Sunday, July 26, 2009
The demise of comedy
I have noticed an increasingly disturbing trend in comedy, or so called comedy, which is to humiliate and victimize people. Borat and Bruno are excellent examples of this genre. While it could be argued that comics always had innocent people as foils for their jests, the trend to openly ridicule and humiliate, is, I think, recent.
Tricking bystanders was the standard ploy of television shows like "Candid Camera" and more recently, the French "Jusque pour rire". In each of these shows, an unsuspecting citizen is tricked by some fairly elaborate hoaxes. But unlike Borat or Bruno who thrive on ridicule and mockery and shock, at the end of each skit, the citizen is shown the camera and are let in on the joke.
I have heard of an episode with Ellen Degeneres where blindfolded people ate marshmallows with the winner the one who had consumed the most. They could not use their hands. What is the point of such abject humiliation? It surely degrades all of us.
Jesters of the court were known for their wit for their ability to sum up society and poke fun at it. Such wit or comedy requires intelligence and a keen awareness of the situation. Gilbert and Sullivan for example mocked the social and political situation of their day through music. Such comedy engages the audience by respecting their intelligence.
Any act that purports itself to be funny that humiliates, ridicules, or degrades another person is simply not comedy, it is bullying.
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