Crankster

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Suck It Up, You Pussy!

A few years ago, my friend Josh, and I were hanging out, drinking beer, and joking about child molestation. Right in the middle of a particularly good Catholic joke, Josh's hyper-liberal, blue-haired, punk-wannabe roommate came in. This roommate, who we'll call Adam (because that's his real name), proceeded to yell at us because our jokes were offensive. He shrilly called us on the carpet, demanding to know if either of us had ever been molested. When we didn't respond, he told us that we had no right to tell sodomy jokes unless we had been abused. After this tirade, he stormed out, leaving the two of us feeling...raped. Now, I can't talk for Josh, but I attended a repressive Catholic boys school for a couple of years and had some experiences that...well...I don't really want to discuss. More to the point, I didn't want to wave them around like a flag for the sole purpose of arguing with Adam.

A few years later, I was teaching a class on satire. When discussing Mac Flecknoe, I discussed how John Dryden "rabidly" attacked on a colleague. One of my students, Maggie, raised her hand and said, with a perfectly straight face, that her aunt had died from rabies. I was initially taken aback, until I noticed that Maggie had started smiling. She explained that she didn't really know the aunt, and had found the discussion amusing.

It seems to me that people have increasingly taken the position that self-righteous offense is the ideal all-purpose response to any joke. The reasoning here seems to be that jokes can hurt people's feelings, so we should avoid any humor that smacks of controversy. Unless, of course, we belong to the offended minority, in which case we are "speaking out" and "owning our pain."

Frankly, this is total and complete bullshit.

Let me break it down for you. Imagine someone--we'll call him Crankster--who's mother was Jewish, but converted to Catholicism. His father was Episcopalian, and also converted to Catholicism. Now, Crankster was raised Catholic, but always had a strong awareness of his Jewish roots (the whole Episcopalian thing doesn't matter, because Episcopalians aren't funny). Now, as an adult, Crankster stopped going to church, making him a lapsed Catholic. So, can Crankster tell Catholic jokes? How about Jewish jokes? What about Episcopalian jokes (assuming he could find the elusive Episcopalian joke)? Can he only tell Jewish jokes when there isn't a full-blooded son of Abraham in the room? What if a priest walks into a bar where Crankster is telling a Father Nelson joke? Should Crankster stop telling the joke or should he just ask for an impromptu confession? Should he just get down on his knees?

Maybe this is a logic problem: If Crankster is on a train going West out of Cincinnati at 60 miles per hour and he's telling a Catholic joke...

Who is the final arbiter of taste and political correctness? Is there a U.N. commission on humor that Crankster can apply to in order to get a permit allowing him to tell Jewish jokes? Should he just whip out his genealogy when he gets called on the carpet, or does the fact that he's circumcised get him an automatic pass?

The bottom line is this: every joke is offensive to someone. Every joke. If you don't believe me, ask a severe autistic what he thinks of knock-knock jokes. Blonde jokes, Polish jokes, husband jokes, wife jokes, dirty jokes, Catholic jokes--regardless of the joke, I'm sure you can find someone who will take offense, if not for himself, then for a Catholic he knows, or a great-grandfather who was Polish.

So, unless we go with the whole U.N. commission on humor thing (which, by the way, was a joke) we're left with two choices. We can either stop telling jokes, in which case the world will be a colder and less enjoyable place, or we can all take a deep breath, pull our heads out of our asses, and recognize that humor is a way of relating to others, sharing ideas, and dealing with pain. And, yes, making fun of priests.

13 Comments:

  • I used to go into online chat rooms, and when someone would tell a joke, I would claim to be of the group the joke was about. The uncomfortable silence and the stumbling apologies are a scream. I have been Polish, Mexican, etc. all in the same conversation, although the second claim isn't taken very seriously. ;-)

    By Anonymous Just D, At October 25, 2006 at 12:22 PM  

  • "The notion that inspired play (even when audacious, offensive, or
    obscene) enhances rather than diminishes intellectual vigor and spiritual
    fulfillment, the notion that in the eyes of the gods the tight-lipped hero
    and the wet-cheeked victim are frequently inferior to the red-nosed
    clown, such notions are destined to be a hard sell to those who have E.M.
    Forster on their bedside table and a clump of dried narcissus up their ass.

