Big Cat, Little Cat: Jokes in Bad Taste
What is it about Jokes in Bad Taste that I can’t Quit?
I’m a big believer in making jokes that punch up, not down. I will make jokes about transphobia or racism. But never about a trans person or a Black person.
One of the canards you often hear is: “Blazing Saddles was such a great movie, but it could never be made today because everyone is too woke.” Are we? Go watch the movie again. Yes the movie uses the N-word a bunch and there’s that uncomfortable scene where Mel Brooks is dressed like a Native American with Hebrew inscriptions on his war-bonnet. And there’s that other uncomfortable scene where Madeline Kahn is in bed with Cleavon Little and asks: “So is it true about how you people are… gifted?” But notice that, with those two exceptions, and perhaps others, every other joke in the movie makes fun of the racists. In fact, I would argue that the main reason that movie works as well as it does is because Cleavon Little cuts such a dashing figure as Sheriff Bart, in contrast to his ridiculous and flailing antagonists.
The movie ends up finding that balance: the jokes are silly enough to also hold the viewer’s attention. And yet the subject-matter of the jokes is serious enough that the punchlines still land some fifty years later.
Jokes: The Balancing Act
To be clear: making a joke about someone who is marginalized is bullying. “He’s so fat!” “He’s so effeminate!” “Black people be like…” All of these are jokes I had heard when I was eleven. The people defending this type of joke as “edgy” and “outside of the norm/mainstream” are saying that playground insults are the cutting edge of comedy.
And yet. You have to make jokes on these subjects. Because a joke only really works if there is an emotional hook; if the joke is about something that matters to you. Sexuality, health, culture-clash, socioeconomic imbalance. These are things that matter to people. And so they will continue to be the subject of jokes.
The point is that the outrageous comedians of yesteryear were more “woke” than you think. And those comedians who weren’t “woke”? Back when I had a car, I’m pretty sure i had an oil change that lasted longer than Andrew Dice Clay’s whole career.
So what about the Big Cat, Little Cat Joke up Top?
The way I see it, we’ll all be in a coma one day or another. Sorry, is that too dreary an ending for a comedy post? It’s what I got at present.
Only one panel this week. 2 Cats are sitting on a cushion, talking about life. On the left, a large orange with darker orange stripes. On the right, a smaller grey with darker grey stripes.
Big Cat: Human-Mom says we should eat more vegetables.
Little Cat: Okay but where are we going to find a bird that’s in a coma?
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