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03/24/2006: "It's no joke!"

My latest post is up at fMh

It's no joke!



My guest stint is drawing to a close... I might have another post before I'm done, depends on how the weekend goes.

It's been very interesting!

It’s no joke!
By: Téa - March 24, 2006
Humor is in the eye of the beholder. Whether you’re laughing so hard you have tears rolling down your face or feeling like a sharp stick just poked your iris or somewhere in-between, the audience reaction defines funny.

Me, I’m not a fan of divisive humor. Sexist, racist and other ignorant attitudes live on under the guise of jokes and joking. If this is brought forward, a person’s sense of humor is attacked (”Can’t you take a joke?”). I can giggle as much as the next person–I happen to be particular about what elicits a guffaw. Laughter carries approval and acceptance, giving life to the ideas behind the joke.

I believe that jokes perpetuating adversarial relationships between men & women and parents & children contribute to the fracturing of families and society.

It bothers me how pervasive maligning humor is in our society–our Church meetings are not immune to it, commercials and programs are filled with it.

Take the Gospel Doctrine teacher who wisecracks about the women in the class talking their poor husbands to death after a hard day at work, or how it’s a really good thing we don’t have a female president because… The snide remarks about Visiting Teaching being a monthly gossip fest or the general incompetency of the Elders Quorum. The laughter at the comparison of men to dumb oxen in a mothers’ lounge or Relief Society class.

Consider the advertising campaigns telling children their parents are stupid dolts if they don’t understand the need for product X. The commercials that suggest manipulating your husband or wife into getting what you want.

What about the television programs where fathers are there only to roll your eyes at? Or males can be boorish because “boys will be boys”? Girls only caring about superficial things?

I just don’t find it funny.

Permanent Link
I completely agree with you on this. Some things might seem minor, but I think that in the long run, much of this sort of humor is ultimately degrading. One show that comes to mind was “Full House”. These kids were so mean to eachother, and their parents, and everyone was mean to that one little girl (I think Kimmy was her name). I personally feel that Full House helped many a child learn disrespect for eachother and for parents. It may have been funny on the show, but it really helped tear down families in real life.

Comment by Ian M. Cook — March 24, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

Occasional good-humored teasing is one thing, but all the time, and most of it not so good-natured . . . yeah, it gets old.

Ian: Exactly. I would see shows like that, or others, and go, what’s so funny about always tearing someone down?

I remember on The Cosby Show, one of the first family shows (it seems to me, but then, I was rather young) to have a strong mother, but it seemed to be so often at the expense of the husband.

In a way, that might have undermined their “strong woman” image, IMHO, because you can be a strong woman without having to push your husband down to feel like you are strong.

Sorry, pet peeve of mine! This kinda thing continued (albeit in more whiny female form) on Tim Allen’s show . . . the wife was practically always right, and he was just the big stupid lug (granted, though, the show was based on his comedy sketches based on the stupid things men do, at least, as women see it . . . and the whole “more power” thing).

Anyway! Off my soapbox.

Comment by sarebear — March 24, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

I agree. It seems quite PC to make fun of/criticize men in a certain way in commercials or on sitcoms. I don’t think it is right for my husband’s sake, or for my son’s.
I especially don’t approve of wife bashing or husband bashing. Married people should love each other, not criticize each other in front of others.
Whenever a group of mom’s complain about “my husband never even hears the baby cry in the middle of the night” I like to point out “I never even hear my husband’s alarm clock go off when he leaves for work while I’m asleep” and sure enough, all the mom’s have to admit that they don’t wake up to their husband’s alarm either (all of our husbands’ had to leave for work pretty early because of commuting time).

Comment by jks — March 24, 2006 @ 4:25 pm

I agree with the point here but for some reason feel compelled to point out that I do think it’s important for us to be able to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves (or life) too seriously. Which, in my household leads to some teasing and joking that might be found divisive? I would hope not because there is a LOT of love and support in my home, but it’s common to find people laughing at their own self deprecating jokes, etc. I agree that maligning humor isn’t a good thing, but I find myself an “easy laugher” and know that with my family you don’t survive too long if you take yourself too seriously.

Comment by Leslie — March 24, 2006 @ 4:36 pm

I totally agree with Leslie and Sarebare. We have to learn to laugh at ourselves. I tell blonde jokes because I AM a blonde—My dad tells bald jokes because he is bald. but if we do it too much or do it without the person on the receiving end knowing we love them then it could be a problem.

