and pointless.

    Start using empathy and stop trying to impose your own idea of “concerned empathy” on this thread. Empathy has both to do with respecting the victims, and catching the jokes of the unbiased impartial observers.

  78. All right, I will temporarily concede that I may be wrong. I have figured out a tragic element to most of the examples above, but I’m hitting the wall on Heisenburg and the Buddhist.

    *shuffles off to brush up on particle physics and try to figure out where the present incarnation of Gautama Siddartha is to ask why the Buddhist one is tragic.

  79. skepthink, I don’t know what you think you have demonstrated other than sloppy thinking. Where did I say that people couldn’t tell jokes about rape and abuse? I simply said that such jokes were not funny, and that people who think those jokes are funny are in need of psychological help.

    What am I trying to impose? Am I setting myself up as the final arbiter of what is funny and trying to suppress everything I find non-funny? If you think that is what I am trying to do, you are mistaken. You are mistaken because you are projecting. You are projecting your own ideas of what is “funny”.

    And no, even if I had lost a “debate”, it is nothing like being raped. If you are unable to appreciate that, it is you who is lacking in empathy and either putting too much value on winning a debate (as if losing it is like being raped), or too little on being raped (as if it is like losing a debate).

    If you actually do think that losing a debate is like being raped, then you are no skeptic. A real skeptic appreciates losing a debate because then they have learned something and improved the accuracy of their world view; something non-skeptics never want to do.

  80. @daedalus2u: You’re right, you didn’t say that people shouldn’t tell those jokes. You just said they were crazy if they did, or if they found them funny.

    You are trying to impose your definition of ‘sanity’ on everyone else by saying that people who laugh at certain things need psychological help.

    Which is plain silly, because humor and comedy are vast, complex and wonderful things and each person has their own definitions of what is funny. You can’t impose a standard on humor any more than you can impose a standard on culture.

    And I think you need to look up ’empathy.’ I don’t think it means what you think it means. Or at least, I don’t think you have as much as you claim to.

  81. @daedalus2u: Where did I say that people couldn’t tell jokes about rape and abuse? I simply said that such jokes were not funny, and that people who think those jokes are funny are in need of psychological help.

    Sloppy, very sloppy. “They can joke about whatever they want, as long as they do it from their straight-jacketed cells. Away from us nice, normal people.”

    Funny, I always thought that if I treat the subject with kid gloves, I am giving power to the idea of rape. “Oh look Mr. Rapist, your sick hobby is so scary that we shall all agree it can not even be joked about.”

    Phooey! That’s the whole friggin’ point of rape in the first place. Power, control, fear, unearned respect. Well, screw that! (Gently, and after a nice dinner.)

  82. I didn’t use the word crazy, I said “needed psychological help”. All victims of abuse need psychological help, and to me, there is no stigma attached to needing psychological help after you have been a victim of abuse. That is what abuse is, something so terrible that a person cannot deal with it by themselves. That is why people dissociate when they are abused. When you are alone, you can’t deal with it other than by blocking it out. Victims of abuse need psychological help in the form of a therapist who can provide a safe place to allow healing to happen.

    It is not a sign of weakness to have your faith in humanity shattered when you are abused. It is a sign of strength to want to rebuild that and to move on and try and heal the damage that was done.

    “Sanity” is a legal term. In some cultures rape is legal and/or the fault of the woman who is then severely punished (or killed). In such cultures people who rape may not need legal help, and may be judged sane and law abiding by the local legal system. To me, they are still grossly pathological and they still need psychological help. That they are in the majority in that culture doesn’t make them healthy.

    Those who pathologize needing psychological help after abuse are blaming the victim. When a victim of a slashing needs stitches and surgery to heal her wounds is she being “weak”? Of course not. Physical trauma leaves physical wounds which need to be treated properly for healing to occur. So does psychological trauma. So does rape. Some people may heal easily after being raped, some may not. Blaming the victim because she doesn’t heal quickly is completely misguided and wrong. A slashing victim would never be blamed for having a scarred face, a rape victim should never be blamed for having psychological scars either. Both victims should be helped to heal as best they can.

    I still think that people who think jokes about rape or abuse are funny do need psychological help. I understand your desire to deny rapists the power of being terrifying. Your denial doesn’t make them less scary. When someone is threatening to kill you, you don’t have a choice but to be terrified. There is nothing pathological about being terrified when someone is threatening to kill or harm you. You can dissociate by thinking it is funny, but that is a dissociative reaction of the moment, not a logical, rational plan of how to deal with it long term.

