How I’m trying to make an offensive joke funny…

How I'm trying to make an offensive joke funny...

I worried over a joke last night that I knew will be offensive because I hadn’t written it correctly and it was raw.

In it, I took the banal arguments I have with people who praise Star Wars over the ludicrously elitism of the Star Trek franchise pre-Abrams, who he himself dragged it kicking and screaming into the 2010’s with Michael Bay-ish aplomb, and compared it to discussions some people like claiming the validity of reverse racism in South Africa.

Obviously, I won’t cover the whole joke here. It’s evolving and I’ll make it work.

Firstly, I could (and ultimately did) appear racist even just bringing up the concept without sufficient context, just as much as I could with statements that sound sexist, homophobic, or biased in any way to a demographic. I was attempting to present my opposition to the fact that I don’t agree with the term “reverse racism”. In case you need to know, I believe there’s just racism and we all see it every day, no matter who or how. I acknowledge that I am part of a flawed demographic; that in this country of South Africa I belong to the small minority with privileges that was, and still is, unavailable to millions of South Africans every day.

And it’s also important that I acknowledge that, to emphasise that I haven’t forgotten where I come from, how I got here and what I’m doing with it, and that is the joke’s objective. To compare a social discrepancy hidden within a geek agenda, bringing the audience out of their stupor and reminding the opposing view which screams to have a voice, and to remember that we’re still a broken society.

This joke is a unnerving but healthy reminder that what my ancestors achieved (and I mean genetically, the people who moved here before I did) on the back and forced coercion of both the indigenous population and the current majority that decides the future of this country. As a comedian and a spokesman for a portion of a minority, I have to take social responsibility for it, and this is my means of doing so.

The purpose of this blog post, however, is to explain that a joke (in as much as a statement) can have two separate meanings. I figured out that just by not expressing myself correctly and the wording lost in my translation, my intention of stating that I oppose “people who believe reverse racism is real” was lost completely. Yet, with practise and insight, I can get there as carefully and crucially as possible.

There’s a selfish side to this endeavour; I love to shock, it’s one of my favourite forms of humour, purely as my day is very mundane. I am not a popular boy, my social circle is extremely tight and very small, but in what I find as a weakness I use as a strength. If you are shocked by me and yet want to find out more, that makes you, to me, and interesting person. Through this joke that I’m writing, you’ll get to know me and its context as it evolves.

And boy, I love how a joke actually evolves. Peter Sserwanga was kind enough to share a video this morning about the writing methods of Louis CK, and how a single word in one example is never wasted, the premise is clearly understandable and each twist creatively nuanced. And I learnt, through discussions with fellow comics, that both aspects are extremely important.

About the author

Nelson De Gouveia

Nelson has been writing since he can remember, and even won a diploma for public speaking, albeit 20 years ago.
He works full time, loves his girlfriend and plays Batman on his Xbox a lot, even when it's finished.

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