Comment by Kimberly — March 24, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

while the points you make are valid, you need to realize that most of these jokes are just ways of dealing with the frustrations of life. My mother, when she goofs up, sayd “oops, senior moment” Is she putting down all seniors> no she is dealing with her own frustrations in life. I have heard many a teen age joke that is also just frustration releaf and laughing instead of crying. While we should be careful of others feelings, we also need to lighten up not condemn people so much when they joke around. I was told sarcasm is dangerous for children and always worried that my sarcasm was potentially going to harm them but I found out that I have extremly intellegent children who have healthy senses of humor and are sensitive to others feelings.

Comment by JKR — March 24, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

Ah, but there’s the difference–you’re laughing at or poking fun of yourself. When you’re laughing at or poking fun of others, especially someone close, especially if you’re basing the “fun” on stereotypes–it’s hurtful and just plain bad taste. I totally agree with Tea and the others. No more bashing. Just find funny things in irony, wit, and, sure self-deprecating humor. Laughter is good.

Comment by Artemis — March 24, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

Ian, minor things really can be quite degrading, I agree. And as your example indicates, this is nothing new to TV.

Sarebear, indeed, some of that good-natured teasing has some not-so good nature behind it. It’s sad that when a comment hurts that it becomes the fault of that person not “appreciating” the joke.

jks, yes, it does do so much damage to the males in our lives. Encouraging it damages the females as well. Sounds like you have a very healthy respect for your husband and that will translate well for your children!

Leslie and Kimberly, I think laughing at *ourselves* doesn’t fall into the category of maligning or adversarial humor. We agree that there are some things that should be taken seriously, and I’m sure you would take the feelings or requests of your family members into consideration.

It’s one thing to have me joking/laughing about my own foibles in a given situation–it’s quite another to have someone delight in pointing out my flaws =)

In my opinion, truly great humor doesn’t make someone feel uncomfortable or less valued/loved.

Comment by Téa — March 24, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

JKR, I think Artemis summed it up nicely for me (Thanks!). The difference between the two is key =)

Comment by Téa — March 24, 2006 @ 5:20 pm

I used to watch that show “Judging Amy”. When it first came out there was an episode about a little boy who came from a family that tickled eachother somewhat excessively. The boy did not like the tickling by any stretch of the imagination and the social worker noticed the terror on the boy’s face during one of these tickle sessions. Before that little discovery was made, the parents just couldn’t understand why out of everyone in the family this one kid just “couldn’t take it”. After they understood that this was akin to physical abuse for this child, things changed.

I think this devisive kind of humour can be treated the same way.

In my family we call each other names, sometimes pretty offensive ones too, but we all know that it’s a form of affection and feel free to speak up if we don’t care for something. This type of humour is unheard of in my husband’s family and so obviously would not be appropriate there. Even though Honey understands it’s accepted in my family, he would feel extremely hurt if I included him in it and so I have refrained.

I wish the world was perfect so this type of thing wasn’t on TV. But the world isn’t perfect and the TV is filled with disrespect, irreverance, foul language and other sorts of unacceptable behaviors. Thank goodness there’s an “off” button!

Comment by SalGal — March 24, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

I strongly agree with you Téa. I learned many many years ago when people put down others in the name of or guise of humor that they really don’t like themselves or feel secure within themselves. For someone who recognizes that, it is very telling about the person who is doing it. I also think that all of the disfucntional family situations on TV are just that disfucntional and not really funny. They certainly do not represent a “normal”, happy family as we should know it.

And yes I agree with Artemis, Laughter is good. In fact, if you could laugh for a whole hour you would burn quite a few calories. =)

Comment by MomR — March 24, 2006 @ 8:26 pm

I agree that much of the humor you describe is very unfunny. What I wonder is what is a good friendly way to address this while preventing the inevitable “Oh, calm down! Can’t you take a joke?”
I’m specifically wondering about church classroom settings. I’m very aware that bringing it up in class is unappropriate because it would distract from the lesson and makes what should be private into a public display.
When you approach the offender in private how can one phrase their complaint so that the person doesn’t feel attacked and so that they will be the most likely to take your concerns to heart?

Comment by Starfoxy — March 24, 2006 @ 9:17 pm

A note about annoying sitcom husbands: yes, they are almost always overweight schlubs without the intellectual acumen of a cereal box, and yes they nonetheless seem always to have gorgeous, smart and capable wives. And it’s irks me, too.

Still, I think this recurring “joke” is a lot different than, say, jokes about women gossiping or racial minority shopping habits, for the very reason than white men still hold the brunt of the power in this country. Those shows don’t hurt them, and are probably geared towards women who want to invision themselves like the wives–totally together and IN CONTROL of the domestic scene. Those show irritate me in part b/c I think they serve as a “humorous” placebo for actual change. Of course, other divisive jokes work replace truly engaged conversation on the issues, so the humor is similar in that regard. Like Tea, I don’t enjoy divisive humor—but making fun of ourselves is pretty fun. I quite like Mormon jokes .