    Pretending rape is not terrible doesn’t give rapists less power. What it does is inure people to rape so they don’t bother doing anything about it.

  83. Instead of replying to daedalus2u (because I’m in danger of losing my temper), some of my favorite Polish military jokes:

    Q: Why is the New Polish Navy outfitted with glass-bottomed boats?
    A: So they can keep an eye on the Old Polish Navy.

    Q: How do you stop the advance of the Polish cavalry?
    A: Unplug the merry-go-round.

    Q: Why are there trees planted along all the streets in Poland?
    A: The German armies like to march in the shade.

  84. But because I can’t let this go unaddressed:

    @daedalus2u:

    That is what abuse is, something so terrible that a person cannot deal with it by themselves.

    No. “Abuse” is when one person mistreats another person. The person mistreated is free to react however they damn well please. Maybe they need help getting through it, maybe they don’t. How about not prescribing the mental and emotional reactions to rape as if you speak for every rape victim in the world? Thanks.

  85. @daedalus2u: You’re writing as though you know how every victim of abuse acts after the incident. How the hell can you possibly know that? I have known several rape victims in my life, and not a one of them has reacted the same way, and none of them the way you’ve just described as abuse victims reacting.

    @Bookitty: “If you allow yourself to fully feel for the victims, you’ll end up in a near constant puddle of tears.”

    Which honestly, is pretty close to where I am. Anytime the subject of rape comes up, 9 times out of 10 I end up in tears (not even exaggerating; ask my husband). I’ve never even been raped. But when the topic comes up I put myself so much in that place that all I can think of is, “Oh how much would that hurt? How long would it take? Would he use a condom?” etc… And I dwell on it. I think *that* is mentally unhealthy, much more so than someone who gets a chuckle out of Blazing Saddles jokes, even if I don’t agree with them. Humor would probably do me some good.

  86. @SJBG: It’s completely understandable to have a fear of rape, even without having been a victim of it. If you’re female, the statistics for avoiding it aren’t in your favor. You express this fear through hyper-empathy, exploring the situation beforehand. Perhaps getting used to the idea? Testing what you can handle?

    I handle it differently. For example, while talking about this discussion with the guy, I said “Of course rape is more distressing than murder. Rape victims have to live with it.” Sure, that’s a joke and we laughed but it’s also a perfect summation of my biggest fear.

  87. Haha! Okay, back to other offensive jokes!

    For this to be funny you have to know that I’m Cherokee.

    So, I’d been crying this evening (totally unrelated to this discussion) and as I walked from the bathroom back to the desk where my husband and I were sitting I noticed a little path of tear drops on the floor between the bathroom and the desk. I giggled to myself over how ridiculous that is and pointed it out to my husband. I immediately started feeling better at that point, and he goes,

    “Now, honey, I’m real happy for you, and I’ma let you finish, but the older Cherokees had the best Trail of Tears of all time.”

    Hooray racial persecution/displaced persons jokes!

  88. @phlebas: Dammit, phlebas, you _can_ get a laugh out of Red Dwarf.

    Cat: “Forget red – let’s go all the way up to brown alert!”
    Kryten: “There’s no such thing as a brown alert sir.”
    Cat: “You won’t be saying that in a minute!”

    Now that’s funny.

    But I admit I couldn’t find even one more example.

    War Eagle.

    – Emory

  89. Wow, having just read through this entire page in one go, I am mentally wearied.

    The following is something that, not surprisingly, I almost never talk about, but in the interest of full disclosure, and to explain the depth of my feeling on this subject, I will say it here. I have never been sexually assaulted, but my mother was, when she was in the Navy in 1968, by the Marines that were supposed to be escorting her home safely.* When I was very young, my first solid memory is of being forced to watch my older sister get gang-raped by a group of neighbor boys. I say this to explain that I take rape very seriously. As a bouncer, and someone that walked home through bad neighborhoods after work, I have been witness to many acts of sexual predation varying from verbal harassment to outright rape. I have even been involved, in several cases, in direct action against those committing such acts. I say this, so that there is total clarity when I say that I do not find the act of sexual assault, in real life, to be funny. Joking about a real sexual assault might lose you some teeth around me.

