Monday, October 18, 2010

Funny: At the Expense of Whom? Please vote



There's this funny thing about humor: it's not funny to everyone. I tend to like the unexpected, what's dry or witty or sarcastic. ClinkShrink, bless her Midwestern soul, likes puns. And Roy, well he still likes potty humor.

Jokes are often made at the expense of a group, and I don't understand a lot of ethnic, racial, put-down humor. That said, the other day I went to put up a post, and since I've recently written about how to find a psychiatrist, and what makes mental illness bad---both serious posts that took me a while---I thought I'd opt out and just went to youtube and searched for "psychiatry humor." Lazy, you say. Yup! But I listened to the audio of Psychiatry Hotline and I laughed out loud. Even though I hesitated for a moment, I posted it.

Two readers and Roy pointed out that this YouTube makes fun of people with mental illnesses. Does it? I had trouble seeing this as the same phenomena as your usual make-fun-of-a-group in a hurtful way type joke. For one thing, the "if you're a nymphomanic press...." was the part I laughed out loud at, and nymphomania is not a psychiatric diagnosis. Hypersexuality is a symptom of some disorders, but if I can't laugh at a nymphomania joke, maybe I should go home and learn to like bad puns. If you're co-dependent, have someone help you press 5. Ah, co-dependence is not a psychiatric diagnosis either, but a lay designation used to describe a constellation of behaviors in a way that some people find to be meaningful and helpful. The rest of the tape....okay, I admit, it pokes fun of people with illnesses. Somehow, I couldn't come to terms with this as being bad. I still own a Prozac mug and my friends comment when I serve them coffee in it---- is that bad? It certainly gets more of a reaction than a Lamisil mug would get.

Here is the thing though, something invaluable that I learned from Dr. Fox who taught us family therapy behind a one-way mirror : Insults and offenses are defined by those who are insulted or offended. If someone is injured, that's what counts and the offending party is left to recant. The reality isn't in "Oh, but you should find this funny" or "It's not offensive." The reality is that someone is offended and those feelings are valid. With that, I should take the post down. However-- and do forgive me, Dr. Fox--but it is hard to negotiate life (much less a blog with a duck mascot) if one tiptoes through afraid of insulting or offending any one of the 2,500 weekly unique visitors.

So I'm taking a vote. And I want to know if YOU are offended personally, not if this is potentially offensive to someone somewhere.

Here's the link if you want to listen again:

http://psychiatrist-blog.blogspot.com/2010/10/its-okay-to-laugh-at-jokes-your-career.html

And here's the ballot: