The Random Writings of Rachel: Funny Not Vulgar

Funny Not Vulgar

I love finding humor in life. I enjoy observing the funny stuff that happens around me every day. Spoof editions of my college's campus newspaper make me giggle. I am delighted when I see a custom painted pink car with purple polka dots, and I'm always up for listening to the latest story of something unusual that one of my little cousins said. It's no secret that my husband's pranks and random comments crack me up (And seemingly you guys too, based on recent requests for Angelisms--I'll make them more of a regular feature henceforward).

I like to laugh, and I aspire to be able to write in a way that gives other people a laugh, too. However, I've noticed that it's extremely hard to find anyone who's known for being funny who doesn't resort to vulgarity in order to be funny. It's become quite clear that the world in general seems to find rudeness hilarious. Children aren't allowed to see recordings of most stand-up comedians' performances for good reason.

In the spirit of humor....some people still look cute and fashionable when bundled up to face the snow. We do not.

But why should funny mean vulgar? The general consensus seems to be that once you're old enough and educated enough to have outgrown the silly slapstick comedy of a typical "family" film, the only things worth laughing at are debacles frequently involving crude or gross situations and uncouth language.

I am not someone who believes that 100% of all use of swear words is inherently evil. I don't decide whether or not to be someone's friend based on their language (though if I'm honest, I suspect that Angel's language choices have had a slight negative impact on mine over the years). I'm not one who thinks you can turn a bad movie into a good movie by filtering out all swear words. To me, that's silly. However, I do believe that words are very powerful, and that people can make their feelings known in a more creative and interesting--and YES, witty and humorous--fashion than by simply resorting to the same old vulgar curse words that everybody else uses. (Has no one ever heard Downton Abbey's Violet Crawley's one-liners? Some of them are quite incredible.) Cursing because you're angry or because you want to amuse people is not a habit I support. Certain people are very proud of themselves because they can curse up a storm and create a shock factor with their speech or writing. Well, in my experience, so can the average rebellious 7th grader who wants attention, so I'm not sure that should be considered such a grand accomplishment in the realm of humor.

But I'm not merely speaking about swearing here. I don't want anyone to misunderstand and think I'm only talking about that particular small issue. I'm more concerned with the over-arching theme that funny has to mean vulgar or unkind. The trend in popular humor is to take all that's sacred and turn it into something merely silly. I've noticed quite a few humor bloggers seem to find the majority of their humor in mocking the habits of others. Now, there are ways to get a laugh at the expense of a certain person or a certain group without hurting anyone's feelings, and there's are ways that do hurt feelings. It's usually pretty easy to tell when a post or article is written from the context of love for the person who is the butt of the joke, and when it's not written from a context of love at all. (For the record, "Angelisms" posts are written with love, and my husband feels very loved when you all laugh at his comments.) This mocking type of humor that is cruel and degrading to others is also apparent in sitcoms and comedic movies--and it doesn't make me laugh. When I see hurtful humor, it doesn't matter whether it's directed towards me or towards someone I love or towards any other random group of people, it makes me angry that it's popular to get a laugh by degrading others.

I can't change what's popular. There are going to be many, many more rude comedic movies that come out in the future that a lot of people are going to love. That's what easy humor is. It doesn't take much effort to throw a couple cuss words in and talk about unfortunate bodily functions and stage a scene of middle-aged men ogling pretty women to get a cheap laugh. It's a simple formula to follow. It takes a little extra work to find humor in life without resorting to low blows. I can't change the fact that easy humor is easy. What I can guarantee is that in my own writing and in my choices of entertainment, I will continue to choose the type of real-life humor that I genuinely enjoy--though it might not be quite as easy to find. I don't believe that good humor means innocence must be lost--some things are sacred for good reason, and they should be kept sacred. The most risqué it'll ever get on this blog is probably Angel's "shower" comment--years later I still blush to think about it, but it was the perfect combination of timing and awkwardness and family dynamics, so I still think it was worth the laugh.

I do believe that humor can be gentle, kind, and joyful. I don't think that the best jokes are the most offensive ones, and I'm convinced that though people who are able to be funny without being vulgar may be rare, they're worth listening to.

My #1 favorite funny guy who doesn't err on the side of vulgarity is Jon Acuff, writer of Stuff Christians Like. Now there's a book that both shows a great love for our faith and does a clever job poking fun at the culture surrounding Christianity.

What type of humor do you enjoy most? Who's your favorite funny writer/comedian?

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33 comments:

  1. I totally agree. I love classic movies and tv shows because the humor is smart and funny but not crude. Bathroom humor grosses me out :)

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  2. This is perfect. I completely agree. There is no need to be inappropriate in order to get your audience to laugh. I think it certainly shows a level of immaturity if someone uses cheap and easy humor. And side note, I LOVE Violet Crawley's classic one liners. And I love Downton Abbey because it is a great and relatively clean show that completely draws me in.

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  3. You know, I had never thought about it this way but you are totally right! I'm about to prove you even more so correct by telling you my favourite comedians are Lee Evans, Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais. All 3 of them are known for being inappropriate in their comedy, particularly so as they are all British.
    However, I think for me this is down to the British sense of humour being very dry and inappropriate by nature, so that's how our comedians reach their success.
    I don't like a lot of American comedians because I find them to be vulgar in the bodily functions, unnecessary swearing, insulting minorities kind of way which is something we don't condone so much in British comedy. Infact, British comedy is more about making fun of ourselves and awkward situations although a lot of it is still inappropriate.

    I think there is a fine line between what is considered vulgar and what isn't, but I happen to think your blog is great for not crossing the line and still being entertaining! I'm not sure how you do it!

    Kate | Diaries of a Essex Girl

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  4. Definitely agree with you, "easy" humor just isn't as funny. Violet on Downton Abbey is basically my hero - she is too hilarious!

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  5. I have to admit that I like some comedians that can be vulgar and/or inappropriate. I recognize what they are saying is "wrong," but can't help but laugh. However, I would never say any of those things out loud.

    I know what you mean about curse words in movies. I don't think just because there is a curse word, it is a "bad" movie. If you take out the cuss words in movies, it would be ridiculous. I think curse words are simply just words. I see people ban movies because of the incessant cursing. To me, that doesn't bother me.

    My favorite comedian is Aziz Ansari.

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  6. i think most aspects of life are funny. but i totally agree, vulgar does not automatically equal funny. for me, i try to find humor in the parts of my life that are really stressful or hectic. and occasionally i laugh at things that shouldn't be funny. when that happens, i try to just laugh in my head.

    i love stand up comedy. peppy got me hooked on that.

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  7. That is one of the main reasons I love animated movies such as UP! They are very funny and don't need to to vulgar or mean. Also I love Downton Abbey. Brilliantly written.

    Great post.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  8. I completely agree with you. I think some people confuse shock with humor. At the same time, I think some people should be more easy-going, but everyone has triggers, and for them, those subjects will never be okay to joke about.

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  9. I totally get you. I usually don't like vulgar comedy. I won't say that I've ruled it all out because of the vulgarity but I know that generally I don't crack up laughing because of it. However today I got to watch the pixar movie Monsters University and I laughed quite a lot. I guess I just prefer simple, witty comedy.

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  10. I totally agree. That's why I really love Brian Regan. He is an absolutely HILARIOUS comedian, but very clean....but VERY VERY FUNNY! He is coming to Salt Lake in February, and my husband, my family and I are all getting tickets because it is good, clean, family comedy! Yaaay!

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  11. I understand exactly what you're saying. Long ago I realized that most stand up comedians were full of little more than vulgarity and meanness. It's so sad. I really appreciate when people are able to be humorous without denigrating others or resulting to vulgar language. (It's one of the reasons I still love the old Bill Cosby recordings...hilarious and kid-friendly!)

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  12. Visiting from Sharefest. Thanks for the shout-out of Stuff Christians Like. I'm eager to take a look. I do agree that in the last few years every popular comedy is usually filled with the f* word. Which is a total turn-off. And sooooo unnecessary. I miss the comedies of my youth, like the Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin or Goldie Hawn movies that were funny and sweet at the same time.

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  13. Yes yes yes!!! I agree, I find it so difficult to find movies that are funny and not crude :(

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  14. I agree completely. Many of the movies today that everyone else just ADORES I wouldn't go to if you paid me. Things like Bridesmaids or the Batchelor Party. They are just gross and terribly unfunny to me. I love a good clean comedian. I've recently gotten Sirius radio in my car just for the comedy channel and I love to listen to John Pinnette and his rants about food, or even old clips from Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, or Jeff Foxworthy. Those guys are all hilarious without resorting to bad language or crude situations. #SITSsharefest

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  15. where do you live? i'm convinced we would hang out all day and do silly things and make jokes with the husbands. as far as funny (non vulgar) girls.. what about ellen and mindy? i have minor girl crushes on both of them for making everything more comical while keeping it somewhat.. clean.

