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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

arts

COLUMN: Are comedians even funny anymore? A look into the grip of dark comedy

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“Nothing, Forever” is an AI-generated spoof of the beloved sitcom about nothing, “Seinfeld.” That is, until Larry Feinberg, the computer parokjldy version of Seinfeld, went on to mention that being transgender is a mental illness. The hit Twitch series is now suspended for 14 days. 

“This is my stand-up set at a club,” remarked a computer generated Jerry Seinfeld, seconds before being cancelled. “There’s like 50 people here and no one is laughing.” 

The only funny thing about that clip is how Feinberg notes that no one is laughing, even after the “joke.” If a computer knows these jokes aren’t funny, human comedians must know that too, right? 

Wrong. That joke had to be learned somewhere. 

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Not-so-subtle hateful rhetoric has been slipping into our comedy faster than ever. Comedians like Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle have decided it’s their place to make fun of trans and LGBTQ people. Despite all the deserved backlash, “The Closer,” Chappelle’s sixth Netflix special, just won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album last Sunday. 

People have been engaging in offensive humor or “shock comedy” for years, from Amy Schumer to Tracy Morgan to Bo Burnham. The “punching down” method of comedy has never been funny to me but so many people love it. Sadly, most people justify this by saying they like edgy or dark humor. 

What even is dark humor? Also known as black humor, dark humor is just morbid or ironic comedy. Looking it up on YouTube provides video upon video of people dunking on marginalized people as a way of being funny. That’s not what dark humor is at all, so why do people think it is? 

I just don’t get this trend of offensive comedy. It seems like people are trying to find a way to thinly veil their own personal bigotry by claiming that it’s comedy. One of my favorite comedians, James Acaster, did a bit on this in 2019, making fun of Ricky Gervais. 

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“Apparently, it’s 2019,” Acaster said. “Most people still more than happy to laugh at transgender people, not comfortable laughing at Ricky Gervais yet.”  

Acaster was met with uproarious laughter. 

Perhaps it’s internet culture that ruined everything. Offensive memes and laughing at minorities were a staple of early internet culture, categorizing a cartoon of a green frog as a hate symbol within months. Memes like this still circulate Twitter, from misogynistic charts of different kinds of women to accounts dedicated to spreading transphobia. Maybe these comedians see this kind of humor gaining traction and feel safe expressing their true opinions. 

The good thing is that there are still good comedians. People like Garfunkel and Oates and Weird Al Yankovic have been making hilarious comedic songs for decades. Stand-up legend George Carlin’s material has still held up over the years. Yet, finding a contemporary comedian who isn’t a bad person takes time and effort. 

My mom has always said that stand-up comedy should make you pee yourself laughing. What’s funny about being a bigot?   

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