A current topic at work among some friends of mine is the question, to what degree of injury or embarrassment does something funny become unfunny?
The topic began with the discussion of the female reporter covering the Grammy Awards. Immediately after the news desk tossed it to her, she bumbled her words, saying nothing that made sense, not even speaking words at all. Here’s a clip:
I seem to be in the minority in thinking that when something is life-altering, it’s not funny. Another example I brought up to defend my stance is a guy riding a bicycle into a tree. I think it’s hilarious, as would most people I assume. Even the folks in this discussion agree it’s funny. But let’s say the guy became paralyzed from the neck down? Then, is it still funny? A resounding ‘no.’ So think back to the reporter who fumbled her words… funny? Admittedly, I laughed when I saw it. After discovering the reason, though, I no longer think it’s funny. She suffers from a rare form of migraine headache. To me, that’s a life-altering circumstance. I’m sure she’s still embarrassed by the whole on-air flap, and it’s not right or encouraging to her for me to laugh at her suffering. I bet we’ve all had a fair share of embarrassing or life-altering events, would you want someone laughing at you for those things? Here’s one of my embarrassing moments.
A colleague brought up the show, ‘America’s Funniest Videos,’ asking me, “Do you think they check with the people in each video to make sure the embarrassed party wasn’t paralized or life was not somehow altered by what happened in the video?” They don’t have the time for that, and my guess is they wouldn’t air the clip if they knew the person ended up paralyzed, or an animal died, or something with a negative result happened. Furthermore, would anyone even submit a clip to ‘Home Videos’ if the person in the video died, was paralyzed, dismembered or experienced a negative life-altering event? No.
My colleague also brought up Saturday Night Live. They often use people’s misfortunes, faults, physical traits as the focus of jokes in their performances. What do you think? Is there a line in which something potentially funny becomes unfunny? If so, where’s the line? Anyway, here are some funny clips: