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Is profanity necessary in humour?

Is profanity necessary in humour?

By Purva Grover

Published: Fri 4 Oct 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 4 Oct 2019, 2:00 AM

On a school night, we walked into The Big Desi Comedy Night (Hinglish Edition) at The Clavichord, Signature 1 Hotel. The entry was for 21+ only, so we were prepared to be treated to 'adultish' jokes (racism, sexism et al) without getting offended. The host of the show stated that all the performing comics will be using the platform to test 'new material', so we prepped to hear a few bad jokes without being judgmental. What we weren't ready for was the excessive dependence on profanity to generate a good laugh.
The debate isn't new. Some artistes suggest that when comedy was genuinely funny, there was no need for profanity. Many defend that languages evolve as our cultures do; today, swearing is inherent to daily conversation.
To play the devil's advocate, foul language can generate a good laugh, when used well and is, sometimes, necessary for a joke to work. Of course, there do exist a few rules - good timing being one, the other being its usage when you least expect it. As this particular evening progressed, I couldn't help but note how these two (amidst other rules) were conveniently flouted.
I get that it's tough to be on a stage in front of strangers and make them laugh. I can't do that. It requires thought, courage, hard work and, mostly, acceptance that the jokes may not sound as good as they do in your head. Foul words to the rescue! They come in handy, especially when you wish to communicate your feelings effectively in lesser words. At times, you use them to express what everyone in the room is thinking, but are too timid to say it out loud. Phew, someone said it. It comes as a relief. Of course, profanity is powerful, especially when uttered with a mic in hand! I can't do that either. But, it does lose its power when you let the swearing overpower your otherwise well-researched material.
Let's remember that nobody goes to comedy nights to squabble over what's offensive, vulgar, incorrect or ethical - we all go for a good laugh. But then, on a few occasions, you do enter a room thinking, "They'll be funny!" and you walk out wondering, "I **** you not if the profanities were removed from the act, there'd be little left." Yes, there were a few good laughs, a handful of fresh jokes, but the question remains: is modern comedy obsessed with swearing? Over to you.
purva@khaleejtimes.com




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