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  16. Vulgar does not bother me nor does swearing. I am often amused by people who attempt to look at those of us who swear (profusely at times I might add) as though we're unintelligent or somehow lacking in our ability to effectively communicate.

    Personally, I get a good laugh out of the more vulgar and profane comedy. I also can get a good laugh out of humor that doesn't use either. In my household we tend to be a bit on the crass side making a lot of fart jokes and other not so G-rated humor. It works for us. We know how to behave in public and know how to avoid getting too vulgar. Most of our friends are like us and, if I'm being totally honest, people who are easily offended by swearing and vulgarity are usually people I don't hang around. Most of the ones I've met are usually extremely uptight so I have no interest in being around them.

    It's all a matter of to each their own I guess. As I said, swearing and vulgarity doesn't bother me.

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  17. Honestly, I don't mind vulgar. If it makes me laugh, I'm game. I'm a huge fan of sarcasm too.

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  18. I absolutely agree. It's disheartening that people feel like they have to use horrible language and vulgarity to "be funny". I watched the most hilarious youtube video last night (seriously, my face hurt afterwards from laughing) and there wasn't one thing that was offensive or something my children couldn't watch with me.

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  19. I like all kind of funny. Ellen is a great example of a non vulgar but I also love the people at the opposite end of the spectrum like Daniel Tosh. I think Louis CK is a good in between.

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  20. i love nonvulgar humor too...i love a good cheesy humor....

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  21. I so agree with you. I'm not into swearing and going over the top with my writing just to get more pageviews or attention. I know it works for some people and maybe that's just their style. That's perfectly fine. (I read it and find it entertaining sometimes!) I wonder how the language and tone translates into real life relationships though. I wonder if the extra traffic is worth it if your kid's teacher reads stuff like that!

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  22. I don't like bad words . AT ALL , AT ANY PRICE . I mean , humour can be anything , a simple line . A little phrase but adding vulgar words doesn't spice it up. It shatters your image all over . I love Sophie Kinsella's books because she's way too funny without adding some *** words in them . People still laugh , it's the general term .
    Noor's Place

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  23. I've never liked vulgar language or swearing, I feel there is too much of it in the movies. I am a new follower.

    www.hungrycaramella.blogspot.com

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  24. I totally agree! I would even say that some of the funniest comments/jokes/people are funny because they are witty and quick, without being crude or condescending/hurtful in their humor. I will crack jokes at myself all day, but I can't stand when others are attacked for "fun" or for a joke.

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  25. I remember being on a cruise and going to see a comedienne who was SO VULGAR I didn't even find her funny. I felt more uncomfortable for listening to her.

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  26. I actually get embarrassed at some humor, even if I'm only in my own home, and have to turn it off. On the same note, I don't understand why it's funny when people get hurt. I will never understand that humor either. Perhaps I just don't have a sense of humor at all but I think I do. I suppose it's just very limited. It sounds like I'm on the same page as you.

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  27. i was listening to this really interesting npr podcast on comedy and how 1 out of 100 jokes said aloud at a stand-up comedy place get a laugh. it's hard because there are some things that are funny to certain people, and not to others. i've had so many people email me things and said, "you gotta see this, it's so funny." and i thought it was awful.

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  28. Jim Gaffigan and Brian Regan are two incredibly funny and relatively clean comedians that everyone can appreciate! Check 'em out, if you haven't yet.

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  29. That's why my favorite TV sitcoms were shows like The Cosby Show and Full House. They don't make shows like that anymore {and now I feel really old}!! :-)

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  30. Totally agree Rachel! These days it's hard to find a good comedy show or even "funny" movies that are really family friendly. Thanks for that Stuff Christians like link, sounds like my kind of link to follow!

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  31. I totally agree with you. I've also noticed some of the viral videos with teens fighting each other and crowds of people standing around laughing. I can't seem to find the humor in someone being jumped and beat to a pulp. It's quite disgusting to me. I totally still love the old comedians like Jerry Lewis, Flip Wilson, and Carol Burnett.

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  32. I think this is why I have trouble with most mainstream comedy--it's not that I'm a prude or can't handle some adult humor, but half the time they're making all these jokes about poop and drugs, which I just don't find funny because it's gross and stupid; or else they're making fun of disabled people or something, and I don't find that funny because it's just wrong. I have trouble finding comedy that appeals to me. I do really like British comedy--those snappy witty comebacks are the best, much better than bathroom humor.

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