    That being said, in the context of the Blazing Saddles joke, where they are talking about the hypothetical assault of fictional women, as a means of identifying exactly how evil and depraved the villains are, there are no victims. The characters saying the lines are the most despicable characters in the film. They are literally mustache-twirling melodrama villains. Brooks and Pryor gave them the most horrible things to say, to show how completely evil they were. The humor in the joke is that they are so contemptible that they would think that kind of thing was okay, which sets them up for their eventual defeat, well, if the movie had actually ended. In addition to those factors, the timing and inflection with which the actors delivered the lines was just as important to making the joke funny.

    I haven’t seen anyone here talk about actual sexual assault of a real person being funny. I have seen several people accuse others of that very thing. Accusing people of being sociopaths because of their sense of humor is not only uncalled-for, but actually inaccurate. I laughed my ass off during Hot Fuzz, when the main character hit an elderly woman in the face with a flying kick. In real life, that is an incredibly awful thing, in the context of that movie, it was staggeringly funny.

    I’m rambling and being all judgmental because, I too, have a very hard time separating my emotions from my reason on this subject. I am, however, more bothered by rational people, on a blog dedicated to rationalism, acting irrationally. (And English majors should be just as bothered by the terrible glory of my atrocious grammar.) I see a lot of straw man arguments being thrown around by both sides on this thread, and to be honest, that really bothers me. Aren’t we supposed to be approaching things skeptically, here? Instead of blowing other people’s comments out of proportion, and into straw men, or cherry-picking them to death to make a point, why don’t we take a deep breath, calm down before we type, and behave rationally? A lot of people have been doing that, but a lot haven’t.

    We should be trying to wrap our brains around the other people’s perspectives, not digging in our heels and screaming until we prove how righter we are than the other guy. Seems to me that if Skeptics are going to get the rest of the world to calm down and think critically about stuff that they have a strong emotional attachment to, we need to lead by example. A lot of you are missing a good opportunity to be rational and calm on a subject you feel really strongly about.

    Words and stuff,
    Big Frankie

    PS: I tried to keep my preachy tone to a minimum, but I suck at subtlety. Although my spelling is pretty awesome

    * My mom recovered, and went on to marry a totally badass Marine several years later, and the guys who attacked her got everything they deserved, except jail time, at the hands of their fellow Marines.

  90. (Coming into this thread late) I agree completely with Canadian, Masala, Bookitty, & co. and profoundly disagree with Daedalus2u.

    I am absolutely horrified and disgusted at torture, but love the segments on the subject by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. As has been said a million times already, humor can be used to cope with painful subjects, AND humor can be used to convey very meaningful criticism about touchy subjects. Some examples:

    http://rackjite.com/archives/2685-Stephen-Colbert,-Torture-is-the-Great-Legacy-of-George-W-Bush.html

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-april-23-2009/a-brief-history-of-torture

  91. @davew:
    This is a tangent, but what is a “good sense of humor”? Is it finding many different things funny? Is it being able to detect when someone else is trying to tell a joke? Is it being able to explain why a joke is/should-be funny? I’m not trying to be argumentative. I really wouldn’t know how to define it myself.

    I suppose that’s just it, isn’t it? Everybody knows how to identify a person with a good sense of humour. It’s like a person who’s a good judge of character. You’ll know because they get it right more often than most people.

    I suppose it’s just the ability to figure out what’s funny. Perhaps even knowing what’s funny in the crowd you’re in at that moment. It’s a social ability to make people laugh.
    Good sense of humour = lots of laughing and enjoyment.
    Bad sense of humour = weird looks and sudden silence.

    (And you misspelled “humor”.)
    Hmm, not as funny as it could have been. You should work on your delivery.

  92. @Some Canadian Skeptic:
    At ebaumsworld, the joke is often “Hahahah! Racism is funny!”. I find this to be horsesh*t.

    At Cracked[dot]com, the joke is “Hahahaha! It’s funny because RACISM IS HORRIBLE”

    That’s the difference.

    Since people are complaining about comment o’ the week only going to funny things, I think this bit deserves COTW for hitting the nail on the head.

  93. I’m no comedy writer. But I will bow to the late George Carlin on the topic. He earned a decent living for a long time doing it.

    I’d like to chime in here and suggest it is the exaggeration in the joke that makes the joke funny.

    For example, the Blazing Saddles references aren’t that rape is funny at all. The exaggeration of the Number Six dance is the punchline. The Number Six was the “attack plan” they were going to use on the townsfolk. That Lamarr’s hitmen were planning a dance afterwards is the joke.

