Humour, offence and prophecy

November 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

There was an item on the BBC news this morning about how the treatment of wounded service personnel at Headley Court was going to do wonders for our Paralympic team. It’s here.

The Doctor in charge said this:

“This is a special group of young men and women with significant injuries. The likes have not been seen since Vietnam.

“We’ve got an opportunity to look at accelerating and making more efficient that process of learning to walk again where some patients have lost their limbs, but also maximising their efficiency and performance, which will have direct results for our Paralympic team.”

It’s inspiring and amazing. And it reminded me of something. A joke made by Jimmy Carr last year. He said that, whatever you felt about wounded servicemen, we were going to have a great Paralympic team in 2012. The story is here. He was attacked on all sides. Interesting then that a piece of straight news reporting should say the same thing.

If you analyse humour you take the humour out of it. But…it does seem to me that all humour offends someone (and I’ve experienced that myself in a small way). Some humour aims to shock, some is prophetic, some is uncomfortable. Jimmy Carr pushes all sorts of boundaries, and I understand the offence of his paralympic joke. But there was obviously a truth in it – that’s why many found it funny. Why then is the news story not offensive? It makes the same point in just the same words (apart from the expletive).

I guess I’m just pondering here on what offends us and why. I spoke about Pete Broadbent yesterday. Another Bishop (one he worked with) said once that the Synod was ‘Fascist’ and that Satan was alive and well and living in Church House Westminster). Righteous offence all round, but only the royal family one got a public reprimand.

I’ll examine myself to find out what offends me…and why, and how I might use language, humour and the soundbite to get a hearing, to get a laugh sometimes, and not to cause such offence that the truth gets obscured in doing so. I wonder what Jimmy Carr thinks of that news report now?

§ One Response to Humour, offence and prophecy

  • toby forward says:

    The Jimmy Carr story died very quickly when massive archive footage of him with wounded servicemen and women was broadcast, and injured and amputated soldiers were queuing up to say how much time he spent with them and how much they valued him. He was only repeating things they were saying themselves. The charge of casual indifference to suffering didn’t stand up to the scrutiny.

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