In a new op-ed for The Herald in Glasgow, Scotland, Doug Stanhope stands up for comedians everywhere by writing about the nature of offensive comedy, focused on a recent uproar across the pond about a joke Frankie Boyle had told that had offended a woman in the audience.
Stanhope defends the comedian, writing, in part:
How does the audience fall under the illusion that they have some right to not be offended? Certainly you have the right to not be harmed; but offended? Imagine the number of subjects that might offend any single individual and multiply that by the number of people in any given audience. Subtract all those topics from any given comic‚Äôs set list and what do you get? Mime. That‚Äôs what you get and possibly what you deserve. I‚Äôve been booed for wearing the jersey of an offending sports team and then won the audience back with rape jokes. Who can tell?
So he points a finger back at the audience member, who in one instance, was a mother of a child with Down's Syndrome, and claims that she was fine with all of Boyle's other offensive material until he got to her particular subject. Why is one topic OK to joke about and not another? It's all subjective. In stand-up comedy, even more so. Stanhope continues:
The fact is that really no comedian sets out to offend you. Some comics enjoy the challenge of taking a subject that is likely to be found offensive and trying to make it funny ‚Äì but the object is still to make you laugh. Offense is only a calculated risk. It‚Äôs highly unlikely that a comedian whose only goal was to repulse you would ever make it past an open-mic stage, far less build a long career of touring theatres and television appearances. The jokes in question didn‚Äôt ruin the show ‚Äì you did.
But as long as the media plays up the idea of one person being offended by one joke, comedy will suffer. Especially, he writes, if nobody complains about the banal, hacky, and tired comedy that's being performed night-in, night-out, in clubs around the world.
Do yourselves a favor and read his whole essay. Do you think Stanhope made a compelling case?