Comedy and Humor
Comedy and humor are interwoven into our everyday activities. It ranges from sharing a funny joke, funny experience, to sharing a dark satire. Over the years, the definition and purpose of comedy have evolved. It goes beyond making one smile or laugh. Cohen and Richards acknowledge that comedy is making individuals reflect on existing realities in the society that often go unnoticed (2018). Therefore, comedy today is defined as a platform where comedians present their ideas and opinions in a funny manner, but with an aim of either creating awareness, or condoning bad behavior.
History of Comedy
Comedy in the past focused on interesting topics that made people giggle. However, comedy today touches on sensitive subjects and feelings, with an aim of making people work through tough issues (O’Hara, 2016). Comedy can be of different types such as political comedy, slapsticks, satires, among others. Political comedy is one type that has been greatly used over the years. It refers to a form of entertainments that aims at discussing political matters in a more fun way or poking at certain politicians.
O’Hara states that John Fugelsang reports that the most magnificent comedians are those that utilize political comedy as a channel of passing truths (2016). Although there are comedians who focus on political comedy, most focus on multicultural differences. Therefore, comedians throughout the globe are utilizing all types of comedy to discuss the aspect of multicultural differences. More so, women are also using comedy as a defense tool.
Minority Groups and Comedy
Minority groups are known to have no voice in society. However, humor has become a powerful tool for them “to neutralize the power of stereotypes that obstruct their path to equal participation in society “(Cohen and Richards, 2018). This report by Cohen and Richards concurs with that report by O’Hara who argues that comedy has given individuals a role of challenging the marginalization, stereotyping, and stigmatization of specific groups (2016). Among the many topics that comedians touch on, is that of multicultural differences.
David Chappelle is an African-American comic who addresses the aspect of multicultural differences in his comedy. He tries to challenge the aspect of defining people by either being black or white. In one particular scene, he played as Clayton Bigsby, “a blind white supremacist, who has never learned that he’s black”, yet condemns blacks (Cohan and Richards, 2018).
The primary objective of his role is to address the racism issue that is quite prevalent in most of our societies today and especially in the United States. Such comedy skits and plays have helped open people’s eyes on racism and in turn, helped to condemn its prevalence.
“Minority groups have long used comedy to get the American mainstream to accept them for who they are” (Cohen and Richards, 2018). According to Cohen and Richards, these minority groups entail immigrants, old folks, Muslims, the LGBT Community (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, and Transgender), Blacks, women, Asians, and Arabs (2016). Comics such as Merriwether-de Vries tend to play the role of a stereotype in order to show people what they undergo under the many prejudices they face.
Merriwether-de Vries on Comedy
According to Merriwether-de Vries, comedy conducted when playing the role of a stereotype helps shed knowledge on the challenges faced by such minority groups. Comedians do this to try and minimize or bring a halt to such inhumane and immoral behaviors.
According to Yue et al., (2016), Humor is perceived differently in Western and Eastern cultures. Although comedy is seen as a good channel to challenge the mindset of mainstream society, some fear that laughter is not a significant medium for passing such heavy content (Cohen and Richards, 2018).
Despite comedy contributing to positive changes such as the emergence of Muslim comics, some feel that this is not enough (Cohen and Richards, 2018). However, according to Cohen and Richards (2018), most believe that it is a crucial step in helping mend the significant gap of the minorities in society.
The minority group also comprises of women. Most known comedians in the past were males. Jenkins merely refers to this comedy era as a “boys club” (2015). The male comics included people such as Will Rogers, George Burns, Jack Benny, among many more. However, there are a lot of women comedians in the world today. They include ladies such as Amy Schumer, Tiffany Haddish, Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman, among many others.
Unlike the male comedians, women comics only performed under strict restrictions concerning their identity and personae (Jenkins, 2015). However, as time passed, Jenkins reports that women became more acceptable into the comedy world (2015).
Women comics face rather different challenges in the comic world, unlike men. This has made them use comedy as a voice of defense for themselves, and also other women and marginalized groups. According to the report by Jenkins, Sarah Silverman reports that women comics are sexualized unlike the men (2015). Sarah acknowledges that women face sexuality and femininity challenges (Jenkins, 2015).
According to the report by Jenkins, Sarah states that the slightest move by a woman comic is misinterpreted for a sex move (2015). Therefore, women comics are using comedy to change the manner in which the society perceives them. Moreover, they are also trying to fight against the objectification and prevalent chauvinism present in our workplace and other institutions.
Comedy as a Defense Tool
Comedy is also a relevant defense tool for the women comics. Women are among the minority groups who often have no voice in the society (Cohen and Richards, 2018). In the past, women were simply expected to stay at homes, take care of the children, and perform household chores. However, women comics are defying this notion and changing the expectations of women in society today.
They are using their power to defend themselves against traditional norms that inhibit their use of the talent that ultimately makes them suffer financially. Women comics are helping other women in the society break out of their shell and start indulging in economical jobs instead of being housewives.
A lot is happening in our world. Talk about racism, chauvinism, poverty, health issues, power struggle, among many others. Comedy is providing a platform for the society to reflect on these issues, without causing conflict to the intended parties. This is either through political comedy, dark puns, satires, or alternative humor. Of all the discussed topics, multicultural differences tend to be the most touched on by comics.
Discussing this rampant issue through comedy has helped curb the racism numbers in the world. Women comics are also utilizing comedy as a defense tool against binding traditional expectations and sexual acts. This act has enabled women all over the globe to stand up for their sexual rights as well as venture into entrepreneurship.
- Cohen, R. and Richards, R. When the truth hurts, tell a joke: Why America needs its comedians, 2018. Accessed 6 November 2018.
- Jenkins, D. M., “Was It Something They Said? Stand-up Comedy and Progressive Social Change” (2015).Graduate Theses and Dissertions.
- O’ Hara. M. How comedy makes us better people, 30 August 2016. Accessed 6 November 2018.
- Yue, Xiaodong, et al. “To be or not to be humorous? Cross cultural perspectives on humor.” Frontiers in psychology 7 (2016): 1495.