If there’s a group of people who often get a pass when it comes to discussing taboo or inappropriate topics, it’s comedians.
Making people uncomfortable is part of their schtick, and often while testing material on real audiences, part of what they’re doing is seeing how far they can push an envelope.
If you ask these people, though, there are some topics that should be off-limits to absolutely everyone – comics included.
1. Just say no.
2. There are consequences, though.
Nothing. Everything should be open for criticism and commentary.
3. Nothing at all.
I’m so tired of censorship.
I don’t even like to say, “That’s not funny.” Sometimes it might slip out of my mouth, but I try to avoid it. I’ll say, “I don’t find that funny,” or “I don’t understand the humorous element you’re trying to make,” or “Maybe telling that joke isn’t worth the strife it caused.” But I don’t say, “That’s not funny.”
If ONE person laughs, even just the person telling the joke, it’s funny. It’s subjective.
People tried to censor art the same way: “That’s not art.” When obscenity laws were being worked out, people would call these nude works “not art” to get them censored.
Anything can be art. Anything can be funny.
4. Just like real life.
I agree 100% but also see a LOT of irony here. Everything should be open to criticism and commentary in comedy, but most importantly in real life as well. It is amazing how censorship only applies to real life but in a comedy context anything goes.
Why can’t people see society for the absolute joke that it is and have open and honest dialogues with each other instead of picking sides and allowing the government and media to foment hatred and division amongst us?
5. It’s not good form.
Shock comedy, and what I’ll call “bias comedy.”
If the punchline itself is just the fact that you said a racial slur, or made fun of somebody with cerebral palsy, that’s pretty lame.
Also, if the only reason anyone is laughing is just because you made a political statement and they agree with you, that’s pretty lame as well.
6. If you’re good enough…
This depends a lot on tone and delivery.
You can make jokes that are political, social, or racial commentary that are funny and also hit a nerve. But if the comic isn’t good it can just come off as angry, insensitive, derogatory, and just plain not funny.
Mediocre comics can do this a lot thinking they’re being edgy or poignant, or just to get a rouse out of the audience. You’re not doing any of that you’re just bad, come up with some better material.
7. It’s not as easy as it seems.
Good comedy is always based on turning something on its head; you expect one thing and then the complete opposite happens.
This also 100% explains what babies and toddlers find funny. For example, there was a video where a kid laughed at paper being ripped up. That doesn’t seem very funny, except the kid understood that paper in sheet form is so basic and normal, it’s the way it SHOULD be, but ripping it in half is completely contrary to it’s existence.
8. Not funny.
Pranks on people who don’t want to be involved.
Ones that physically or psychologically hurt people.
9. It depends on how good they are.
Yea! Whenever someone says “oh thats just not pc enough huh?” Its like, no im not offended you just suck at delivery.
I think the line oftentimes is, if the listener can tell that half of the dark joke is that the joke teller knows what they are saying is what an idiot would say, then it can work, when the delivery is also good.
10. Consent always matters.
Physically involving people who didn’t want to be involved (e.g. YouTube / TikTok pranksters)
ANYTHING should be allowed on pure standup comedy though.
11. It’s all a matter of perspective.
The best take on this I have heard is that it matters who is the butt of the joke. Rape jokes are ok if you’re making them at the expense of the rapist.
They absolutely aren’t ok if they’re at the expense of the victim.
12. There are always consequences.
Everything should be allowed on pure standup, but if you act like an asshole on stage, don’t be surprised when you get treated like one.
13. Some people didn’t ask for the limelight.
The kids of public figures / celebrities. They didn’t ask to be put on display, so you should avoid making jokes about them.
I remember when TV comedians were making jokes about Chelsea Clinton during her father’s presidency and it was just in horrible bad taste.
14. There was no punchline.
Exactly. Like that guy who got kicked off SNL for making racist jokes against Asians.
If you actually listened to his jokes, they weren’t funny. I don’t think he even had a punchline. Just racist.
