What it means to be funny

I spend a lot of time on Twitter, for better or worse. It has negatively affected the volume of content I produce for this website in any event.

Twitter is a cesspool and a goldmine rolled into one. I can barely scroll fast enough through American politics, only to be caught by surprise by an hilarious tweet (and less so, an hilarious meme).

There are genuinely good people on the Internet, and many of them are on Twitter. A lot of the SQL Server community can be found there, and I interact daily with those fine people.

I also follow a lot of comedians (and comediennes, though it pains me to write that word because I consider women as funny, if not moreso, than men, and would prefer one word to describe funny people), and revel in their satirical takes.

I’ve said many times before that satire doesn’t have to be funny. I’m also an avowed fan of some fairly awful humour, including Elftor and Monty Python. And yes, there are grotesque, terrible, horrible, outrageous, abysmal, unfunny jokes on my Humour page. Jokes that would make Mike Cernovich blush.

Humour is both liberating and constricting. A poorly-timed and / or tasteless joke can be a stand-up comedian’s career suicide. Jokes that punch down are considered to be in poor taste in PC culture today. Jerry Seinfeld and other comedians have complained that their jokes don’t do well in American colleges anymore because of the fear of offending someone.

I have been critical of jokes on Twitter despite all that, despite my love of bad puns and Elftor and baby jokes. I have lashed out at (predominantly) white men who feel the need to make everything a joke, and I guess this is an admission of a double standard.

Though not a defence of my position, I think this is because I find it hard to make light of racists, literal Nazis, homophobes and transphobes, because it legitimizes those people in ways that I cannot express in a New York Times op-ed.

And yet. And yet, making light of horror is the purview of comedians, which (for example) Mel Brooks took to heart with anti-Nazi themes in many of his films. Ridiculing people takes away their power.

Perhaps I am too sensitive because I have been guilty myself of punching down with my humour. Perhaps the time has come to delete the baby jokes and the Princess Diana jokes, funny as some of them are.

I really don’t know how I feel, or how I should feel, about this.