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When A Joke Is Not A Joke and the Politically Correct List

by Neil Bamforth

I am increasingly finding that any number of things that I found funny, over the years, are now on the ‘politically correct list’, as I have taken to calling it. Apparently, I am not supposed to find them funny anymore as, according to the politically correct among us, they are ‘insulting’ / ‘racist’ / ‘degrading’ / ‘offensive’ (delete as applicable) and lots more things they don’t approve of.

Finding repeats of ‘Til Death us Do Part’, starring the excellent Warren Mitchell as dyed in the wool racist, Alf Garnett, is virtually impossible these days.

I seem to recall, some years ago, The BBC stating that, minority groups would be offended by such a thing on their televisions.

I assumed the term ‘minority groups’ applied to people of color, in this instance, rather than pop groups with a very small fan base.

The BBC might as well have said “People of color are too stupid to understand” – now if that isn’t offensive I don’t know what is!

You see, Alf Garnett was a dyed in the wool racist – particularly against African Caribbeans. The character was portrayed as an East Londoner who was about as bigoted as you could be.

The program actually made him – and by association – all color prejudiced and racist people – look like complete idiots. Yes, it was funny but, you weren’t laughing along with Alf, you were laughing at him and, again, by association, at anyone who held nonsensical prejudices against somebody just because they had a suntan.

Another popular program from yesteryear has also fallen foul of the politically correct brigade. A program called ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ was based around a military barracks somewhere in India housing an entertainments battalion who put on shows for the troops.

The marvelous, late Windsor Davies portrayed a Sergeant Major who was clearly prejudiced against gay people – one of the characters played by Melvyn Hayes often wore make up and dresses and was known as ‘Gloria’. He frequently suffered the wrath of the outraged Sergeant Major, as did the Indian characters around the camp making him racist as well.

Again, the character was portrayed as a bigoted idiot and you found yourself laughing at him, not with him.

More lately, a superb situation comedy has come under attack.

Citizen Khan is written by, and stars, Adil Ray. He is a writer and actor with great talent. As he was born of a Pakistani father and Kenyan Asian mother, he knows all about the funny side of Islam and Muslims in general.

The show is extremely funny. The character of Citizen Khan is extremely funny.

The show was heavily criticized by the politically correct and several prominent Muslim groups.

Excuse me. It’s funny. Clearly the critics failed to realize that, perhaps oddly but never the less actually, the show helped break down barriers between communities.

Suddenly white communities, and indeed, all non-Muslim communities, suddenly realized that they shared a sense of humor with Adil Ray, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, therefore, perhaps they shared a similar sense of humor with the Muslim communities.

Let’s face it, humor is a good thing and often brings people together.

For a long time the British would tell ‘Irish jokes’. The supposed joke being that the Irish were not very bright, as in –

Paddy accidentally cuts his own ear off with a saw working on a building site.
Mick picks it up off the ground and says “Is this your ear Paddy?”
“No” says Paddy, “Mine had a pencil behind it”

Now, before you start, I know what you’re going to say.

Look. There is a town in Bulgaria called Grabrovo. If you tell a Bulgarian in Sofia that you’re going to Grabrovo, the probability is, he will slap his thighs and laugh hysterically. Why? I have no idea but, for some unfathomable Bulgarian reason, they consider the town and people of Grabrovo funny.

Rather like some in the North of America laugh at the southern rednecks or, those in and around London laugh at the north of England.

Poking fun at somebody is part of the human condition. At school, the poor kid who was fat got it, or the poor kid with the broken glasses held together with sticking plaster got it.

Yes, it was frequently cruel but, in the mind of children, it was funny and it will never stop.

Once we become adults we don’t – well most of us don’t – poke fun in the same way that children do, but we still do.

It’s how the fun is poked, so to speak, that matters.

Cruelty isn’t funny. There’s no argument there but, a TV show that pokes fun at racists, bigots or, indeed, otherwise alien communities, is ultimately a positive.

The alien communities become considerably less alien when we find ourselves laughing along with them at the absurdity of one of their number. We realize that our communities have the same absurdities. We realize that we, sometimes, have the same absurdities that Citizen Khan has. Suddenly we identify with a Pakistani Muslim by descent. It brings us together.

The racist bigots are laughed at. We realize that, if we have any racist bigotry in our make up – and a surprising number who would undoubtedly deny it have – we actually look and sound like idiots.

We are laughing at the idiocy of a racist bigot on TV and suddenly, we realize we have said the same thing in the past and thought we were sounding sensible.

Comedy, on the whole, needs to be protected from political correctness.

We have a right to laugh. You have and I have. We must make sure nobody ever removes that right just because they don’t find it funny. It’s hardly our fault they need a humor implant is it?

