Illegal jokes in Britain

At last – legislation is about to be passed which will make homophobic jokes illegal. It has been a long time coming. I haven’t found jokes about homosexuals funny for at least two decades, so either way I win...

The other great thing is that jokes about homosexuals will immediately become funny again, because they are now contraband, samizdat and against the law. Those same boring old jokes about not bending down in the shower, being good at interior design, liking Judy Garland and so on, will now make one prick up one’s ears (ooh, get you, dearie! But not the ears, surely). And these days we need more things to laugh at.

For years I found racist jokes extremely boring – but they became funny when it was apparent that the act of telling them could (a) lose you your job and (b) bring the Old Bill down on you with a charge of inciting racial hatred. Now, as a consequence, I find almost all racist jokes hilarious, especially ones about Muslims and particularly if they are cartoons which feature Allah or Muhammad or fat ladies in burqas saying to one another: “Does my bomb look big in this?”

However, I don’t find them quite as funny as I find jokes about physical or mental disabilities – they are the real howlers these days. And that’s because the disability lobby has become so preternaturally sensitive, so disposed towards pouncing on anything which might be construed as disablist. Consequently, these days, all you have to do is say “and guess what . . . he only had one arm!” and I fall about laughing.

When my colleague Jeremy Clarkson described Gordon Brown as a “one-eyed Scottish idiot” I smiled briefly; but when the professional race monkeys and anti-disablist monkeys got on his case I suddenly found it all killingly funny. “How dare he imply that having one eye, or being Scottish, is an insult?” these terrible people ranted, and with every rant Jeremy’s comment became truly funny. Oh, I thought, in the end – strap up my sides, I can’t stand it. Such wonderful pomposity, a real gift to the comedian. Such hilarious hypersensitivity.

Jokes are almost never funny per se, when they are stripped of their social context (if they ever could be). The stuff that makes us laugh is never neutral; it involves poking that part of us which, for most of the time, remains unpoked. The part of us which civilised behaviour insists should remain below the surface. That’s why Ricky Gervais is so funny; he gets this point – he understands the latent humour of social embarrassment, of saying things which you are simply not supposed to say. The mentally handicapped kid in the restaurant, the black actor confronted by a golliwog.

It is the breaching of the social convention which is really funny, not the supposed slighting of black, disabled or homosexual people. It is the potential for naughtiness, which exists in all of us (yeah, okay, except maybe Patricia Hewitt). Bring on the legislation and bring on those queer jokes.


Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here

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