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Dark humour. Cue the jokes about death, crime, racism, violence and the like. Yes, it may make you feel a smidge guilty for laughing at this form of unfettered comedy but dark humour is entertaining. In this essay, I, Asareel, am going to validate my claim that dark humour does have good taste and is warranted at the best (if not most) of times.
Firstly, many people use dark humour as a way to deflect from the gaping chasm in their heart. Some of the best comedians derive their humour from a hauntingly obsidian place. The America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent shows have birthed such marvellous award-winning comedians, take Lee Ridley aka the Lost Voice Guy for example; born with cerebral palsy, he channels his emotions into his career as a comedian and has done mighty well for himself too walking off the BGT stage clinching the 1-million-dollar prize. That same year, Robert White, a comedian, came in as the runner-up. Mind you, White progressed forward by poking fun at himself as a gay man with Asperger’s (I basically can’t think straight, he quipped). Why laden yourself with emotional cargo when you can make light of an unchangeable situation?
Secondly, I have to point out that several ridiculously hilarious shows are based on dark humour (take a bow, Mr. Ryan Murphy). Chanel Oberlin, the protagonist of Scream Queens, made her name with her scorching remarks on anything and everything. I can honestly say that she was much, much more memorable than boring Grace (the supposed main character, bleurgh). Obviously, this show would have been cancelled had it been released today because of how touchy everyone is these days. Glee, another example, would have been positively riddled with backlash. Their banter has been the subject of much controversy but, I would add, the show wouldn’t be what it is today without the aforementioned jabs.
Finally, the most important point, dark humour is actually funny. Who wants to be bedevilled with those everlasting knock-knock cracks or outdated yo-mamma jokes? I will deign to admit that I may have casted a glance or two at TikTok, solely for their dark humour section. The only YouTuber with sheer brilliance, creativity and comedy (in my opinion), Brandon Rogers, rides on a cresting wave of dark humour.
However, I would agree that dark humour can only be stretched so tautly before it becomes borderline offensive. Some people use dark humour as a convenient loophole to justify their blatant racism or homophobia, et cetera. An important thing to note is that, in the end, dark humour is all about time and place! Take note of your audience and read the room. It is not the wisest thing to jest about dead babies to a couple who has just gone through a miscarriage.
Life is much too short to get your feathers ruffled over jokes about life’s crippling adversities. In my opinion, comedy should be taken like pasta water; with a pinch of salt. It really makes it all the more flavorful, you know? It’s a yay to dark humour from me.
– Asareel, who fervently wishes for Scream Queens to be renewed for a third season.
Perspectives. It doesn’t matter whether it is dark humour or not; it depends on how one interprets a joke based on their own perspective. What I may find hilarious may not be so for you and vice versa. What matters though, is the implication behind a joke. So, I say nay to dark humour because it demeans a segment of people whether done unconsciously or consciously.
Dark humour gives us an excuse to ridicule, to belittle someone saying that it’s alright, because after all, “it’s just a joke right?” Not. Joking about how someone is dressed, about how someone looks, about how someone speaks is not funny. In fact, it can hurt someone. People fail to comprehend how words carry power that do cut deep and dark humour, well, can cause more hurt than joy.
The trend of stand-up comedians to target a group of people, put them down and make a complete mockery out of them is what has glorified dark humour to be what it is today. Many comedians have come under fire for making degrading remarks and making fun of serious issues such as child molestation, racism, or ableism. One such comedian would be Louis C.K., the host of Saturday Night Live who made appalling comments about child molestation during an opening monologue and once even had a stand-up routine entitled ‘It’s Great Being a White Male’.
Probably the most recent example of dark humour used would be regarding the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Without comprehending the gravity of the danger thousands of lives are facing, some have been making videos and memes out of it- spreading them across social media with many becoming viral. Making fun of lives in danger, just shows how this type of humour has gone completely out of hand.
Because things like these are portrayed, teenagers and children fail to tell the difference between what is a joke and what isn’t. Thoughts and actions are cultivated from a young age and what we observe and hear are what we become later on. Shaping a generation who derive joy at the expense of others, is going to lead to a society that is immoral and harmful to others.
Of course, social media plays a huge part in spreading the ‘trend’ of dark humour. There are multiple TikTok videos that are dedicated solely to content with dark humour. Some of these tend to influence many into thinking that everything said is just for fun and should be taken lightly. Why are jokes about suicide and depression brushed aside so easily? Not realising how one really feels deep down can cause much harm in the future. So, try to think it through, lay it out in your head and reflect whether what you say or hear is actually a joke.
No matter what, there are always boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. Lines to draw. Words to reflect upon. I’ll say this again, dark humour is not funny. It discriminates and causes misunderstandings among varying classes of people. Why would one go to such lengths, to mock someone just for fun? Think about it, what you might think is funny might not be something others laugh at.
-Poorani, someone who believes there should be a way to tie the tongues of those who think making sexist jokes are funny.
By: Asareel and Poorani