I think some comedy is harmful. What seems like most of the population agrees that if something is ‘just a joke’, it’s okay to say it. I disagree. I was reluctant to start seriously caring about social-issue-type-things like stereotypes and hate speech until I realized it often masquerades as comedy, which rather than lessening it’s potency strengthens it and makes it more palatable and even enjoyable to audiences who usually consider themselves ‘good people’. Comedians constantly use their artistic license to dive into offensive and taboo topics for kicks from the audience. The only way an audience can allow their shocked and nervous laughter to transform into genuine, easy laughter is to make themselves radically arrive at a point in their minds where they can say “but it’s true, so it is funny!…”. I’m starting to realize this is a major channel for reinforcing stereotypes, making the people they’re attributed to widely appropriate laughing stocks and therefore of lesser importance socially. Of course people understand that these are just jokes, but they powerfully serve to normalize every hateful generalization or bias in existence. Powerfully because comedy comes with a covering of an innocence and playfulness context, disqualifying the seriousness or illegality of any harmful content. You’ve paid to see a comic, you don’t want to be the prude sitting there not laughing and taking yourself too seriously, the done thing is to laugh loudly, especially if they say something outrageous. If people are taught that traits, beliefs or genetic dispositions in others are okay to laugh at, they’re taught that they’re not to be taken seriously, that a person bearing these traits is not to be taken seriously, and that the more a particular trait is mocked, the less valuable a bearer of that trait is. I’m not insinuating that comedians of this kind are deliberately or even knowingly encouraging harmful attitudes, but that no matter how often something is done or how long it’s been accepted, it isn’t necessarily right. “Making fun of others” is normal in society, but even assessing what it means hints at it’s unpleasant connotations, it literally means making fun for yourself at the expense of others. Among family or people close to you who share your humour and clearly enjoy and understand the levity of your quips is one thing, though even in that context jokes can go too far. It’s like “comedy” has an impenetrable armor and constantly defends itself shouting “I am exempt!”. Comedy is necessary in life, humour helps us find enjoyment in difficult situations, dark times, feelings and memories. I absolutely do not think derogatory throw-around jokes at people groups, minorities or any kind of individual are necessary for comedy. Many of the greatest comedians in history and today gain success through making fools of themselves, not other people. I didn’t want to grow up to be the party pooper who stands up and says, this thing I know you all love, it’s not okay. But what can I do? I’ve realized it’s not okay. Not because of the law, archaic morals or the shock factor. Because when people grow up in a society when mocking others or social heirarchy are acceptable, people go through school abused, they get disrespected at work, they regularly get persecuted, beaten, tortured and killed..or they kill themselves. It’s definitely harmful, and I’m sick of people using the ‘comedy sheild’ as a crutch for airing their hideous opinions. All the best comedians and comedies are cleverer than that, they either put focus on themselves, chemistry between different personalities or include all the stereotypes imaginable in their comedy in the ironic context that mocks the existence of the stereotypes themselves. The Office is a great example, where we are always meant to laugh at Michael Scott for his disturbing stereotypical views of people. Will Ferrel also often plays characters who are to be laughed at for the same reason, and 30 rock constantly mocks the hypocrisy within stereotypes and anti-stereotypes. Happy Endings also constantly battles stereotypes and anti-stereotypes unashamedly. I’m not saying all stereotype free comedy is good comedy, but there is definitely bad comedy, and aside from that, harmful comedy.