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That joke isn’t funny. Ever.


I was scrolling earlier through my Facebook feed, when I encountered more than one status update making jokes in reference to last night’s tragic shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, CO. The words to The Smiths’ song, “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” soon came to mind:

But that joke isn’t funny anymore
It’s too close to home
And it’s too near the bone
It’s too close to home
And it’s too near the bone
More than you’ll ever know …
Kick them when they fall down
Kick them when they fall down
You kick them when they fall down

The song does deal with other issues, but essentially the message is the same – there are consequences to be had of making light of other people’s pain or misfortune.

I like a good joke as much as anyone, and can appreciate sharp wit. But as Curtis Luciani illustrated so well in his recent article with regard to Daniel Tosh’s rape jokes, there is a difference between using comedy to create satire or social commentary on a hot-button issue and simply being snarky or malicious:

Lovers of the art form generally seem to agree that comedy is one of the few sacred spaces where commentary can be made on difficult, taboo topics in order to invite dialog. But most would also agree it takes a keenly honed sense of awareness and subtlety to execute these types of jokes successfully.

What I find all the more troubling is that the individuals who see fit to crack jokes about innocent people being shot in a movie theater, or devastated by a tsunami or hurricane are the same people who would be outraged by jokes about September 11, the Oklahoma City bombing or the Holocaust. Why are some subjects deemed taboo, but others aren’t? As Luciani also states so perfectly:

I ain’t buying any of that “If I can make jokes about genocide, why can’t I make jokes about rape?” Horseshit, unless you made those genocide jokes during a gig at the Srebrenica Funny Bone. You got away with making a joke about genocide because your odds of having a holocaust survivor’s kid in the audience were pretty fucking low.

The odds on Facebook or Twitter that you will know someone who knows someone connected somehow with a major tragedy is actually quite high. As it turns out, I’ve been to Aurora CO, and know people who live there. Just as I knew people directly or indirectly affected by September 11, the tsunami in Japan, tornadoes here in the South, bombings in India, and the Holocaust. Is that laughter I hear? Nope.

From the context of the people in the theater last night, their trauma and suffering is just as real and as unspeakable as anyone who crawled out from the wreckage of bombed buildings, had their home crumble or get blown apart around them, or were interred in a concentration camp. No one in that theater deserved to be shot at or killed. No one in that theater deserved to experience a night of terror, anguish and trauma. And yes, this is a terrorist act, even if it may not be – as far as we know – politically or religiously motivated.

None of them deserve cheap jokes made at their expense. Luciani points out that this is what bullies do.

People tend not to give this much thought, but I can’t even imagine the heartbreak the gunman’s mother is experiencing right now.  Imagine getting a phone call in the middle of the night, and the other person on the line is telling you that your son was arrested for methodically gunning down numerous people. Aside from actually losing our child, this is probably the biggest horror a parent can face. We bring forth a child from our womb, perfect at birth and full of potential. But nothing we do can guarantee our child will not grow up to perpetuate a deranged killing spree. There is certainly nothing funny about that.

My heart and thoughts go out to the movie theater victims, their families and their communities. I wish them peace, deep healing and abiding support.

Connect with Dana on Google+.

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One thought on “That joke isn’t funny. Ever.

  1. Profound and heartfelt sentiments, Dana…wonderfully expressed! My heart hurts for this senseless tragedy – the sheer surprise and horror of being ambushed in a movie theater. I just can’t understand this insanity.

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