Jaycee returns as Guest Author, with an interesting piece on generational changes in types, and appreciation, of humour. Thank you, Jaycee – it is a subject of considerable interest to me.
Recently, I wrote a cameo piece about a cross-dresser and the time and place he came out publicly in a small country town. I wrote it as (I thought) a humorous piece, acting on the logic that where or whenever such an event happened, be it in the place chosen for its degree of comfort and camaraderie, or in the main street in full drag, it was bound to be confronting in a pathos – bathos scenario that could occasion a few laughs from the distance of many years hence. I sent it to a younger person employed in an local government artistic / cultural occupation as an adjunct to a conversation we had on certain local issues. I was mistaken … at least, mistaken in the perception of what a new generation of readers finds funny. Perhaps, as has been suggested, my aged, male, working-class perception of what is or is not funny is now thoroughly dated! “It’s just not funny anymore” has been at odd times leveled accusingly at yours truly. I’ve had my own doubts before … it may be time to believe it!
Though, when one analyses the condition that creates a moment of humour, so that a laugh involuntarily springs from our lips, it is understood as the sudden leap from pathos to bathos and the swiftly altered situation thereof – like the flaying of arms and legs in a sudden banana-slip moment – a kind of slapstick suddenness … but something has changed. There now seems to be some hesitancy to guffaw innocently at others foolishness or mishaps. You think about it – how long since you have heard a string of good jokes? I used to hear many … one tuned one’s ear for the grand joke from a good joke teller. They were considered rare treasures … one good joke could make or break a reputation in any front-bar! You remember that “Clayton’s … the drink you have when …” advert’ with … what’s isname? … oh yeah! … Jack Thompson, THAT was the accepted locale for the dispersion of male humour. I’m sure that other gender has a similar locale!
Now it’s all gone, but people are still laughing, the guffaws are still coming … but what are we now laughing at, if not socially incorrect slapstick? I think we are more inclined to seek out humour in the more perverted absurdities of life – in the increasingly bizarro-behaviours of people and situations. I think we are finding more laughs in a kind of sado-humour than we did before … and it is a worrying thing. I’m not saying certain ghastly racist/sexist jokes aren’t deserving of the dustbin of history, but there is a worrying criticism of satire that is very over the top censorship. There seems less inclination to humour, and more inclination to litigate such skits as one would find on The Hampster or Ripping Yarns or Python etc.
Yet, I have seen rise alongside such cruel treatment that one occasionally views on a channel-surf expedition of Reality TV, an appreciation of sado-humour, where cruel or victim-selection programs top the ratings. I have watched several so-called funny home-videos skits that seem to me to be brutal and dangerous … one can see such moments have been deliberately staged to get the video on the show. Same with those competitive cooking / singing programs etc. There can be no better display of sado-humour than one sees on such channels … yet they are the top-rating programs. What gives?
One can track the evolution of such sado-humour back to the days of try-hard Hollywood black humour, where the big studios tried their hand at so-called crime-comedy. I remember the hit movie Beverly Hills Cop was the beginning of the genre … it was billed as a comedy, yet I counted seven quite brutal killings in the show (I was a “forced” viewer – was taken to the cinema against my better judgement by acquaintances who “just loved it and you will too!!”) … I hated it – it made me wince. I’m a sensitive bloke.
Indeed, the humour of the aged, white, working male may be dated beyond redemption … but the basis for such humour, i.e., the situation comedy surely will not date. The spectator / viewer, looking on to the unfolding of a unscripted public slapstick moment, whether by accident or by self-deprecation, surely must be allowed a release of laughter at the ironic absurdity of the situation without guilt or remorse, rather than be driven to approvingly laugh sneeringly, cruelly, publicly, at the misfortune and hard-luck of others.
Bring back The Hampster crew, I say!