Comedy is tragedy plus time they say. Who is they? People. Don’t ask awkward questions.*
But there is always an outpouring of ‘offensive’ jokes on Twitter whenever something happens that’s remotely tragic. And then you see the same jokes cropping up again and again. It’s really a race to the bottom in terms of this particular cultural phenomenon. And then a few minutes after that you get people gnashing teeth and saying that it’s “too soon“. TOO SOON. You can’t be making jokes now. Give it some time. Some space. And then jokes will become magically acceptable.
But how long is too soon?
This is an impossible question to answer. Because your too soon is probably very different to my too soon. In fact I know it is because my too soon doesn’t exist. To me you can make a joke about anything, anytime. But not anywhere. And that’s the distinction that I think solves this little conundrum. But I’ll move on to that shortly.
The difficulty with “too soon” is that it’s arbitrary. And as soon as you have arbitrary moral judgements, it becomes impossible to maintain consistency. It’s too soon to make a joke about the civil war in Syria because that’s ongoing (Syriaously?). Or it’s too soon to make a joke about 9/11 because people are still grieving. Or it’s too soon to make a joke about Bill Clinton (it’s actually too late to make a joke about Bill Clinton. Mum please stop sending me those email forwards). And so forth. How the fuck am I supposed to know if I can make a joke about it?
So if you’ve got a horrible gag that you think is funny, share it with me. However don’t put it on Twitter (Africans have AIDS, get it?). Or don’t put it on Facebook. Because your right to free speech doesn’t mean you can be an asshole and not be called on it. And people will call you on it. Having free speech means you can say stuff. But there will be consequences.
So what I’m saying is, you don’t have to self-censor, just think about who you’re saying it to and I’m sure you’ll be fine.
*It was Carol Burnett. Says Wikipedia.