Saturday, October 29, 2011

Butts and Subjects

My Fellow Comedists,

A technical question this weekend. Is there a difference between being the subject of a joke and the butt of a joke? If a joke turns on an ambiguity about a property associated with a group, does that joke necessarily make fun of that group? If someone in traffic in front of you had a bumper sticker that said "Autistic kids rock," would that seem inappropriate? Would the fact that the pun is based on a recognizable behavior be an act of mocking? Does it have to portray it in a negative light, does it have to belittle the act, or is pointing it out, drawing attention to it enough? The point here is that, unlike Polish or blonde jokes, where the stereotypical element is clearly intended to denegrate the members of the group, this is simply a recognizable difference with no judgment made about it. If it is morally problematic, is it the drawing attention to it that is the problem, or is it the appropriation, that is, is it the using the unusual behavior as a tool for some else to get laughs even if we are not saying that it is a bad thing?

Other examples, jokes that do not necessarily cast a group in a negative light, but have a mechanism that plays off of recognizable features?

Live, love, and laugh,

Irreverend Steve