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Comedy, Taste and Taboo

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Jodie Rich

on 22 November 2013

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Transcript of Comedy, Taste and Taboo

Comedy, Taste and Taboo
Discussion Questions:
By Jodie, Sydney, Gabija and Kotryna
Introduction to South Park
South Park
is an American adult animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone that is famous for its crude language and dark and surreal humour that satirizes a wide range of topics.
South Park's
satire was described by the
Telegraph
as the most offensive in the history of television. The show has also been described as: '
ugly to look at, unpleasant on the ear, badly drawn, execrably voiced, puerile, cynical, expletive-ridden, vulgar, trashy and almost entirely free of likeable or, indeed, psychologically plausible, characters' (Delingpole, 2010)
.
South Park
conventionally skewers cultural trends, celebrities and political figures.
Comedy surrounding the topic of 'tragic death'
Hell on Earth 2006
shows an animated Steve Irwin at a Halloween party in hell with a stingray poking out of his bleeding chest.
Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter was killed a few weeks prior to the
Hell on Earth 2006
episode -->
Too soon?
Are there limits to comedy?
Should certain things: death, child abuse and sexuality be joked about?
Comedy Central defended the episode -“ South Park has offended people in the past and probably will again. Regular watchers would not be shocked."
The fact that the joke is offensive is the point –
you are supposed to be offended by it, you are not supposed to agree with it
--> Taboo awareness = comical.
Bad taste?
Tampa Bay Rays US baseball - "I love Steve Irwin but come on, it's funny," Johnson told the NY Daily News. "There's a funny old saying, 'don't take life too serious, you won't make it out alive."
INSULT COMEDY
is a comedy genre in which the act
consists mainly of offensive

insults
directed at the performer's
audience and/or other performers.
Typical targets for insult include individuals in the show's audience, the town hosting the performance, or the subject of a roast. An insult comedian often maintains a
competitive and interactive relationship
with his or her audience. The style has been described as
'festive abuse'.


Louis CK "Of course. But maybe..."
Comedy and "untouchable" situations.
“It is generally regarded as beneficial to laugh about things, including ourselves; to get problems off our chests and
‘see their funny side’
; to look back at what previously regarded as very serious, maybe even tragic and
‘have a good laugh about it.'
There are clearly many cases where this is so, but equally there are others when it is incongruous to laugh, when
humour does not sit happily with a general tenor of an event or situation
, and when a joke is regarded as overstepping the mark, as being
beyond a joke
.” (Michael Pickering and Sharon Lockyer, 6)
Is there a solid line?
•Where is the line between offensiveness and humour?
Jostein Gripsrud (1994) presents a theory of good and bad taste based on work by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1984).
Good taste is called 'pure' and bad taste is known as 'barbaric'.


According to his theory, people with a
less amount
of Cultural capital tend to have
'barbaric' taste
and those with a
larger amount
of Cultural capital share
the 'pure' one.
Vulgar comedy as bad/barbaric taste?
'A beholder who lacks the specific code feels
lost in a chaos of sounds and rhythms, colours and lines
, without rhyme or reason.' (Bourdieu, 1984, p. 445)

Differences between the videos
'The Fast Show'
It is a BBC
sketch show
programme that ran from
1994 to 1997
. It was one of the most popular TV programmes in the 90s. The
jokes were recurring
and there was no strict structure. Many
catchphrases
were used again and again.

The video builds a
stereotype
about
working class people
. The creators of the sketch show depict class through
body language (manners), speech and appearance
. (Chris, the Crafty Cockney)
Bibliography
Bourdieu, Pierre ([1984] 1994) 'Distinction and the Aristocracy of Culture; in John Storey (ed.)
Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader
. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf. pp 444-454.
Grisprud, Jostein (2002) 'Distinctions: Social Difference, Lifestyle and Taste' in
Understanding Media Culture
. London: Arnold, pp. 60-96.
"Vicky Pollard in a counseling session"
"
South Park
- White Trash in Trouble"
Delingpole, J. (2010) 'South Park: The most dangerous show on television?'
The Telegraph,
3 May.
Augestine, B. (2013) 'Tampa Bay Rays fan who created Steve Irwin sign defends ‘funny’ poster',
New York Daily News,
4 April
Lockyer, S. and Pickering, M. (2005) 'Introduction The Ethics and Aesthetics of Humour and Comedy',
Beyond a Joke
. London/Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 1-27.
Hari, J. (2005) 'Why I Hate Little Britain'. The Independent, Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-why-i-hate-little-britain-516388.html, 22 November.
Laughing at Minorities in Stand-Up Comedy
When we laugh at cultural stereotypes, it means we are
entertained by the traits of certain groups.


Many comedians

laugh
at stereotypical representations of

their own race/gender/sexuality.

One could argue that these jokes are
tasteless
, or a kind of humour
not everyone can appreciate
, but it all depends on
who is telling a joke and whom it is addressed to.
Lisa Lampanelli
When the comedy goes too far?
During his set at the
Laugh Factory
, the hugely popular Comedy Central host Daniel Tosh made a
rape joke
, stripping the experience of its weight, of its tragedy, of its crime:
“Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl
[referring to an audience member who “heckled” him about rape jokes not being funny earlier in his set]
got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”
Where is a line between offensiveness and humour?
What is your opinion on South Park?
Do you think that appreciation of a certain kind of comedy shows one's class?
One man from TMZ saw the jokes targeting elements surrounding the situation (Joe Paterno and Penn State) as humorous, but he claimed that Mr. Adams' line that attempted to make a joke out of the actual situation, the sexual abuse of the boys, was crossing the line.
“The jokes just weren’t incisive enough”- Dan Fogerty (The week Staff, 2011)
“And [the jokes] weren’t funny either”– Zachary D. Rymer (The Week Staff, 2011)
Katia McGlynn found that South Park's jokes did not cross the line because they were “mocking not the acts themselves, but the tired jokes you undoubtedly hear about them." (The Week Staff, 2011)
Did South Park make the joke too soon?
“Some things are just too offensive to too many people” (Pickering and Lockyer, 2005, 4).

Vicky Pollard
“Little Britain has been a vehicle for two rich kids to make themselves into multimillionaires by
mocking the weakest people
in Britain” (Johann Hari, 2005)
Presentation of Class in South Park
Kenny's Character
Introduces exaggerated stereotypes of
"white trash"
and the American lower class.
(Nascar, “I’m white trash and I’m in trouble.”)

Kenny’s character is more than just “the poor kid” and his character is used to confront stereotypes. The other character's rarely look down on Kenny for his social class because his identity is not entirely defined by this aspect.
Vicky’s character is the constant butt of jokes and the audience is positioned to laugh at her ridiculous lower class behavior. Her character’s identity is defined by her social status because the show constantly pokes fun at her lower class situation as a single, lower class mother.


Kenny vs. Vicky
Bibliography (cont.)
Funny? or sick?
'South Park skewers the Penn State scandal: Too soon?' (2011) The Week, [online] 18 November. Available at: http://theweek.com/article/index/221623/south-park-skewers-the-penn-state-scandal-too-soon, 18 November.
"
South Park
DESTROYS Penn State"
Full transcript