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No joke, some things aren’t worth laughing about

Crikey readers have their say.

Freedom of speech in comedy

Sally Goldner writes: Re. “No joke, freedom of speech is worth debating” (November 28). I ran by the guideline when doing stand-up of “unless a person identifies as part of that group, they don’t make jokes about it”. I therefore would have real concern with the idea of someone who is not a r-pe survivor doing “jokes” about that. If a survivor chooses to, that’s their call.

As someone who is a person (emphasis) with many facets including transgender and bis-xual, I can — and did — take the Michael out of myself on those facets. I also used to sit and watch people who didn’t identify that way and who thought they had incredibly funny material about trans and/or bi that I knew was not humourous at all. The good thing was — virtually no one else laughed at their material either.

In the end, there IS a form of censorship that works for stand-up: self-censorship. I chose to be a decent human being first and therefore my comedy came from my heart, not a manipulative or egotistical head.

And the more I think about it, the stand-ups who have stood the test of time seem to follow that rule too — and their reward is that the punters keep coming back to them.

Christopher Nagle writes: Freedom of speech or anything else is not an absolute. With every freedom come obligations and responsibilites to the social commons. Freedom is socially licensed, even if the terms of that licence are very broad. Freedom of speech is no defense against defamation.

Legitimising r-pe by treating the criminal aggression that it involves as if it were an acceptable behaviour, scrapes the edges of even the most liberal interpretation of social licence. Anti-Jewish concentration camp “jokes” would come in the same category.

R-pe jokes made in decent society would bring rapid condemnation and confrontation. That might be sufficient except that there are elements in the male community who really do think r-pe is OK.  You know, “she was asking for it …”.

My feeling is that r-pe jokes breach the barrier between offensiveness and committing an offence. But it needs to be handled with the same “subtly” as the joke itself. Requiring a comedian to go back to the place where he made the joke and require him to give a serious apology to women in general and a heartfelt admission of how inappropriate it was and what a terrible message it sent, would be salutary, without being “punitive”, or too legalistic.

John Vandenbergh writes: I like most comedy. If I am uneasy with any part of it, I can turn it off or walk away. I liked the Chaser’s gift of a stick to cancer patients. I like Judith Lucy’s openness, and Billy Connelly’s language.  Let’s face it, I’m a pig!  But not your average pig. I’m the pig that really hates the political correctness that censorship produces.

Robert Pullan writes: That we could, or should, ban comedy of any description is a perverse proposal, the next step in which is, of course, to ban questions like this. The holocaust — Springtime for Hitler  — is subject to comedy. The God concept — catastrophic consequences aside — is hilarious. But if you have a comedian at a CFMEU dinner impersonating a cigar-waving billionaire who tells Tony Abbott “whatever you do don’t have an affair with …”, that’s already unlawful. It can’t be published. A joke which damages a person’s reputation is unlawful: ask Max Gillies.

Apart from that, we can laugh at whatever we please.

The Palestinian question

Venise Alstergren writes: Re. “PM’s Palestine problem bad start to our UN stint” (November 29). I wish to congratulate Bruce Haigh for his first class article on the Palestinian question.

Sadly, Australian prime ministers, and their advisers, employ self-censorship in order not to offend the Americans. And, the Americans, having such a huge Jewish lobby, have been funding Israel ever since its inception. The thing they fail to realise is the fact that America might even have some respect for a nation which actually thinks for itself.

There are times when I wish the Japanese had invaded Australia during WWII. It would have forced us to fight as a nation and to think like one, as opposed to a lacklustre remnant of British and American imperialism.

Je ne parle pas anglais

Alex Joseph writes: Re. “Rundle: protests, corruption and poutine in sans-serif Montreal” (Friday). My wife and I were in Canada last month. We went to several cities, starting with Vancouver, going all the way to Quebec City. In all the places we visited in “English” Canada, French was given equal prominence in ALL public places.  My wife and I were gobsmacked by the money, and energy, expended by all levels of government, and private parties, in ensuring that French Canadians felt at ease wherever they went.

It was a completely different situation in the two French Canadian cities we visited, Montreal and Quebec City. Hardly any English, anywhere!  Signs, explanatory notes under statues, descriptors for exhibits in museums, etc. Even menus in the restaurants were only in French. We, as tourists, were fed up.

And no wonder the English Canadians are bloody angry. French Canadians want autonomy, respect, and huge hand-outs. But, as a society, they simply do not believe in giving anything in return. We would definitely go again to Canada, it is a tourist paradise. But, we would not be too keen on going to Quebec province, unless there is a change in attitude.  I am not holding my breath in anticipation!

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  • 1
    paddy
    Posted Monday, 3 December 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Dear Crikey, please reinstitute that highly sensible tradition, of announcing via Twitter, when the daily dose of Crikey goodness is released into the ether.

  • 2
    michael dwyer
    Posted Monday, 3 December 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    It is some years since I was in Canada, but I recall seeing signs in Italian, Chinese and other languages in Quebec province. I was told that it was legal for signs to be in any language as long as it wasn’t English. Montreal does have an English language newspaper.

    The Quebecois even concoct French words that are unknown in France. Stop signs read arret (circumflex accent over e) and parking is described as settellement. In Paris last year these signs read stop and parking. I was surprised that several taxi drivers spoke to me in English. Eventually Quebec will be the only francophone state in the world!

  • 3
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Venice Alstergren:

    Well put once again.

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