15. Seriously, who thinks that’s funny.
That’s my problem with most offensive/edgy humour tbh. Most of those jokes aren’t even really funny. If the entire point of the joke is that it’s a racist (or sexist etc) joke, it’s not actually funny.
And of course if you say so then “oh you’re too sensitive” – no, you’re just not funny! I have laughed at all kinds of offensive jokes if they are actually *jokes*.
16. Know your audience.
Comedy is subjective, there should be no limits. However it is still a good idea to keep in mind who the audience is.
I think it’s a mutual trust thing, both the comedian should know the audience and the audience should know the comedian.
I will not sympathize with someone who is offended at jokes Bill Burr makes and then simultaneously goes to a Bill Burr performance a few weeks later.
17. Applause isn’t laughter.
Exactly. Comedy is a no-bullshit business. You can go see your friends’ shitty band and hoot and holler like you’re actually enjoying it but it’s very hard to fake laughter.
I think there are several comedians who are huge who suck—my evidence in arguments is “listen to how many times people applaud instead of laugh.”
You’re not funny, people just agree with what you said.
18. There’s a science to it.
depends on the structure of the Joke
you can laugh: about it , or with it , or at it
if you laugh at someone or something on the other hand , you reeeaally gotta know your audience
19. That’s why he’s one of the greats.
Nothing should be off limits, but Chris Rock gave a good rule of thumb on Talking Funny that you should joke about what people DO, not what they ARE.
20. He’s not wrong.
I think at one point during Bo Burnham’s special Inside there was a whiteboard where he was planning jokes with a flowchart and it had “is it mean” and “is it at the expense of a disenfranchised people or group” go automatically to not funny.
21. Don’t pick the low-hanging fruit.
I was listening to a podcast with British comedian James Acaster and he said that while you can make jokes of anything, and nothing is strictly off limits, he thinks certain jokes should only be made if they’re really good.
He told a story of taking the piss out of a guy in the audience who was heckling once, and it turned out the guy was special needs. People were laughing, but he didn’t feel good at the end of the day.
His philosophy is make the jokes that make you feel good when people laugh, don’t take the low-hanging fruit jokes just because you can.
22. You don’t want to hurt people.
Plenty of lesser male comedians make thoughtless and mean rape jokes without considering the likelihood, given the statistics, that a good percentage of the crowd has been sexually assaulted.
Never a good idea to make your audience have flashbacks to a trauma.
23. Be careful with the dark humor.
This isnt like ig stand up comedy type stuff, but I hate when people ask “do you like dark humor?” And I’m like “yeah” then they show me someone get their head torn off in a freak accident.
That’s not dark humor. You showed me someone get decapitated and laughed.
24. It’s pretty creepy.
Filming homeless or mentally ill people without their consent.
Filming *anyone without their consent.
25. Make it relevant.
There just some people who think saying something grim is a punchline in itself without any actual humour needed. Like the crappy comics and unfortunately some young teens think pedo is a hilarious word or thing to say… no thank you! Mostly for the fact it makes kids think its a fun and trivial thing to say.
Frankie Boyle is possibly my least favourite comedian because, while some of his lines are funny (albeit dark and uncomfortable) he usually goes for the darkest and most controversial thing he can say in a given scenario even if its not really relevant or funny.
His dark jokes are fine but theyre ruined for me by the fact he clearly tries to make everything as dark and controversial as he can, and sometimes they end up being funny, rather than being as funny as possible and sometimes theyre dark and controversial
26. A different, but correct, answer.
I was going to say “nothing” but that’s been covered thoroughly, so I’ll go with stealing another comedians jokes.
27. Turnabout is fair play.
I’ve noticed that the people who claim to be “equal opportunity offenders” get the most upset and offended when you manage to find something that triggers them.
I’m going to have to think about some of these.
What would you add to this list? Let us know what you think in the comments!