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Articles > Entertainment May, 06, 2015

Why Do We Find Offending People So Funny?

Ellen Jamison
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Since when did lewd, crude and rude become funny? These days, it seems vulgarity is the dominant brand of comedy and I, for one, hope its days are numbered. Let’s be clear: whether it’s slapstick, satire or even sitcom, comedy has always been somewhat irreverent, but I feel comedians of our generation have gone too far.

Comedy just isn't very funny anymore, it's rude

Photo by Christian Schirrmacher

I’m not the first person to have recognised the growing trend for comedians to rely on sexual innuendos, expletives and obscenities in their shows and sketches. The Big Fat Quiz of 2012 made the headlines for the litany of vile jokes made by James Corden and Jack Whitehall about the Queen, Susan Boyle and gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt. Ofcom received thousands of complaints. It was nothing new. Four years earlier, comedians Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross were fired by the BBC for their crude comments, a scandal that became known as Sachsgate where the complaint toll rose to nearly 45,000, and were forced to apologise. But, despite the public outrage, both men remain on TV with their careers and the respect of their peers intact.

Another perpetrator is Leigh Francis a.k.a. Keith Lemon whose perverted sense of humour is exposed on a weekly basis in his panel show, Celebrity Juice, that contains simulations of sex acts, Declan Donelly of Ant & Dec fame being offered a “motorboat” by a naked woman and reducing the female team captains to demeaning nicknames, Holly Willough“booby” and Fearne “Boy Tits” Cotton. And, “smash your back doors in”, Keith’s favourite expression, is one of the many ways he promotes violence in sex. Not only are these examples repugnant, they have a detrimental impact on society as they perpetuate the stereotype of men as sex-hungry predators and women as weak and submissive. They also feed into the culture of “body-shaming” young people, both males and females, and judging them purely on the size of certain parts of their anatomy.

So, why is this brand of comedy seemingly so popular? Why has Celebrity Juice won an NTA for Most Popular Comedy Panel Show? Why has Keith Lemon been allowed to host Through the Keyhole and turn a family entertainment show into one where he drools over Sarah Harding’s knickers? Perhaps it is shock value, or he is preying on a tendency for young viewers to equate outrageous with funny, as though we’re somehow rebelling against our parents if we tune in, or maybe it feels less cheap and nasty if you’re the audience in a glitzy television studio.

The reason I resent this humour so much is because people like Keith Lemon are role models for young people and make it seem acceptable for guys and girls to use these insults masquerading as jokes. And when they are repeated in the university common room, on campus or in the workplace, they’re suddenly not so amusing. They’re downright disgusting. And highly offensive. And, if we object, we’re criticised and labelled frigid or pathetic when we have every right to resist being subjected to this abuse.

It’s easy to go with the flow, laugh along or think because it’s daring, it must be funny. Of course, it would be a terrible shame if comedy became so PC that it was rendered completely bland and banal, but humans are supposed to be the most sophisticated creatures on Earth so we should be capable of making it clever, imaginative, creative, not full of sleazy quips and gross gestures. In the meantime, I believe there needs to be more regulation in terms of media content and greater punishments for comedians who overstep the mark and, lastly, I hope students think twice before they switch on these shows for their comedy fix.

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  1. James Savidge

    I think when it comes to shows like celebrity juice you should remember that its is a comedy panel show and more so that as captains of these shows the women do have an air of authority, that is that at any stage these women can challenge Francis at any point. If you wanted to be more sceptical you could argue that A question of sport is more submissive and stereotypical for females where the female host is expected to sit and read questions while the general consensus is that the men should deal with the actual matters of ‘talking sport’.

  2. caragh burke

    i think its because nearly everyone around the world has got something to say about at least evryone

  3. Hapsa Firthous

    Not bad 🙂

  4. Urwah Zahid

    Offence is a choice and completely subjective, you can choose to ignore it or let it affect you. If you are bothered by offensive jokes, don’t listen to them. But for those of us who find it funny, we have the right to watch it regardless. Society should teach us to be indifferent to other people’s views especially if we find them distasteful. When you approach comedy and entertainment (subjective preferences) the lines become increasingly blurred and they should remain so.

  5. Abigail Fitton

    I think…that offending people is seen as funny because usually it’s something that nobody else would dream of saying. I would say it’s more of a nervous funny and nervous laugh at an offend ice comment rather than a malicious one.

  6. Katarzyna Sadej

    Nowadays, insulting people is seen as funny because people who make fun of others, have a very low self-esteem. And since people can do it on TV and earn money, it’s being done more often.

