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ing out of my mouth rather than actually finding it funny. In my case, such offensive jokes were a bit childish and with little point to them. People had a right to feel offended. But what about the comedians and writers who are making a good point? How about the ones who look the audience in the eyes and ask, “Why does this offend you?”

Leonard Alfred Schneider, better known as Lenny Bruce, was a controversial stand up doing the New York circuit in the Fifties and Sixties. More than just a ‘joke-man’, he was a social commentator. One of the more notorious of his routines saw him stand on stage and deliver the following

(Warning: if racial slurs offend you then I’d strongly advise skipping this part… though, considering the whole point of this piece, I’d really appreciate it if you carried on reading).

“ Are there any niggers here tonight? Could you turn on the house lights, please, and could the waiters and waitresses just stop serving, just for a second? And turn off this spot. Now what did he say? "Are there any niggers here tonight?" I know there's one nig- ger, because I see him back there working. Let's see, there's two niggers. And between those two niggers sits a kike. And there's another kike— that's two kikes and three niggers. And there's a spic. Right? Hmm? There's another spic. Ooh, there's a wop; there's a polack; and, oh, a couple of greaseballs. And there's three lace-curtain Irish micks. And there's one, hip, thick, hunky, funky, boogie. Boogie boogie. Mm-hmm. I got three kikes here, do I hear five kikes? I got five kikes, do I hear six spics, I got six spics, do I hear seven niggers? I got seven niggers. Sold American. I pass with seven niggers, six spics, five micks, four kikes, three guineas, and one wop. Well, I was just trying to make a point, and that is that it's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, "I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet," and if he'd just say "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" to every nigger he saw, "boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie," "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" 'til nigger didn't mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.”

It’s hard to deny the bravery (or stupidity… it’s a very thin line) of what Bruce did. He stood on stage in a room full of people from all different backgrounds and

ethnicities, in New York, at a time when racial ten- sions were high and said words, so loaded with hate, over and over again. But there was a point. It was shocking, sure. It was offensive, no doubt. But it was drawing attention to a larger issue.

I admit to having a big problem with tabloids that re- port on the apparent ‘outrage’ induced by a big-name comedian or film or TV programme. Some jokes, es- pecially ones with the potential to offend, tend not to translate will through the written word, without the benefit of context and intonation that comes with a live delivery. they could just come across as harsh and unsavoury. When a risqué comment or joke that gets picked up in the press, the retelling of the joke in print stirs up so much more disgust than had the readers heard it told live.

Take Jimmy Carr’s joke about amputee soldiers last year: "Say what you like about those servicemen am- putees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're going to have a good Paralympic team in 2012."

The tabloids were incensed and disgusted. They found mothers of servicemen amputees (who hadn’t neces- sarily heard the joke but had read about it through The Daily Mail’s ‘Sensationalisation Filter)’ who were equally incensed and disgusted. “It's disgusting,” said Rena Weston (see?). “This is a person that is in the public limelight and he can't be allowed to get away with saying such things.”

They also found a mother who was willing to give Carr a good telling off. Diana Dernie said, “I hope Jimmy Carr realises that these soldiers have lost their limbs fighting before he makes jokes like that. Soldiers are fighting for freedom of speech. There's no one with a better sense of humour than the lads who have lost limbs. It's unfortunate that people like Jimmy Carr abuse them.”

Now, I’m not saying that these people aren’t entitled to their opinions and aren’t within their rights to feel offended, but was Carr really “abusing” soldiers who had lost limbs? Or was he making a political point? Or was he just telling a joke? A good one, at that? I like that Diana Dernie mentioned that she thinks soldiers who have lost limbs have a good sense of humour. I hope that said servicemen and women are able to take things that comedians say with a pinch of salt, and that so long as they’re laughing about it first, nothing anyone else can say will sting quite as bad.

Dave Brain, a Bristol-based filmmaker and comedy Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36
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