How often we have heard of a stand up comic’s image being publicly maligned online or otherwise for making fun of a well-known personality! Russel Peters was rebuked for calling Aishwarya Rai Bachhan a wooden actress, and very recently Kiku Sarda (Palak of ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’) being arrested for doing a spoof on Ram Rahim, founder Dera Sacha Sauda. They are in the profession of comedy, we can’t expect anything but that.
In a Golden Globe award function hosted by Ricky Gervais, an English comedian, in 2010, Ricky was on a roll leaving no stone unturned in insulting Hollywood stars. He had even made fun of a very senior star, Mel Gibson who had then been arrested for Driving under influence, and had involuntarily made a spectacle of himself. Mr. Jervais was also rebuked and openly criticised by all the Hollywood stars who had been subject to his funny barbs. Seth MacFarlane, host of the Academy Awards in 2013 had mocked the late Abraham Lincoln while calling out for the Oscar winner Daniel De Lewis for reprising the role. Mr. MacFarlane’s supposedly witty remark was found to be too crass.
These incidents often leave us with the debate on how far can a joke be taken. When does it become edgy and when tactless?
Greek scholar Aristotle argued that many successful clowns and comedians make us laugh by eliciting a sense of superiority. That is when humour ceases to be positive. Throughout history dwarves, people with deformities, certain cultures, have had fun poked at them. A study conducted in Australia found that 60% of all jokes are cracked by men; that 71% of women laugh when a man cracks a joke and only 39% of men laugh when a woman cracks one.
When you are a public figure and you are being closely scrutinized for every breath you take and every move you make, you tend to get a little unnerved when unknowingly you are a source of wisecracks & anecdotes. Nevertheless I am of the opinion that over time our tolerance towards many things humourous has diminished. We have started taking ourselves too seriously. We need to keep reminding ourselves that those who are most loved are the ones who are rather self-deprecating. Humour provides a window to one’s personality. The ability to reel off lots of jokes indicates a great memory and a natural entertainer. Sometimes however, laughing at jokes humiliating others may not be the politest thing to do, and as many stand-up comics have realized, not the best jokes to be thrown at an audience.
I would still reiterate, buck up people, take a swing at yourself, loosen up and exercise those facial muscles. As they say, “Laughter is the Best Medicine”.
Sr. Faculty, INLEAD