    The same for the applicant henchman interview. The exaggeration is that someone actually inverviews potential henchmen like they are are applying for a regular job.

    Any topic at all can be made into a joke, I think. The crafty part is fitting it into the right context.

  94. Very good comment by Big Frankie.

    If you read the abuse literature, you find that there are a lot of similarities in how people respond to abuse, especially to extreme abuse, the kind of abuse that makes the victims want to kill themselves. Alice Miller’s work is a good place to start.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Miller_(psychologist)

    Humans have abused each other over evolutionary time. There are many many many evolved adaptive methods to cope with that abuse. All of us have many of them. Which ones get evoked during and after what kind of abuse is a detail. Hiding the fact that you have been hurt is one of the most important adaptive and protective mechanisms because appearing to be weak or injured attracts even more abuse.

    To those who think that abuse is no big deal, I hope you never learn from personal experience otherwise. If you haven’t experienced the kind of abuse that makes you want to kill yourself, then have a little skepticism about what that kind of abuse can do to people who have experienced it, and a little compassion for what they might have to do to cope with it. Especially for those who are trying to cope with it while keeping it a secret from you. You don’t know who they are because they are trying to keep it a secret. A secret they can’t share because they don’t feel safe enough yet and because there are too many people who would use that secret as a weak point to attack, the way many rape victims are shamed for being raped and the way people who seek mental health counseling are shamed for being loony.

  95. @daedalus2u: You keep missing the point, to the point where I think you’re intentionally being obtuse.

    Nobody is saying that abuse is OK, nobody is saying that it’s no big deal.

    The topic is humor and whether topics like abuse and rape can be joked about. That doesn’t mean they’re being minimalized or the victims are being blamed or anything like that. In almost every example that you have ignored, it’s the abusER who is the butt of the joke.

    The fact is, there *are* ways to handle difficult topics with humor and they can be funny. Maybe not to you, but to many others. You appear to think that because other people find this sort of humor funny and you don’t, that there’s something wrong with them, at the psychological level.

    That’s unfair and I’d like to see your qualifications for making that much of a sweeping generalization.

    But, you’re more likely to post another 4 paragraphs about the fictional people on this thread who are saying “YAY! RAPE! LET’S DO IT!”

  96. Oh for goodness sake. Black and Gallows humour are as old as jokes themselves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallows_humor

    No-one gets the right to say something plain old ‘isn’t funny’ or ‘shouldn’t be laughed at’. There’s no such thing as objectively funny. If one person laughs at it, it’s funny – to that person.

    An actual rape is not funny to the vast majority of civilised people. If I said “I was raped” and you laughed, then you probably have an unusual social background or some issues with empathy. If I make a joke about my hypothetical rape by a bear (as I have in fact done in the past), that is an example of gallows humour.

    Fine, so you don’t like black humour or gallows humour. Don’t laugh then. For everyone else, I noted the inanity of BBC news posting blacked out pictures when they could simply have not included a picture at all, and my friend amended the article thusly, which has had me crying with laughter all day:

    http://twitpic.com/lq5d4

    Enjoy, my fellow evil sociopaths!

  97. @daedalus2u, I suggest you try to learn something from this exchange. You should be aware that you almost completely lack understanding of funny. This goes well beyond disagreements about whether some particular thing is funny. You just don’t grok the fundamentals. Please try to keep this in mind in the future when the subject of humor comes up, or when anything that someone finds funny comes up. It could save you from coming across so poorly.

    Think back to the yoga discussion the other day. Remember when Elyse pointed out that you had simply rephrased the original post, but without the humor? You probably thought you had added something, and removed a bunch of dead weight. You hadn’t. You had just failed to see the value in the humorous aspects of the original post.

    Some people find a lot of things funny. Some people want others to also find a lot of things funny. The fact that you don’t get it doesn’t mean it’s not real. A lot of people can’t distinguish between red and green, but that doesn’t mean that red and green are not real and distinct colors. It means that some people have a particular handicap. You may have a handicap that prevents you from understanding humor. You should accept that, and learn to deal with it without denying that others do understand humor. I think it’s sad, and I feel bad for you because humor is a very important part of my life. You make it worse for yourself when you fail to realize when your handicap is impacting a conversation.