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Posted by on May 29, 2019. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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18 Responses to When A Joke Is Not A Joke and the Politically Correct List

  1. Glenn Geist Reply

    May 30, 2019 at 9:06 am

    There’s a reason I hold to the “four legs good, two legs bad” faith. Years ago there was a TV show All in the Family whose main character, Archie Bunker was a stereotypical working class bigot, with some personal charm. His wife was long suffering, his daughter and son in law Liberal to a 1970s standard that seems a bit simplistic and naive today. The intent was to help the viewer laugh at Archie and thus at ethnic prejudice, but of course Americans being what they are, he had a proud to be prejudiced following. There were campaign buttons for Archie during the 1972 Election: Nixon Vs. McGovern perhaps defined by War loving patriots vs. “Hippies”

    Is it funny, Vs is it bigotry is a continuing battle and so is about one extreme vs another. We should avoid reading Mark Twain, once the lion of American fiction although he was a champion of human rights, but it seems OK to Libel anyone over 55 and to some extent those of far eastern origins. I’m constantly annoyed by references to “Flori-duh” and its residents, but make me laugh and I forgive you and laugh too.

    But it’s useless to complain. People don’t have opinions they arrived at – they subscribe to them. They feel puritanically righteous being humorless and being able to take a joke at one’s own expense just isn’t acceptable.

    Being an old man, from the day when “Words can never harm you” and possessed of a love of humor I have a hard time getting as upset as the latter day members of The Protectorate do. I fancy I can tell the difference between good-natured humor and vicious or deceitful slander, but I know where it’s going and we’re in for the Reign of Righteousness and moral authoritarianism and there’s nothing we can do about it.

  2. Neil Bamforth Reply

    May 30, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    I believe ‘All In The Family’ was actually modelled as an American version of ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ and Archie Bunker was an American Alf Garnett.

    I read that somewhere.

    Anyroad, I suspect you are right and we are now dinosaurs 🤪

    • Glenn Geist Reply

      May 31, 2019 at 9:45 am

      You are right about that.

  3. jess Reply

    May 30, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    I watched some of the It ain’t half Hot Mum because Mike said it was really funny and guess what it was and it was as offensive as all get out but still funny af.
    Same thing as me telling some rando drunk bitch that my boyfriend was wearing my lipstick shade under his kilt at a wedding a few weeks ago and then telling some rando surfing dude this past Monday my thigh gap (ayup that is SERIOUSLY a thing you guys) is way appreciated by my current boyfriend as it was by my late husband when he decided my “above average thigh gap” was a thing that could be joked about in a parking lot at North Beach in the city when I was changing out of my wetsuit in said parking lot. I joked about his tiny dick and he did not like it at all. Told me I was being offensive to the males that had just come out of cold water I told him to go fuck himself.

  4. Neil Bamforth Reply

    May 30, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    I once told a girlfriend I’d just had a cold shower and her eyes watered…

    Alternatively, when I live my dreams 😂😂😂😂

    The right thigh gap is always a plus for a bloke…. Well, some blokes anyroad… It’s the left I worry about 🤪🤪🤪🤪

    • jess Reply

      May 30, 2019 at 6:12 pm

      He thought I could not hear him talking about said gap and what he would be able to do with it, so I turned on him like I was a Tasmanian devil and he apparently did not appreciate that very much at all. I don’t have any fucks to give about that any more. I mean really, I am so cool about shit I don’t care who sees me butt ass nekkid in the parking lots of the city when I take off my wetsuit when I have come from surfing and my bikini might fall off, I don’t care but there is zero need for you to joke comment about the things you would do to me when you are getting a free fucking show man.

      • Glenn Geist Reply

        May 31, 2019 at 9:51 am

        Seems most everyone on my beach hasn’t had a thigh gap since the 1950s, but hey, at least one doesn’t need a wet suit. There’s a nude beach not too far, but hell no, I won’t go. There are things you can’t unsee.

        • jess Reply

          May 31, 2019 at 11:27 am

          I surf, so I want the protection a wetsuit gives me for that in the cold SF water. Southern Ca I don’t need the suit much and the beach I have been to at mom’s friend in Mexico nope not there either. Come on man, I have seen some of those women from like Miami and they have thigh gaps the size of the grand canyon, some of those woman are fucking gorgeous. Rest of the time I flaunt my body in a teeny tiny bikini till I won’t be able to anymore. That day will come as it does for all of us but till then I smoosh my girls in a top and my Puerto Rican ass in the smallest bottoms I can get away with, I don’t like tan lines much you see 🙂 We have a nude beach here Kent and I went to a few times too, see tan lines comment above. Old men playing beach volleyball in the nude is a thing I will never be able to unsee either so I feel your pain.

