The Edgy Edge Of Comedy… Funny Or Mean? – By Marc

There is sooo much going on in my brain, and I wanted to write about all of it. At some point I want to discuss the aggressive attacks on religion, when people offer thoughts and “prayers” to victims and are then viciously gone after by those who call religion stupid and nothing, especially in the face of science and action. This leads me to intention, which will be a big part of today’s post.

Prayers are immensely important. Essential! They can heal and help and do so much… but yes, they must be followed up with action and doing. But THAT is a discussion for another time… perhaps next week.

So… I’ve been dealing with a situation with a friend, and opened the discussion up to others on my FB page. The gist was the behavior of someone sharing my texts or conversations with their co-workers, and then taking some glee in telling me how the co-workers reacted. The majority of the Facebook posts were pretty harsh. I almost felt badly for my friend, though I kept him anonymous… and yet… he continues to proclaim he did nothing wrong, so… there’s that. Lesson NOT learned. Argh. And way too often, he also neglects to tell me I am on speaker phone thus allowing me to talk about things when his kids are in the car. Not nice.

The wonderful Barb Heller mentioned learning about, studying and sharing with him the lessons of Lashon Hara and my brain started moving. Then last night, I watched an episode of the HBO series Crashing, which is about the life of stand up comedian Pete Holmes.


This particular episode was about a Roast (and called “The Roast” I believe), and how the sweet and seemingly innocent Pete, had a real issue with being so mean and “roasting” someone, especially and eventually his own girlfriend. He is very Christian and almost too nice… but his girlfriend also challenges that side of him. It’s a fascinating dynamic. Their “battle” seems to have been the undoing of their relationship, which is sad and also got my brain going. And here we are.

When is it being funny and when is it being mean? I’ll go back to the beginning of this post… and say it is all about INTENTION.

Being mean can be fun… and comedy should be edgy and risk taking. That is how any art grows and expands and pushes the limits and the envelope.

But sadly, our society has become REALLY MEAN. People have little to no manners… attack people on social media… and even scarier… now in real life. It is almost impossible to have a civilized debate these days with people with opposing points of view, especially in politics. This is really dangerous… and sad… and should be incredibly alarming.

So even with humor, there needs to be a balance, and our INTENTION needs to be good and in the right place. A joke may not always work… or land. A joke may offend, even the most mindless and seemingly sterile joke will probably offend someone… but if our intention is to provide humor and lightness and make somebody laugh, then that is a good thing.

A sense of humor saved my life, probably, and took me from being teased and tormented, to being able to cut across different cliques and find my way in life.

Judaism teaches us to think… to know before whom we stand (aka, who your audience is) and to always do the right thing… so good intentions go a long way, even if the result is something drastically different.

Rabbi Israel Meir Hakohen of Radin wrote an entire book about the laws of lashon hara called Chafetz Chaim… which then “caused the author to be known as the “Chafetz Chaim” too.” Thanks! This book is filled with some of my guiding principles… or at least the way I would like to live and behave!

The lessons are clearly long, but the basics are this:
Lashon Hara is “bad talk.” So don’t speak badly about people, even if it is true. Guilty.

Don’t repeat things about another, “even if it is not a negative thing. This is called rechilut.” Guilty.

“One may not even retell a negative event without using names, if the listeners might be able to figure out who is being spoken of.” That’s my buddy! So, yes… my friend is guilty of all these things… but you know what… so am I… and I’ll go on a limb and guess that many of us are, too.

“In certain circumstances, such as to protect someone from harm, it is permissible or even obligatory to share negative information.” This one requires a lot more discussion… and says to “consult a competent rabbi to learn what may be shared in any particular situation.”

So we’ll leave that one for now.

The takeaway is this… Be funny. A sense of humor is such a Jewish thing, and so vital, especially in the face of all the hate and dangers we have faced over the thousands of years. Self deprecating is good, as long as it doesn’t give others license to tease or hate us.

There are obviously some things that should be off limits… like the Holocaust… though Mel Brooks seems to have gotten way with it pretty well… and as Woody Allen says… “History + Time = Comedy.”

The other notion is DON’T BE MEAN! It’s easy and tempting at times. If you feel wronged, you may punch back… and too often it is a low punch and much dirtier than what you got. I see this behavior in my friend and others… and need to make sure I do not succumb, too.

The golden rule is simple… ALWAYS DO THE RIGHT THING… and make sure your true and honest intention is in the right place, and is good. The rest of the chips will fall where they may, but you will feel so much better about yourself!

So… two Jews walk into a bar and…



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