    When the conversation goes a certain direction and it no longer makes sense to you, but everyone else seems to be following it just fine, try thinking to yourself, “Is this one of those times when other people think something is funny, but I am just not getting it?” It doesn’t mean that you are a bad person any more than someone with red/green colorblindness is a bad person. But it means you need to realize that there is an aspect of reality that you are not perceiving in the same way that most people perceive it. You need to adapt to this, or you will continue to find yourself in these situations.

    I am a Hedge

  98. I can’t think of any subject area that is prima facie NOT suitable for humour. I do believe that there are some subjects that are mandatory to joke about, at least one of which is “death”.

    I also know of one joke that mentions sexual abuse that is at least borderline funny, but it relies on both botanical knowledge and a specific bi-linguality, so probably not commonly funny.

  99. @SKrap: What makes you think there’s no immediate threat of incoming bear rape? I live in a circus!

    Yes, bad example, but I do always resort to humour in grim situations, have had my life or wellbeing threatened several times and always joke. Also, on operating theatre tables, I joke a lot.

  100. @daedalus2u: Based on my readings of your responses to the various comments here, I am starting to wonder if you may not suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome. I am curious to know if you have ever been tested for this. It would go a long way towards explaining your inability to understand what people have been trying very hard to explain to you here. I am not trying to be insulting with this question, by the way. I am genuinely curious.

  101. @daedalus2u: You only say that because you don’t Really UnderstandTM. If you didn’t have Asperger’s, you’d know that you should pity yourself and cry all the time because you do have it. Why aren’t you full of pity and tears? Let me judge you as inferior to me! (Really, though, the fact that YOU are inferior really does help explain why *I* have a hard time articulating my thoughts clearly.)

  102. Hmm… Asperger’s would explain a lot. That being the case, and at no fault of anyone involved, we’re simply communicating on a different social developmental level. Literally.

    Adding something like “making fun of Asperger’s isn’t going to change any of that or help us understand one another” somehow seems misplaced in this particular thread… But still. Yeah. It won’t help. Having Asperger’s doesn’t make one inferior it just makes one different from the general norm. It’s a spectrum not a hierarchy.

    In the future we (all of us, including you @daedalus2u) can bear this in mind and hopefully avoid a lot of frustration the next time something like this happens.

  103. @daedalus2u: I am not familiar with the details of Asperger’s but am guessing that what we took as obstinacy is your way of communicating. This can be frustrating for the reasons that came up in the above thread.

    Is there any way that we can communicate with you more effectively?

  104. From the following review article:

    Humor in Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol. 34, No. 5, October 2004

    Traditionally, there has been a general acceptance that individuals with autism and Asperger syndrome do not understand humor (Asperger, 1944;Wing, 1996). They are not able to laugh at them-selves, they are … ‘‘rarely relaxed and carefree and never achieve that particular wisdom and deep intui-tive human understanding that underlie genuine humor’’ (Asperger, 1944; Frith 1991, p. 82). Empiri-cal studies investigating humor in this population have been very sparse (Mesibov & Stephens, 1990;Reddy, Williams & Vaughan, 2002; St. James &Tager-Flusberg, 1994; Van Bourgondien & Mesibov,1987). The general conclusion drawn from these studies is that simple forms of humor in very young children (e.g., tickling, funny sounds, teasing etc.)may be preserved and that some individuals with autism/Asperger syndrome also possess the ability to understand some basic forms of humor, both verbal and non-verbal, i.e., slapstick humor, simple joke and puns, which, however, is not in accordance with their overall developmental level.

    This is consistent with what we see from daedalus2u. I reiterate my earlier advice to you that you attempt to maintain an intellectual understanding that you have this deficit, and that you consider that when involved in discussion that are either about, or may contain, humor.

    As I think about it, this would explain why much of the time your comments here seem to be disjointed from the general flow. There’s very heavy (attempted) use of humor in the posts and in the comments at Skepchick. If you are not fully picking up on this, you are bound to reach some bizarre conclusions, resulting in some bizarre comments.

    I will try to remember this, and take it into account when dealing with you in the future. This will not go so far as a hands-off policy, but I may adjust my comments towards you so that humor is not a key component of making my point.

    I am a Hedge

  105. @SJBG:

    Adding something like “making fun of Asperger’s isn’t going to change any of that or help us understand one another” somehow seems misplaced in this particular thread… But still. Yeah. It won’t help.

    Let’s not get carried away. Making jokes about Asperger’s is like making funny faces at a blind person. It’s fun for you, and they don’t know it’s happening, so it doesn’t hurt them.