Of course, it does annoy me that boys don’t have good role models on television, and neither boys nor girls see good marriage models if they park in front of the tube. You basically get to choose between sitcoms where the women are shrews (but smart ones!) or dramas where the men enjoy blowing things up.

Comment by Janet — March 24, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

The is a place for humor and time that it isn’t appreciated. I know I really don’t like Sitcoms for the most part. Some times it can be funny when it really is poking fun at the stupid things we do. I personally have a hard time when people make fun of other peoples features, I have never liked it and never will. I like it when we all can laugh at the silly things, the crazy nutty things in life. Like knocking over a glass of water and expecting your mother to yell at you, and intested she starts to laugh, or a family joke that no one else gets, but creates laughter among those that do. There is nothing like a case of the giggles to make life better. I really need to do that more often.

Comment by Tigersue — March 24, 2006 @ 10:50 pm

I think what I was getting at was that sometimes my laughing at myself hurts others feelings when it wasn’t intended—Example: I forgot my son had a talk in Primary and when I went to apologize to the Primary President I said “Oh my blonde must be coming out today” She is blonde and was totally offended and I really didn’t mean that. I think we need to not be so sensitive.

As for sitcoms, I hate them too. They show disrespect to parents, spouses, siblings and friends. They give horrible role models and they just aren’t good at all.

I grew up in a sarcastic home where my father was always putting me down in front of other in the name of humor and I hated it however, I got from him that trait and now I strive daily to change that!

We teased Gracie the other day in a lighthearted way about her spelling when she made handouts for her FHE lesson and I asked her later how it felt to be teased like that and she said “It was okay I know you all love me!” That is the key–finding the comfort level of those you tease before you tease them, try not to be so sensitive to others joke and address the problem when something really offensive comes up!

Our Gosple Doctrine teacher always puts her husband down in class and Kim and I as well as a lot of other couples in the ward didn’t even want to go to class so a bunch of us wrote letters to the teacher—We did not say we didn’t like her lessons, we said we loved her and thought she was a good teacher. Guess what? She is doing 100% better now—-all she needed was love. So how we address the offensive situations is important too.

Comment by Kimberly — March 25, 2006 @ 9:28 am

I think I have a good sense of humor, but one thing I DON’T appreciate is blonde jokes. Actually, more specifically, I don’t appreciate blonde jokes from people I don’t know well, especially men I don’t know well. I’ve always been blonde, so people always seem to want to tell me the latest blonde joke they have heard. I tell them to keep it to themselves unless they want to change it to be about a demographic of which they are a part (i.e. men if it’s a man, or brunettes, whatever). I guess I view blonde jokes as one of those things like making a “funny” comment about someone’s name. YOU might think you are being clever, but they have heard it at least 1000 times before. Also, I do have a sense of humor about myself, but blonde jokes are not about ME. They are just recycled racist jokes with a new target.

Comment by mindy — March 25, 2006 @ 10:37 am

I like some blonde jokes (the funny ones), but I can understand why some people don’t. One small quibble thought–blonde isn’t a race and I don’t think people view it as a proxy for race, so blonde jokes aren’t racist. Maybe bigoted–but not racist.

Comment by Mathew — March 25, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

Humor is important…I love the comments that have been said and Artemis was right on target –we need to know the difference between mean humor and good humor.

I will never forget the day after Junior Prom in high school. Most of us (girls) were wearing our prom dressed to Church and in YW’s I saw that my best friend wasn’t wearing hers (which was so beautfiul). I simply asked her why she wasn’t. She turned to me and lashed out in anger and was quite heartless in her response. Some sarcastic remark about how I’m a lemming or something. I didn’t know what to say, and so I just turned around and tried not to cry. She came up to me later and said “Oh, cheryl, you know I was just kidding!” and instead of my usual victim-type response of “I know” –I let her have it. “Yeah, well your kidding sucks!” I hadn’t meant to be mean in return. But after that, she was very careful at the way she treated me (this was one example in a long line of examples of how I was constantly “teased”).

Sometimes, if people are told that their humor is hurtful and wrong, they can make a concious change.

Hey, so did you hear the one about…..?

Comment by cheryl — March 26, 2006 @ 8:50 am

It interests (and disturbs) me that blonde jokes seem always to be about female blondes. Is that the case? Does anyone hear jokes about blondes who are male?

I tend to dislike blonde jokes. I dislike any jokes that target a group of people by illustrating their stupidity, regardless of the group. People defy categorization. I’m not convinced “blonde” as a category has utility, and it seems unfair to underscore stereotypes.

Comment by Kiskilili — March 26, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

One small quibble thought–blonde isn’t a race and I don’t think people view it as a proxy for race, so blonde jokes aren’t racist. Maybe bigoted–but not racist.