  7. Alexandra

    I think offending people are funny because they are different.

  8. Kyle Foster

    Some people just unfortunately find it amusing to insult people. Now a days people are using the word ‘Gay’ as an insult, it’s not an insult though. Civilians today have changed massively through the past. About perhaps three quarters of this planet have respect for one another. The other quarter are just isolated within all their guilty that they have finally indulged.

  9. Aisha Rasab

    This is an interesting article. While I agree that making crude, rude jokes for attention is not the best form of entertainment, it can quite clearly attract a large audience of people with a specific sense of humour, so its not totally bad. There will always be people that do or don’t agree with things – it’s a matter of opinions.

  10. Ah.xo

    Nice one

  11. Ben McMullen

    Good one m8 8/8

  12. I feel that maybe the author of this article is being a bit too heavy handed with the judgement stick here.
    Vulgar humour has been around for centuries and will continue to do so.
    As Ricky Gervais says ‘a vulgar joke is told on the understanding that both people are actually like that”

  13. Adam

    Jesus Christ I hoped this article was satirical but it is far too poorly written and bland to be so.

    To quote your first paragraph, ‘Since when did lewd, crude and rude become funny?’ To those of us who like it, it always has been. Just because it isn’t to your evidently tame tastes does not mean that no-holds-barred comedy is some new fad. It isn’t.

    Honestly this is a complete non issue because your article itself makes two things very clear: 1) this type of humour is extremely popular. Not with you, but with a lot of other people. 2) If it’s not to your tastes, you are not forced to view it. Your complaints centred on two TV shows which you clearly don’t care for. The solution is rather simple – don’t watch them.

    There weren’t thousands of complaints about the big Fat Quiz of the Year, there were 180 and the funniest thing is that “Initially five viewers complained, a number that rose to 180 after the Daily Mail wrote a series of articles attacking the “vile sexual slurs” in the show.” http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-02-04/ofcom-rejects-big-fat-quiz-complaints

    This just goes to show that most people who are easily offended, such as yourself, simply don’t watch programs they know are likely to offend them. That way, I can watch Frankie Boyle making jokes about paedophilia and you can watch whatever you like. Everybody wins.

    And if you’re then going to complain about others recreating the type of humour they find funny, well, I hate to break it to you but your opinion is not the law. Unless another person’s comments have have breached either the law or some school or workplace-specific code of conduct then people are free to say whatever they like. That is their right and the fact that you are offended is simply your problem. So I suggest you get over it.

    • Maximillion

      Beware of reverse-prudism. I think there is a prevalent idea that because something is acceptable and people like it, anyone against it is somehow ‘wrong’ and should be marginalised and their point of view ignored. I respect your point of view, but you shouldn’t bully others into conformity with your ideals. It’s no different from what you’re arguing against; just the other side of the same coin.

  14. Charlotte Swale

    Comedy in the UK has relied on vulgarity for centuries. Rude has always been funny,whether we find it acceptable or not. There’s a fantastic documentary on the BBC just now called “Rude Brittania”,which traces the nation’s love of rudeness right back to the 17th century. Rude comedy has always been popular comedy,it’s just easier to access nowadays. It’s also because a lot of things are more acceptable to talk about publicly now,things like sex are no longer taboo for the majority of the population. But rude comedy certainly isn’t a modern invention

  15. Connor

    Dapper Laughs is definitely not okay but Keith Lemon is; they are just approaching it in the wrong way. Leigh Francis is, after all, a character actor with a wife and children, whose character, like Alan Partridge, is meant to be funny because you recognise that what he is saying isn’t alright – he’s a fairly harmless character but the danger is that people don’t realise Francis is mocking the character, trying to make the audience laugh at him, not with him. Dapper Laughs is poisonous but if you have seen Through the Keyhole, the Keith Lemon personality is toned down a lot and diluted to simply being a bit of a prat, his childish behaviour creating the humour.
    Many shows use extremely base humour now but perhaps the worst is The Big Bang Theory, which mocks its character’s insecurities with harsh criticisms that are intended to laugh rather than shock.

  16. Rishabh Bhardwaj

    People today live with a spot of negativity no matter how smart we predent we are, but somewhere in the conscious or unconscious part of our brain we imagine ourselfs as the biggest fool (coz of the negativity and frustration of failure that everyone goes through atleast once in a lifetime) and we humans have such a kind of psychology that if something bad happens to us we wanna see that happening to others (in majority of cases, otherwise we feel miserable) as a consequence of our evolution so our brain enjoys other people been embarrassed and it likes to see other people treated like a fool or moron.