Jokes Are Funny Things...

Jokes are funny things, and I didn't mean it as a pun.

Jokes are funny (or not) very much dependent on the mood of the person who hears or reads them. Most silly jokes are funny because they tickle us in a very basic, universal way. "One peanut says to the other, 'I am a salted.' " That's cute.

Then you have the blonde jokes, the men or women jokes. Well, they are funny in a broad, generalized way but are they really? It's not really that funny if you're a blonde and you've heard one too many blonde joke. Or a man who hears another penis joke. Or a woman who hears another PMS joke or "why women can't drive" joke. We chuckle and brush these jokes off because, well, they are pretty funny, and in general, they don't mean any harm. They are more like social commentaries. The "men vs. women" jokes are funny because in a very twisted way, they speak the true about gender differences and the on-going battles of the sexes. These jokes are considered funny and less offensive because they carry a small nugget of truth, even at the expense of the targets of their ridicules.

Politicians, celebrities and public figures are open for the season. Paris Hilton must have skin as thick as her makeup (ba da bing). * my apologies, Mr. Hilton *

Gay jokes are considered a no-no now, unless told by gay people and their friends. Jokes about disabled people are also considered bad taste. Fat jokes are also a taboo. So what's left?

And how about racial jokes, or jokes about a certain nationality. We've all heard them. Polish jokes. French jokes. Asian jokes. Black jokes. Muslim jokes. Are we too desensitized about them? Is it really okay to tell yet another "Koreans eat dogs" joke? Are those people offended by them too sensitive, and should they just get over it?

I am good natured enough that I don't mind an occasional Chinese or Asian joke. Many of them are funny, in a non-malicious way. "Chinese people name their children by dropping silverware in the sinks." HAHA. Personally, I avoid telling any racial jokes at all, and when I do tell a Chinese joke, it's all done in a self-deprecating, shrug-it-off way. Much like gay people calling themselves "fags" or black people calling themselves "n***gers," in a way, it's a way to reclaim our dignity and identity and brush the hate away. Say what you want, but I don't give a damn.

But there is a line. And don't call me "sensitive" when someone crosses the line and I feel offended. Because these jokes, however trivial we think they are, are still hurtful to some people. And done in a malicious way, they are doubly hurtful.

Recently, someone online posted a supposedly funny joke entitled "Nuke and Eat a Cubie." While not many people thought it was funny, not many people challenged it either, even after they realized "Cubie" means Cuban. The word that bothered me was "nuke." To me, that hints as something malicious. While some people might think, "Oh, the guy's just playing with words and the situation about Cuba and its nuclear weapons," for some reason, I just found it offensive, and I am not even Cuban.

I mean, imagine a line like "Nuke and Eat a Jewie" and you will see people up in arms calling it anti-semitic. What offended me was that, somehow, "Cubans" are fair game.

Then the person made another off-colored joke about Koreans eating dogs. That was the last straw for me.

Perhaps I am having PMS. Perhaps I am having penis envy. Perhaps I am actually a blonde. Or Polish. Or "retarded" (oh, that's the word you can't even use anymore, but somehow, it's okay to keep saying "but don't you Chinese eat dogs?"). Maybe the guy just caught me off guard at the wrong time. My sensitivity meter is way off the chart.

What disappointed me was that people I respected and liked also didn't think it was such a big deal. Instead of saying "it is really in bad taste," they just say "Oh, Ray, you're just being sensitive." Excuse me? It is fine if you personally don't find the joke offensive, but when someone does, please at least try to acknowledge the issue and not brush it off as "Oh, you're just being sensitive." I feel like I can't even challenge something that is offensive to me. That, somehow, if I openly criticize the person who made the joke, I will be seen as unreasonable and silly and, worse, a crybaby.

That's the worst feeling, to feel that you're alone, and the whole world is laughing at you because you're "too sensitive." That even your friends don't care because, well, they haven't said a thing about it.

It's hard, sometimes, to tell where that line is. A joke is funny until it's not. What I'd like for everyone to understand is this: if someone tells you the joke isn't funny, and that it is offensive, take it back and think about it. Perhaps they're wrong. Perhaps they are right. But don't just brush it off. Be mindful that there is a line somewhere, and maybe you really have crossed it.

Humor is a personal thing. And when it gets personal, "sensitive" is not a dirty word.


Unique said…
geez, Ray

I've never heard of Cubans being called 'cubies'.

Of course this isn't my home planet...

But seriously, how do you fit 'em in the microwave?

overdog said…
You're right, Ray. That one was offensive. I don't much like any of them, but I usually let them slide. Except jokes about rape. Not funny. We all have our spots.

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