    Win win.

    I am a Hedge

  106. @Im a Hedge: “Making jokes about Asperger’s is like making funny faces at a blind person. It’s fun for you, and they don’t know it’s happening, so it doesn’t hurt them.”

    Please. I’m a budding psychologist. Such humor is beneath me. [/sarcasm]

    Excellent suggestions at the end of comment#139.

    And @Masala Skeptic, I have recently acquired a colorblind friend, and that shirt is tempting… I’m not sure that particular shirt would work, though, because he’s a different kind of colorblind. Not red-green but something else. I forget at the moment…

    That shirt discriminates against non-red-green colorblind people.

  107. I accept that people on the ASD spectrum including Asperger’s have their own mind blindness. People who are NT are not immune to that either, they are just different. NTs have a tremendous compulsion to anthropomorphize and “see” things that are not there. That is what paradolia is, seeing something that isn’t there and imputing its creation to an intelligent agent.

    I have a blog post about this trade-off between NTs and ASDs.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2008/10/theory-of-mind-vs-theory-of-reality.html

    I have an idea why NTs have such a compulsion to bully and make fun of people on the autism spectrum. It relates to the Uncanny Valley.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

    Because ASDs can’t reciprocate socially and with the “right” communication both verbal and non-verbal, they don’t feel quite “right” to NTs and so trigger the uncanny valley effect and trigger xenophobia. Xenophobia can be triggered by overt differences, skin color, ethnicity, or by cultural differences. Because ASDs don’t have the same neurological hardware to communicate with that NTs have, NTs have a great deal of difficulty in accepting them as fully human. This is not hyperbole on my part. Some of the so-called autism advocacy groups (actually NT parents of autistic children) have said they would rather have a dead child than a child with autism. NT adults have this mind blindness too, and so are less apt to protect ASD children from bullying by NTs.

    People with Asperger’s are actually a little better at being skeptics because they take everything so literally. They are less apt to make the false positive type 1 errors that the overactive communication detection hardware of NTs makes and more apt to make the type 2 errors of non-detection and especially when communication is involved.

    No Hedge. We are human; if you prick us do we not bleed?

  108. @daedalus2u:

    No Hedge. We are human; if you prick us do we not bleed?

    So my challenge is to explain the humor in this to someone who has very limited ability to comprehend humor. I like a challenge.

    First, it’s a joke. It was intended to be funny. I leave it to others to weigh in on it’s level of success. Part of the humor is that it is said in a thread specifically about inappropriate humor.

    Like much humor, there is some basis in reality. If there is someone who doesn’t understand humor, then it should be possible to tell a joke, right in front of them, of which they are the subject, and they will not perceive that a joke was told about them*. Other people nearby would understand the joke, which could be at the expense of the person unable to perceive the joke. But it wouldn’t actually harm the subject, because the harm could only come from the perception of being the butt of the joke. In your terms, no – you would not bleed, because you would not have actually been pricked. Just like making funny faces at a blind person causes them no harm if they don’t know it happened. As long as the only harm would be derived from the subjects perception of the activity, then the subjects inability to perceive the activity renders them immune to the harm.

    Despite the fact that it should be possible to do these things without harming the subject, it would be generally considered bad taste to do so. This is partly because there will always be some risk of the subject detecting that they are being made the butt of a joke, and thus causing them actual harm. This bad taste is part of the joke I intended by my comment, coming as it does in a discussion thread about inappropriate jokes.

    I did not intend it to be a joke at your expense.

    How’s that?

    (* It is, indeed, possible to do this with people who perceive humor very well. One would simply expect it to be easier to do with someone who does not perceive humor well.)

    I am a Hedge

  109. My wife wants to weight in. Take it away!

    My circle of friends and I have gone through a lot of things you have listed here as taboo. We’ve dealt with rape, LGBT issues, murder, mental/physical abuse, AIDS, cancer, drug addiction, abandonment, toxic waste, death…life. I don’t think any of us would be doing as well as we are if we didn’t have humor to get us through all of it. And nothing was off-limits. If I couldn’t joke about all the things I’ve seen and been through, I’d be in jail, insane or dead. When you are barely gripping and clawing to get back up for air and laughter is a coping mechanism to get through it, then comedy is a fucking miracle. Maybe not if it’s target is to completely hurt someone for no good damn reason except for blatant self-indulgence…kind of like rape.

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