Mark Terry

Monday, August 03, 2009

These will probably offend you

August 3, 2009
I'm going to put up a couple jokes here. They're extremely likely to offend you. I'm one of those peculiar people that may find a joke offensive without being offended by it. Perhaps the context is everything.

I heard these jokes while chaperoning a cabin of high school sophomore boys, age approximately 14 to 16. These were, by and large, jokes that I thought were:

1. Clever
2. Funny
3. Offensive

You've been warned and I put these up here because of #1 and #2, not #3. I do completely understand how these jokes are offensive.

Q. What's black and white and black and white and black and white?
A. A naked blonde doing cartwheels.

That was sort of the culminating joke of a string of pretty bad blonde jokes and/or sexually-oriented jokes made by kids with little or no sexual experience.

Q. What's worse than ten babies in a mailbox?
A. One baby in ten mailboxes.

Actually, I confess that every single one of the dead baby jokes were offensive (pretty much by definition) and one or two of them were disgusting as well as funny (pretty much despite myself), but that one I liked because of the way it engaged my brain. (It's still awful, but clever, too).

What got me more was that the guy who did most of the dead baby jokes came back a moment later trying to decide to tell a racist joke because he was afraid it might offend someone in this cabin of white suburban 15-year-olds. Weird the way their brains do and don't work.

Of the racist jokes, this one amused me (again, despite myself. I agree it's stereotypical and offensive, but, uh, clever).

Q. What's the difference between a park bench and a black guy?
A. The park bench can support a family of four.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it, the future of America. Basically bright, hard-working high school students in a middle-class suburban school in middle America. I liked these kids, generally speaking. They're bright and none of them seem malicious, although a few have clearly had challenges in their lives already. I spent some time pondering a comment Stephen King made in "Bag of Bones" about how humor often seems like anger with clown makeup on, and how sometimes the makeup seems a little thin. I think the kids heard a lot of these jokes from their parents (I'm pleased my own son had few if any jokes to tell at all and I'm pretty sure he fell asleep in the middle of them) or found them on YouTube or Comedy Central, but a lot of these jokes had the feeling of anger beneath them.

I'm also reminded that this age group can be amused by a lot of sick stuff and am pretty sure I had my fair share of dead baby jokes in my repertoire when I was 15, too. Hopefully we grow out of it, mostly.



Blogger B. Nagel said...

I never could stomach the dead baby jokes. I just didn't see the humor.

My wife had a blonde joke poster on her bedroom wall throughout high school. She's blonde. And she graduated with a 4.0 from HS and college.

A comic about the prejudice in jokes.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Great comic. Some of those are lawyer jokes, which are about the only types of jokes I enjoy. I don't actually have anything against lawyers, but I think the jokes tend to rely on play on words. One of my favorites is:

Q. What's the difference between three lawyers in a Porsche and a porcupine?

A. The porcupine has its pricks on the outside.

I've never really gotten the dumb blonde notion anyway. I've met "dumb" in just about every hair color and some of the most brilliant women I've ever met were blonde.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Linda Pendleton said...

I think those types of jokes are so common with the junior high age kids. I know my grandson had made some kind of gay joke and I corrected him, and he said nothing was meant by it. To me it was prejudice. Hopefully they all grow up and stay away from offensive jokes.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Great quote from Stephen King.

Sad to say, I found all the jokes funny. Sorry if I offend anyone but am I supposed to pretend I didn't :(

Of course I also found them all offensive. Kind of weird isn't it? Of course if I had, for instance, been told the racist joke by someone I knew was trying to make a racist point then it wouldn't have seemed funny.

Hmmmm. I guess jokes only work if they are "in jest" or seem to be.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I had the same reaction. Offensive and funny. My wife's family can get going on racist humor and I don't find it funny at all because I think they believe it. (The most recent was at the viewing for Leanne's Mom, when her uncle, not 30 seconds after shaking my hand there in the funeral home, goes into a joke about Obama digging up the rose garden and planting watermelons. Talk about being a weird experience, one I didn't have the slightest idea how to respond to).

Humor can be pretty weird.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

It would have been a good time to give those boys some counselling regarding the racist jokes.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Richmond Writer said...

People are strange. I know a man who uses the N word and tells those kinds of jokes. He also stood up for a black man and threatened to sue the company because he found out that man wasn't being paid the same as he was and the black man was every bit as good as he was.

Oh and he loves fart jokes.

6:52 PM  

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