Doug Stanhope: Offensive jokes are all in the ear of the beholders, who should embrace it or f*** off

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’s set list and what do you get? Mime. That’s what you get and possibly what you deserve. I’ve 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 – but the object is still to make you laugh. Offense is only a calculated risk. It’s 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’t ruin the show – 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?

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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4 thoughts on “Doug Stanhope: Offensive jokes are all in the ear of the beholders, who should embrace it or f*** off

  1. I do think he made a compelling case. But at the same time, people are going to get offended at things that offend him. Some people will never understand that comedy is like music. You’re not always going to like every song even by your favorite artist.
    I always think of Joe Klocek mentioning an audience member that got really offended by a tofu joke one night.
    Why the media doesn’t have better things to talk about, I’ll never know. I get irritated with the media that covers this stuff. And even more so with the industry side people, club owners, etc, that side with the audience instead of the comic.

  2. People shouldn’t get offended by jokes. As Stanhope said some people can be offended by him wearing the wrong hockey team’s jersey, but then laugh at rape jokes. Sense of humour is down to the individual. I’m yet to be offended by any joke i’ve ever heard, partly because jokes are just words, they don’t exist in a physical form so can’t ACTUALLY hurt you. Much like the old rhyme about sticks and stones. I just figure that as long as the joke is funny it’s okay to talk about any subject. Personaly, I love Doug Stanhope’s stand-up, but i don’t like Dice Clay. Stanhope is witty and funny with what he says whereas i think Clay is just shite. However, i wouldn’t say i’m offended by Dice’s jokes, i just wouldn’t go to any of his gigs. Jokes aren’t real people! and if you’re easily offended DON’T go to a Frankie Boyle gig! It’s common sense surely….

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