Easily offended Millennials offended by show suggesting Millennials were easily offended

I’ve written a lot about how Millennials are poorly equipped to deal with adversity, as well as how easily offended we are these days. Today I saw an example of these two ideas coming together.

In a focus group for the new show The Great Indoors some Millennial audience members were offended because the show depicted Millennials as being easily offended. I implore you to follow the above link because it’s really worth a read, but an excerpt below:

“The millennial in the group said he did not like it because of the jokes about millennials being coddled, too sensitive and thin-skinned. The woman running the focus group, Gibbons said, clarified: “So, you were offended by millennials being portrayed as too sensitive.”

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The more offensive, the funnier the joke?

Louis_CK_Kuwait_cropI previously wrote about how there is no such thing as an inoffensive joke. The logical next question would therefore be, is a joke funnier when it is more offensive? Is offense a side effect, or a necessity?

There are numerous theories of what makes humor work, but the one I like the most is the Benign Violation Theory by Peter McGraw and Caleb Warren. The theory is a marriage of the ‘Relief Theory’ (That all humor is a form of psychic release of tension) and the ‘Incongruity Theory’ (That humor comes when there is some sort of surprise). The Benign Violation Theory posits that we find humor when we are presented with a subject that might normally seem threatening, but the context is safe, and we react to this dissonance with laughter. Continue Reading

There is no such thing as an inoffensive joke

maxresdefaultWhenever a comedian causes controversy for a particular joke, one thing that is almost always clear is the narcissism involved in the outrage. Bill Burr often comments that a crowd is happy to laugh at jokes about all manner of subjects, but when the joke comes around to something an audience member is sensitive about, all of a sudden that joke is not a joke, but a ‘statement’.

There is no such thing as a completely inoffensive joke. We all have certain subject matter that we don’t personally see the humor in. Even Jerry Seinfeld, arguably one of the cleanest comedians in the world, has stopped playing college campuses because the students were too easily offended. If Jerry Seinfeld can cause college students to retreat to their safe spaces, it is a sign that comedy always has to trample on something somebody holds dear, no matter how seemingly benign it may be.

Veteran Scottish shock comedian Jerry Sadowitz once said that being offended is the tax that you pay for laughing at jokes about other people. If an old man laughs at a potentially sexist joke, they should be prepared to take their lumps when the same comedian makes a potentially ageist joke. When an audience member complains, heckles, writes a blog, causes a Twitter storm or tries to get a comedian fired from a project, they are essentially announcing that their grievance is more important than the rest of the audiences’ freedom to listen. This is where free speech becomes ‘me speech’.Continue Reading

When context gets ignored in comedy

youre-not-funnyI wrote a piece recently for UnsafeSpeech.com where I looked at three jokes that caused outrage, but were in fact not offensive to the perceived victim suggested by those who took issue. In fact, in several of the cases, the jokes were in support of the aggrieved group.

We live in a time where jokes are routinely taken out of context on purpose. Some people, as comedian Joe Rogan often points out on his podcast, are figuratively waiting on a start line looking for a green light to get offended by something, on behalf of other people. It’s an easy way to signal how virtuous you are, without going to the trouble of actually doing something charitable or valuable. Comedy is one of the biggest victims of this new outrage culture as on the surface, if you are motivated to ignore its nuances, it can often look abhorrent, especially satire.Continue Reading

The advertising genius of Bill Burr

burr_why_01_v6The podcast is the new blog. These days everyone seems to have one, and in particular, every comedian seems use it as a way to market themselves and develop new comedy material.

What separates Bill Burr’s podcast from all the others (Other than the fact he is probably the funniest podcaster out there)  is the way he reads his ad-copy. He is brutally honest and incredibly funny. What’s more, he seemingly has no idea what he is about to read, so his reaction to the copy is usually very raw.

Rather than using euphemisms, he sells ‘MeUndies’ by singing ‘no more sweaty balls’. During his read for Video Doorbell he acted as bemused at the product’s USP as the rest of us. He got in a lot of trouble with the company Nature Box for using innuendo. Just this week he deliberately went against the wishes of DraftKings by referring to the Daily Fantasy Sports site as gambling, mocking the idea that it is ‘skill based’ and joking that gambling too much could leave you in the poor house.

The real selling point is, of course, how funny Burr is, but the radical honesty from the ad-copy is tremendously engaging. Burr’s is one of the few podcasts where you don’t fast forward beyond the adverts, in fact you look forward to them. Any Bill Burr fan will sing along to his ‘MeUndies’ song as if he were a rock star singing his greatest hits. Many of Burr’s funniest adverts have been preserved on YouTube where they get played and played again, to hundreds of thousands, well beyond the original date of the podcast. There is even a sub-Reddit of fans discussing which of his adverts was the best. Quite simply his adverts alone are better than most other podcasts.

It is all very reminiscent of the 1990 Dudley Moore movie Crazy People, where advertising executives employ residents of a mental asylum to write their copy.

As for the brands themselves, as a consumer it becomes hard not to respect them for being prepared to laugh at themselves, by continually paying Burr to advertise for them. Brands like DraftKings, MeUndies, Dollar Shave Club and Stamps.com are regulars on the show, and the fact that they didn’t instantly pull out after Burr ripped them a new one points to a resilient brand with a sense of humour. In a world of perpetual and false outrage (A topic regularly discussed by Burr) where brands will distance themselves from partners at the first sign of a PC shitstorm coming their way, this is refreshing.

The funny thing about Burr’s radically honest form of advertising is that it is so rare in this day and age, it has almost made it his own. Joke thievery is nothing short of blasphemous in comedy circles and Burr has carved out such a unique niche for himself, surely any other comedian adopting the same approach to their ad-copy would almost be called out for mimicking his style? Even if the jokes were vastly different, in the future it will be hard to hear comedians roasting their advertisers and not think of Burr.

It may not be possible to replicate this particular style of advertising without it looking like a Bill Burr rip-off, but there is a much wider lesson to be learned. We live in an age where we are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day. We are immune for the most part to the lofty promises most of them make. Honest advertising not only treats the consumer like an autonomous adult who can make their own decisions, it is also a great way to engage with an audience and stand out from the pack.

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