  5. Bill Formby Reply

    May 31, 2019 at 11:16 am

    There is a parallel between peoples of all countries. Most that I have been around have a funny go to getting laughs. But somewhere along the line we have found people to be uncomfortable at acknowledging their true feelings when they are the butt of the joke. Being a southerner I understand the humor about Southern Rednecks, their ignorance, sometimes it is all to true, and their backward way of thinking. I remember a routine someone did about the eating habits of southerners. A guy from New York who wanted to know what a grit was and how in the world someone would go about eating a grit. Well now days people pay a lot of money for something people called “Shrimp N Grits”. While it is a tasty dish, many southerners enjoy it as well. The humor, to me at least, is that grits were the only food people had to eat, i.e., it was a poor man’s food. Apparently, though, the shoe is on the other foot for those who understood how important “a grit” was to survival. Often, those who used it as a fun joke at southerners.
    Whether we like it or not, many times those funny things were hurtful to the butts of the jokes, but it seems that no one minded hurting someone for their own amusement. I oersonally thought it was funny as hell when people from New York, Boston, and Philliy started their own experiences with ntegration. It was our turn to laugh because, with the exception of few politicians and redneck idiots, most people in the southern states had been able to get past the issue of racism. Many, like myself, had grown up with with a de facto live with minorities or people of color. When I join the Marines it was easy to accept that my Senior Drill Instructor was a black man. Half my platoon were from New York and had far more problems dealing with integration. Today, I look back and am actually thankful for my circumstances of being poor. Being a person who understood what was funny to some, can also hurt. The fact is that the current racist president capitalized on those hurtful things and we now see where that has got us. Donald Trump is a buffoon who became the most powerful man in the world through the mockery of people. America has lost much of its goodness for the sake of a few laughs. I repeat my always funny line,at least to me, of quoting Pogo. “We have found the enemy and he is us.”

    • jess Reply

      May 31, 2019 at 11:29 am

      I think when you joke up at power and it’s offensive it’s okay but when you joke down and demean people and it’s offensive that’s not. I hope that makes sense because it does to me and it is all about me you know 🙂

  6. Neil Bamforth Reply

    May 31, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    You’re all right of course. Sometimes, so called humor is just cruel and hurtful.

    However, the danger is, to me, that the ‘offended generation’ are trying to stop any humor that they want to find offensive.

    It can be a thin line but, never the less, it’s a line that needs protecting.

    • Bill Formby Reply

      June 1, 2019 at 10:37 am

      There is humor and there the intent to demean a person or groups of people. Whether something is funny or not often lies in context and situation. One person that brings that point home was a comedian/actor Don Rickles. He was known for his quips about people, usually in his audience, but he always made a point of saying that it was all in fun. He was also an equal opportunity attack dog. I don’t know anyone who he did not hit with his quick comments. He was especially populare at what are called “Roasts.” He was a pal of the famous “Rat Pack” (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis Jr and a few others.) but even with his insistence that it was all in fun, too much is sometimes too much. I liked him most of the time but the constant barrage of those joke gets old fast. However, his humor was not as demeaning as those told among friends. In friend groups the humor was actually meant to demean, otherwise it would not seem funny. They often meant what the individual meant, or what was in his mind. It tends to reinforce stereotypes of people who were being targeted. My last word on this is that someone cannot, on one hand, say something that is not in their mind. I state that well knowing I am as guilty of it as anyone.

      • jess Reply

        June 1, 2019 at 10:59 am

        Oh the friends thing I totally get. Our tight group of friends, we have inside jokes from way back back back before Jeebus walked with the dinosaurs even because we have known each other so long. There are things friends can say to other friends others cannot. I can say my best friend is a complete asshole of a guy right now (he’s not really but he can be, so can I ) but if anyone and I mean anyone agrees with me, I will lunge at them and cut a bitch because they are not allowed 🙂

        • Glenn Geist Reply

          June 1, 2019 at 11:47 am

          Knowing when and what and how and how not to say something is part of being a social animal and most of us are good at it and don’t need some self-righteous propaganda nerd to tell us what words mean or don’t. I resent it and apparently I’m not the only one.

          The other night on Neil Degrasse Tyson’s talk show, a professor of linguistics explained that the purpose of her field was to make sure that people weren’t subject to words that dismissed or diminished or offended protected minorities. I remember when it was the study of origins and usages and evolution of words and grammars. Now it’s about “words have power” and we’re here to limit your power to use them and make sure you can’t say anything we don’t like. Just as Orwell described Newspeak – down to the last detail.

          • jess Reply

            June 1, 2019 at 1:16 pm

            I know right. It’s like the word cunt. I will never understand what the big deal is with that word**, it is just a word and know what, most of the assholes you call that lack the warmth and depth of a cunt so you are doing them a favor calling them that.

            **It is entirely possible I may watch too much British television where that word is used as a filler, like a and the is here 🙂

  7. Neil Bamforth Reply

    June 1, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Spot on Glenn!!!

  8. Glenn Geist Reply

    June 1, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    You won’t be surprised to hear that the other guest, a geneticist, explained her discipline was about proving the equality of all people. In other words, science is about asserting ideas, not deriving theories from evidence.

  9. Neil Bamforth Reply

    June 2, 2019 at 11:49 am

    Jess, you would have made a glorious British punk had you been around in the 70’s 😁👍… Punk rock on!!! 😀

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