Matthew, to quibble with your quibble, I didn’t say that blondes were a race. I said that blonde jokes are “recycled racist jokes”, meaning that instead of “Pollack/black/Mexican,” the joke now says “blonde”.

There is a certain type of male that will come up and tell me a blonde joke. They aren’t usually too high in my estimation previous to that, but you can bet they drop a few more notches after opening their mouths to share their “joke”.

Comment by mindy — March 26, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

Thanks for the clarification Mindy–I see your point.

Comment by Mathew — March 26, 2006 @ 7:31 pm

Mindy, speaking of ways to recycle racist jokes, I love to use those jokes and substitute “lawyer” for “Pollack/black/Mexican.” Nobody ever objects.

That said, I love Mormon jokes. I heard one last week that is already one of my favorites. Here goes (I’ll tell it using the names “Lem” and “Clem,” the canonical Q&A personalities from children’s joke books):

Lem: Why do you always have to take two Mormons fishing?
Clem: I don’t know. Why?
Lem: Because if you take only one, he’ll drink your beer.

Comment by DKL — March 26, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

DKL, yeah, I don’t know many people who object to lawyer jokes…lawyers seem to like them, too.

Mormon jokes are very often hilarious. I like your Lem & Clem one.
:-) I also think it is better for jokes about a group of people to be shared between members of that group. It is a much better way to ensure that the humor will be appreciated.

Comment by mindy — March 26, 2006 @ 9:14 pm

Why wouldn’t the Mormon go to the pirate movie?

Because it was rated “Arrrrrrr.”

Comment by Ann — March 26, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

Humor can make things “okay” to other people. Recently Morgan Spurlock spoke at a high school and included special needs students in his speech. Sadly he used them as a punchline, and these students were escorted out by their teachers before further damage could be done. After his “speech” Spurlock was mobbed for autographs and given a standing ovation. Basically, he’s just made it okay for every kid in that school to pick on special needs students. NOT OKAY. Under any circumstance!!!
We forget that others sometimes make fun of themselves out of insecurity, and it’s probably best not to feed into that. I have faults, and I think that I may as well acknowledge them and at least get a laugh out of them, put them to some use, right? But when I hear people discussing those same faults when they think I can’t hear, it’s hurtful. It’s not in the delivery, it’s in the intent.

Comment by MarissaS — March 28, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

Replies: 6 Comments

on Friday, March 24th, MomR said

You have done very well with this Téa. I posted a new thing on my blog last night. I think you might enjoy reading it. I know you have't had time or taken the time because you always comment. I enjoy your comments.

on Saturday, March 25th, Barb said

I just read your post about humor! I so agree. In a book about dysfunctional families, I learned that a lot of people that are not capable of being playful or having healthy outlets often use teasing as their form of release. I thik there is a fine line between a little good natured teasing and the teasing that starts to resemble taunting. I know that I like how families develop culture and do joke about certain things individual to a family. Also, in friends I have felt a bond here or there as someone has made a joke about something that I do. However, if they keep going on about it loses its appeal. I do agree with the negative ramificatins that you implied about calling visiting teaching a gossip session. Visiting teaching is such an important program for keeping track of the welfare of our sisters and I think joking can devalue this program and maybe even make people think it is not worth it. That is not to say that something funny or inherit in something should never be brought out. It is so hard to know where to draw the line, but I think we can think about the purpose served a little of the comments and know. I was thinking recently about how people call someone a Molly Mormon or a Peter Priesthood and how very disrespectful it is. It is dehumanizing to people who face trials and make conscious decision to try to do the right thing. Sometimes I think there is a pervasive attitude that doing something like watching an "occassional "R" movie or hugging someone when one should not due to rules such as missionary makes a person more cool than those who are too rigid. I think rules are there for a safeguard and if I want to keep them, it does not make me less cool. I can be so cool in many ways while still staying within the lines that you talked about. And I hope that I can be funny without perpetuating stereotypes. Well, you said it much better than I, but I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed the content and the remarks.

on Saturday, March 25th, Guy Incognito said

This essay is just what I'd expect from a redhead.

on Saturday, March 25th, Stephen M (Ethesis) said

Any chance you would be interested in a link exchange with my blog?


on Sunday, March 26th, Moi said

Thanks, MomR. I've really enjoyed the assignment to write again.

Barb, you make an excellent point about disparaging a good program--it's hard enough to get everyone excited about it anyway. The molly mormon/peter priesthood thing would make a good blog topic--what do you say?

Guy, your comment is just what I'd expect from an anonymous coward =D

Stephen, how does that work? I don't think I use the same blogging program as you do...

on Wednesday, March 29th, Barb said

Tea, I do think that the Molly Mormon and Peter Priesthood would be a good topic in the hands of the right blooger such as yourself. :)

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