On the Doctrine of Comedic Infallibility

28 07 2012

There have been a few controversies recently regarding comedians making stupid, clumsy jokes about sensitive issues. First it was Daniel Tosh’s response to a heckler that “wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like five guys right now?” People got pissed off about that joke, and other people got pissed off that those people got pissed off, and pointless Internet arguments ensued. Then Dane Cook apparently remembered the good old days when he was the comic that everyone suddenly realized was way overrated and maybe kind of a douche, and he made an equally dull, unfunny joke about the Aurora, Colorado shootings.

Dane Cook at ComicCon

Dane Cook, looking a lot like Dane Cook.

I’m not a person who believes that certain topics are off limits for comedians. Anything can be made funny if it’s done right. That’s the art of comedy. But in these two cases, the jokes weren’t done right. They were lazy, uncreative, and unfunny. That is why people were offended. If you’re going to make jokes about taboo subjects like that, you’d damn well better know what you’re doing. You didn’t see the Internet get in an uproar over the article The Onion published about the Aurora shootings, because the writers at The Onion know how to tackle difficult, terrible subjects and satirize them in a way that is not only funny, but cathartic. Dane Cook showed no such subtlety or finesse. He is not known for subtlety or finesse, and as such he really should just leave the difficult topics to wittier comics.

I’m an ex-Catholic, and one of the things I find most absurd about Catholicism is the idea of papal infallibility. That’s the doctrine that says that the Pope is always right, no matter how stupid or terrible the things he’s saying may seem to everyone who isn’t the Pope. Trying to brush countless allegations of child abuse under the rug? Hey, he’s the Pope. You can’t question it. This same idea seems to have crept into comedy now. Trying to make an “edgy” joke about rape or murder but failing to actually make it funny? Hey, he’s a comedian. You can’t criticize him.

Bullshit. No one is exempt from criticism, not even the Pope or Dane Cook.