Classes in feminism – Lesson 1: Comedy

September 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

So the other night Brit and I were hanging out with some friends. Somehow the discussion moved from Scattergories and Taboo to Fraggle Rock and, finally, comedy videos on YouTube. Brit said to pull up Bo Burnham, and there was one song of his that I found funny because he was talking about catchy choruses with a very catchy chorus, so I decided to try and find that one.

Yeah, that failed. Have you ever watched Bo Burnham? If you haven’t, you probably don’t need to. He’s not horrific, but not really all that funny either. One song we stumbled onto sent one of our friends into a perfect rage. “Some guy tells me to swallow his cum because there’s starving kids in Africa, I’d cut his dick off!” While I agree with the sentiment, her anger wasn’t justified–as in explained; I’m not saying it’s not justifiable–any more than that.

On the way home, Brit and I got into a discussion about comedy and why our friend hadn’t found that funny. The conversation continued once we’d climbed into bed as well, after taking a considerable break to watch some Eddie Izzard. I was a bit tipsy from all the wine, so I don’t remember the conversation perfectly. What I’m going to do instead is kind of re-imagine it, because I do remember the gist of what we talked about. And I’m making up a name for our friend….Rosie! (Wow, googling “random girl name” worked!)

Brit: Wow, Rosie sure got mad, huh?

Me: Well, what do you expect? Most of his stuff is pretty offensive. At the least, it’s not that funny.

Brit: I don’t get it. Why’s it offensive?

Me: You really don’t get it?


Me: It’s classist, racist, and sexist.

Brit: He’s being sarcastic.

Me: He’s doing it wrong. Yes, comedy has a license to laugh at horrible things by examining them in different lights to expose their idiocies. But saying something like how he was telling women to swallow his cum because there are children starving in Africa isn’t doing that. You might look at it and, because you are who you are, you see satire. Someone who really believes that women are there only for the pleasure of men will look at it and see truth. Some people can do this right, like Stephen Colbert, but when you get to topics like sexual violence, or when you get with an entertainer who isn’t drawing a sharp enough line, like Bo Burnham, it’s just plain offensive.

The conversation went on for quite a while, as I stated above, but I think in the end he got it. We examined privilege–both of us being young, middle-class, white, and mostly straight–as well as different kinds of comedy. I think that Brit got it, at least partially. Though we’ve had many conversations that basically boil down to teaching him feminism.

Really, he’s a feminist and just doesn’t know it yet. It always seems that when I point out why I don’t find certain dishwasher jokes funny, he gets it and agrees with me. Then again, he may just be doing the smile and nod, but I don’t think so. That or he’s really good at it.


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