Pastor’s Corner: No Joke

February 5, 2022

Some years ago, I attended a comedy club performance in Hartford, Connecticut. The evening featured a headline comic with two others “warming up” the audience before he began.

The first performer, I was shocked to hear, used explicitly racist jokes in his act. When the audience, nearly all white like the comedian, made disapproving noises at some of the “punchlines,” he offered the following justification: “It’s all right. I make fun of everybody.”

I wanted to leave. But this was only the first performer. Maybe the next one would be better. He wasn’t.

The headliner was. His act was genuinely funny, well-paced, and lacking the racial bias of the first two. Until… you guessed it… he brought out racial jokes, too.

To this day I wish I’d walked out.

Racially based humor offers two justifications. First is the one I quoted above. It doesn’t hold up. A comic may well make fun of everybody, but it’s different when they make fun of someone who suffers because of a condition they cannot change. That might be race, it might be gender, it might be social status, it might be disability. Making fun of people’s suffering is simply cruel.

The second justification is, “It’s funny.” Well, it might be. I’ll grant them that. It is possible that a joke based in cruelty makes me laugh.

So what?

It remains cruel. It adds additional hurt – literally “insult to injury.” It reinforces the actions that cause the suffering. It breaks down society rather than building it up.

I haven’t been to a comedy club since that night.

Let the humor of cruelty go. A couple laughs – and that’s the best you’ll ever get – isn’t worth it.

With aloha,

Pastor Eric

Categories Pastor's Corner Reflections | Tags: , | Posted on February 2, 2022

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