Respect and Humor

Notifies people of a joke. (SVG version)

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I don’t know who said it (Lord knows it would take me an entire Google search to find out!) but the phrase goes like this: “If you want an unoffensive joke, then one guy and and another guy go into a place. That’s it.” (Ed. note from Angela: That joke’s sexist! Why couldn’t a woman go to a place?!)

Not all humor is by itself offensive. One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, has actually proven that someone can be funny without being offensive. However, a lot of humor is funny because of its offensive quality. Laughter, of course, isn’t used to agree with the statement, only to laugh over the ridiculousness of it. The offensive punchline is shocking, startling, and that makes people laugh.

So, when it comes to podcasting, when do you hold off on a joke?

I’ll be the first to state that offensive jokes make me laugh. I’ll be the first to admit that I do, in fact, say them. However, I think it’s really important for people to realize that people have the right to take offense. So while my group might laugh at a joke that I said around the table, I fully understand the risk of the joke. If I were to get a letter or comment from a fan explaining they were offended, I think in most cases they deserve an apology.

Why? Well, first of all, it’s a nice thing to do.

Secondly, while I understand the ‘fun’ that an offensive joke can hold, I also understand finding something too serious to joke about. I had a friend who died of cancer so whenever I hear a joke involving it, I do feel that pang of sadness. The joke does the opposite of what a joke is meant to do. Instead of laughing, I feel sad. Maybe angry.

When you are around a group of people, it’s important to know what buttons not to press. Some of our groups have worked with mentally handicapped children so you don’t hear handicap jokes from us. The problem with a podcast, however, is that the sense of humor of the audience is hard to gauge. We are constantly getting new people joining us as listeners, and we love it, but the risk of offense grows.

For example, one touchy subject that Fandible has been known to joke about is race. We’ve been known to bring race into our jokes though we try not to disrespect any race with our punchline. The majority of the time, we are mocking the people who say such things earnestly. However, Fandible is very comfortable with race. We have a very diverse group. So we are relaxed on that issue.

When you are creating your own table top group, whether around your kitchen table on Saturday night or podcasting for the whole internet to hear, pay attention to your audience when telling a joke. If someone isn’t laughing at something consistently, that might be because the joke hits close to home. If someone approaches you later and asks you to refrain from telling those types of jokes, you might consider to do it. As a group, you need to meld yourself into becoming comfortable with each other. One person’s discomfort can hold that back.

I suppose what I’m trying to get across is that humor is a delicate thing. And one of the most important thing about humor is knowing your audience. Podcasting needs humor, I believe, to keep it interesting. However, the participants are in a delicate place of not knowing exactly who is listening. Where some people might deal with a certain topic in a serious matter, some will not. While some jokes are funny to others, some will be offended.

The most important thing, though, is for us to all realize that our comments come from a place of jest. If our comments during our podcast make an individual offended, I think (to a degree…) we may owe them an apology.

We’re here to enjoy each other. And while we can’t be the perfect group for the people listening, we are always hoping to hear what people want to say about our content and character. If there is room for improvement, we’ll strive to make that happen.

Unless, of course, your from the Ottoman Empire. Then fuck off, Otters.

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About the Author
Billy started out his roots like many roleplayers - D&D. Playing it and then Vampire all through highschool and college, Billy picked it all up again when he made the move from Michigan to New York. Now working in publishing, Billy does what he can to view roleplaying games through a narrative's lens. Does that sound classy as balls? It should.

2 comments on “Respect and Humor

  1. And remember: you can’t say ‘penis’.


  2. Syren says:

    I know that there has been a lot of trouble in some of my role-playing venues because there is a very active group of fervent feminists and transgender individuals. I myself am homosexual and do enjoy offensive jokes, but they on the other hand do not. It has ended in a few rather heated fights when I was still sitting on the idea I had a right to enjoy these kinds of jokes and believe that the capacity to enjoy them is helpful to reducing the sting of the offense overall.

    Now I am more set to the state of mind here, there are people who just cannot find humor in some of the things I find hilarious. It is good for me to try to shield them from these things.

    My difficulty is they do often in return try to impress guilt on me for enjoying some of these things, even if I make sure not to do it when they are around. And that is something which makes me feel uncomfortable. We are still trying to resolve that.

    Until then I will always keep my eye open for the old woman in Jesus games, because you know what is going to happen next.

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