Recently, I was watching one of my fellow comedians deliver a particularly disturbing set of jokes. There was a little laughter, but mostly the audience gasped and groaned while shifting in their seats uncomfortably. I couldn't help but wonder -- was he trying to shock or is he indeed a cruel psychopath? Is his brand of dark humor a harbinger for future acts of violence? He seems like such a nice guy.
According to a recent Readers Digest article, "If You Laugh at These Dark Jokes, You’re Probably a Genius," the appreciation for dark humor is a sign of a higher IQ. Additionally, studies have shown that people who appreciate off-color jokes have lower aggression, and resist negative feelings more effectively than people who turn up their noses at them.
A Time and Place for Everything
“I have to leave early tonight, I have a flight to California. I can’t get a direct flight — they said I have to stop at the Empire State Building first.”
An audience member's reaction to Gilbert Gottfried's 9/11 joke he told at a Friars Club Roast of Hugh Hefner mere weeks after the attack kicked off the popular notion of jokes being delivered 'too soon!' A cancer joke may be funny to others dealing with the disease but not to the joke's subject.
Why wouldn't the cannibal eat the clown? He tasted funny.
Unless you are a #Joker type comedian with serious mental health issues (a topic NOT meant for this blogger!) perhaps dark, also known as gallows or black humor, can serve as a useful strategy for dealing with pain, misfortune and tragedy. However, keep in mind that timing and audience are the keys Smarty Pants!