    "Not to worry. As long as words and ideas exist, there will be a few
    misfits who will cavort with them in a spirit of *approfondement*--if I may
    borrow that marvelous French word that translates roughly as "playing
    easily in the deep"--and in so doing they will occasionally bring to
    realization Kafka's belief that 'a novel should be an ax for the frozen seas
    around us.'"

    -"In Defiance of Gravity" by Tom Robbins, *Harper's Magazine,* Sept
    2004

    By Blogger misanthropster, At October 25, 2006 at 1:37 PM  

  • I can't solve the logic problem until you tell me when the rabbi and the priest left and the direction of the train and the rate of speed.

    I have always been really good at logic stuff.

    By Blogger mist1, At October 25, 2006 at 4:03 PM  

  • What's the quickest way to blind an Asian?

    Put a windshield in front of them.

    I'm Asian...I'm allowed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 25, 2006 at 4:42 PM  

  • Just D-
    You're Satan...and I'm deeply impressed. And, of course, dumbasses are fair game.

    Misanthropster-
    God bless Tom Robbins!

    Lee-
    Why are Jewish men circumcised?

    Jewish women like everything 20% off.

    I'm playing the Jewish card.

    Mist 1-
    If Crankster's on a train traveling west out of Cincinnati and the Pope's on the same track traveling east out of Boise, and they're both going 60 MPH, and Crankster tells a priest molestation joke and hits the punchline at exactly the same time the trains pass, and the Pope (using his super Pope senses) overhears the punchline, then how many years will Crankster spend in purgatory? Extra points if you can tell me how much time he'll get off for working weekends in a soup kitchen for the next ten years.

    Catholic Math--I took algebra in a parochial school.

    By Blogger Crankster, At October 25, 2006 at 7:07 PM  

  • i remember when maggie said that and I also remember the incredibly awkward moment of silence that followed.

    ... and by the way, i take offense to that joke you left on my voice mail

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 25, 2006 at 11:30 PM  

  • Holtet-
    Yeah...good times. And, by the way, that wasn't a joke.

    By Blogger Crankster, At October 26, 2006 at 1:32 AM  

  • Oooh,oooh!! Me me! I know! It's ZERO years in purgatory because they decided it doesn't exist!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 26, 2006 at 10:55 PM  

  • Lee-
    I know! Isn't that a bitch! I always enjoyed the idea of purgatory, but now it's all or nothing. In terms of the afterlife, the Catholic church has opted for Russian roulette. Bummer...

    By Blogger Crankster, At October 26, 2006 at 11:54 PM  

  • No Purgatory? Uh oh. Next thing you know, the Buddhists will discontinue the bardos and all hell will break loose.

    I'm not going.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At October 28, 2006 at 9:47 PM  

  • Hearts-
    I KNOW! Hell used to be somewhat exclusive. But now, with Purgatory officially dissolved, you know that they're going to be letting all the riff-raff in!

    By Blogger Crankster, At October 29, 2006 at 9:18 AM  

  • Figures, I was dragged to an Episcopal church every Sunday for most of my childhood, but since they are not funny I don't get free license to tell religious jokes. However, it's so much fun, I think I'll do it anyway. Being PC is almost as unfunny as being Episcopalian. ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 30, 2006 at 12:04 PM  

  • I heard the elusive Episcopalian joke. Actually, I heard two:

    1. How can you tell if a WASP is aroused? His stiff upper lip.

    2. Episcopalians: Wherever there's four, there's a fifth.

    By Blogger Crankster, At October 30, 2006 at 12:20 PM  

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