Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lesson Learned? Humor

Think about what has happened to humor over the past few years. Nearly everything that passes as comedy today involves some sort of humiliation, put-downs, people being mean to others, or extreme behaviors.

I'm not a pollyanna looking for the "good ol' days" of Dick Van Dyke, or "Family Ties", "Full House", "Three's Company" or the like. I enjoy my share of adult humor, R-Rated movies, etc. the same as everyone else.

This isn't necessarily a "moral" discussion, but rather a look at trends. We tend to get our humor from popular culture, and its influence over our lives is undeniable. It just seems to me that popular culture has taken a turn toward anything that leaves someone feeling bad. A recent example of "popular" humor is the "Borat" movie which contained more than its share of scenes where people were made to look foolish. In some cases, the humiliation was crafted without the subjects' knowledge or consent, based on some of the lawsuits that sprung up after the film had it's run.

While the "reality" shows of late aren't necessarily packaged as comedies, look at some of the more recent offerings. "American Idol" took some heat this season over how some of the obviously unqualified contestants were allowed to pass through early audition stages to be allowed to appear in front of the cameras. There's little doubt that anyone thought these people were talented, and it's pretty obvious that they were put in the spotlight for comedic value.

But when did we become a society that would sit and laugh at people like that? The "Idol" producers were obviously trying to meet a demand with their cruel presentations, and they had to get an idea somewhere along the line that there was a demand like that, right?

And browse around the websites that offer user videos. YouTube, AOL Video, all offer videos made by and selected by users, and see what's going on out there with what people consider "funny". One video that made a good illustration of the point I'm making is located here

What has happened to us that some director or producer would parody the events of 9/11/01 and think that a comedy of this sort would be something people would want to see? And would think was funny? They have to get the idea somewhere, right?

So many videos are posted where people are met with violence or injury,(I'm talking about real violence and injury, not contrived) and people think it's all very funny. Kids being humiliated by other kids now not only have to live with the original humiliation, they have to add the extra demoralization of having thousands of other people watching the videos, and laughing. And most of these sites have sections where viewers can comment and share their enjoyment with others. It's as though "America's Funniest Home Videos" has morphed into a Frankenstein monster or something.

And mean humor spills down. What kids haven't learned from the adults around them, many have no problem checking out through any of the media they seemingly have unrestricted access to. And who do kids practice this on? Other, weaker kids. And so it begins.


  1. wow, a 3-fer, you're on a roll tonight! you know i'm with you on all of these posts - it makes me ill to think what this world is going to be like when our children step out into it.

  2. It is interesting how humor has changed (I love those shows you mentioned--full house, family ties). It seems that humor consists of berating and tearing down; and people consider 'entertainment' to be Jerry Springer-like behavior. Sad.

    I personally stay away from R-rated movies and am even selective of the PG-13 ones. I will not support extreme violence, vulgarity, sex, nudity, and things that go against my personal beliefs.

    This is another thing that is out of control.....what kids watch and are exposed to. Parents aren't screening and/or limiting what their children watch, play, do. Just think what a difference that would make with our young generation.

  3. Kelly...Lewis Black made mention of what the Israelis were like under Moses versus what the people on Jerry Springer represent. Sort of like a timeline of the descent of mankind, ya know?

    What's up in 20 years?

    Kristen- I remember when parental controls were something like this:

    Me- "Mom can I watch...?"
    Mom- "No."

  4. You have astounded me with these posts. Very articulate and dead on! Thank you, Jimmy.

  5. Anonymous4:46 PM

    I have a hard time with this one as's a form of bullying run amuck. I was the kid in school who was either defending the one being teased...or running home crying to mom after BEING teased.
    I'm no angel...but I'd like to think I know appropriate humor. And that youtube video is just plain old wrong.

    PS Thanks for cheering me up, blockhead. (She so appropriately said).

  6. And the more this kind of "humor" is present, the more desensitized to the meanness of it. It can't go anywhere but bad.


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