We all think we have a good sense of humor, are open minded, and can take a joke. Many of us are wrong. Many of us like jokes that do not make us uncomfortable or talk about something that we don’t find funny. We are picky. We know what we like and if it is not what we like then the joke must not be funny. That is completely wrong. Comedy like all art is subjective. I would argue that if one person laughed ever it was a funny joke. It may not consistently get laughs but somebody found it funny. Is the person who laughed wrong for laughing? Of course not.
There have been many times where an audience member is laughing and having a good time and then I do a joke that they do not like. Their demeanor changes. They tighten up. Sometimes they heckle. Sometimes they leave. Sometimes they throw objects. Sometimes they tell me after the show that they did not like a certain joke. It is fine that you do not like a joke or a topic. I do think it is a bit unrealistic to go to a live comedy show where you do not know the performers and expect you will like every joke or every topic. Even more absurd is the feeling that an audience member must tell the performer that they are bothered. I do not see how that is the performer’s issue. That is the audience member’s issue. We don’t get to watch You Tube videos of the audience before they walk in. The audience can do some research on the performer. Years ago I had an audience member walk up to me after an hour long set. She said she did not like my joke about diabetes because somebody she loved had diabetes. So she likes 59 minutes but one minute bothered her so now it was my problem. I told her I had diabetes too and we could share a needle. It was a lie but if I had it too maybe then it was ok. It seemed to placate her and it saved me from having to explain to her how comedy works.
Speaking of how comedy works I now have done that during my show. I have told an audience member who got offended about a joke about children being sexually abused. I took the time during my set to explain I never make fun of the victims as I think that is distasteful to me. I make fun of the criminals. I tell her comedy is subjective. I tell her to hang in and there will be more jokes coming that she will like. She stuck it out and I even got her to laugh at some more child abuse jokes. Kudos to that lady for keeping her mind open.
Unfortunately, I think there are places that are not open minded that still think they want comedy. If you put a lot of restrictions on a comedian you really don’t want a comedian. You want knock knock jokes. You want a children’s show. You don’t want a comedian. I am not saying it is necessary for a comedian to be offensive. I am just saying there is a chance it could happen and it is your problem not the comedian’s problem. There was a story in the news about a comedian / ventriloquist / illusionist who was performing at Purdue and the show did not go well. He had a female student on stage and had her stand back to back and said, “At least I got a feel.” He also had the student touch his upper thigh. Now is it something he should be doing at a college? Perhaps not. However, he was accused of sexual harassment. That is not harassment. At worst it was misreading the room. Students left in tears. They actually cried over this performance. They of course made a hash tag about it. The school said the performance did not represent their values. The reality is many colleges should not even hire comedians anymore. In a society where people get triggered and need a safe space over jokes hiring a comedian is a terrible idea. Just set up a big screen and show videos of guys stepping on rakes and getting blasted in the nuts. It does not require thought. Now I know I am being risqué, as a student might have had a ball injury and feels triggered about this constant assault on random testes. The point is if jokes hurt then don’t put yourself in that situation. In order to do comedy you need to have a set of juevos. Most people are afraid to speak in public. We do it, and we bear our soles. I never really considered us brave. I considered us doing what we are called to do. However, if hearing jokes has the power to bring people to tears imagine the strength of the people who dare repeat said jokes night after night. Unless of course the words are not really the issue. Maybe the real issue is that comedy is not for everybody. Maybe people need to realize that. Maybe comedians need to stop trying to put comedy in places where it will not be appreciated. Comedy is special. It has the ability to take power away from those that have it. It has the power to give power to those who have none. It has the power to make you forget your problems. But it can really only do those things for people that are willing to embrace comedy and not try and bend it to their will but instead be open enough to accept comedy for the gift it is even if you are not a fan of that particular gift on that particular night.
Comedy isn’t for everybody. Comedy is for the open minded. It is ok of you are not open minded. You can binge watch Full House. Just for the love of god don’t see Bob Saget live. You may not have the fortitude for his comedic stylings.