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My favourite animated television show is Family Guy. Created by Seth MacFarlane, this show pushes the boundary of what an animated show can become. With edgy humour, witty dialogue, socio-political commentary and loads of immature jokes; Family Guy is the one show I can guarantee will always get a laugh out of me on every episode. But sometimes I find myself struggling to laugh at certain jokes. Let’s look at this clip from a cutaway joke made on the 14th episode of the 12th season:

Now that was a smart one liner, and although not necessarily malicious, I think we can all agree it was in bad taste. This begs the question of where should writers draw the line when it comes to creating humour out of a very sensitive topic. And I understand how, sometimes, jokes can be created as a coping mechanism under stressing situations.

In an article written by Rachel R. Gouin, she states that, “Under certain circumstances… humor can be a powerful tool for resistance and a means of coping with difficult situations”. But at what point do we cross the line from coping mechanism to a damaging tool that is insensitive to people, particularly children (in this case), who have been victims of paedophilia and/or sexual abuse?

Heavy stuff, huh? Well if you’re still reading this, I’m glad you’re still interested. We should be careful of the “It was just a joke” phenomenon, because it allows for offensive ignorance that can be dangerous to individuals who are personally affected by certain jokes.

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As an aspiring writer myself, I cannot suggest that comedy writers consider EVERYONE’S ‘feelings’ when writing jokes for television, films or even stand-up. If a joke is to be edgy and have a shock value to it, someone somewhere will probably be offended by it. But in most instances, offense is hardly ever given, it is rather taken. So as a comedian, it is nearly impossible not to offend anyone in a joke. Shows like Family Guy and comedians like Jimmy Carr, however, revel at the chance to push the boundary of ‘offensive humour’ and test the limits of how far they can go before putting people off with their jokes.

In conclusion, humour is subjective, regardless of what types of jokes you prefer, we all need to laugh sometimes. It is okay to be offended by a joke that you perceive to be insensitive to a certain touching issue. And if you are like me, it is also okay to laugh hysterically at a joke – that might be in bad taste – designed to bring levity to dark subject matter.  Some of us have learned to laugh at our pain and the pain of others, not with malicious intent, but as a way of coping with the horrible realities that we face in our lives each and every day.


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