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The Blue & Gray Press | November 14, 2018

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Thought You Knew: Tasteless Jokes Shame America

There’s an epidemic sweeping UMW: an Insensitivity Epidemic.

Recently I’ve noticed an alarming trend among many of my peers; no one takes anything seriously anymore.

Rather than accept that certain subjects are, and should remain, off-limits, some members of our UMW community feel the need to blur the line between right and wrong in the name of earning a few laughs.

When did it become okay to publicly discuss things other than “American Idol,” how great the ’90s were or how scary life is after college?

It seems like everything is one big joke and those of us who aren’t laughing become the punch line.

Are we really this jaded? Is nothing sacred anymore?

I blame the media. “Comedians” like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert make a living by mocking the important issues plaguing the world. Outlets such as “The Onion” publish articles that poke fun at every subject imaginable without even alerting readers that it’s satire.

Do you know how terrible I felt once I realized the video report “Breaking News: Woman Crying On Train Platform” was nothing more than a joke at the expense of women crying on train platforms everywhere?

I am a woman who has cried on a train platform. Do you think “The Onion” even cares that this appalling joke made me feel bad about myself?

“The Onion” should be ashamed of itself.

No, America should be ashamed of itself for allowing this to continue.

Just last week I stumbled upon a blog post in which a thin, privileged white woman shockingly dared to compare her life to the that of Precious from the movie “Precious,” closing with the crass one-liner, “Never mind—even Precious got laid every once in a while,” as if incest-rape is a laughing matter.

It took nearly 45 minutes for my rage to subside and my hands to stop shaking long enough to leave a comment, but I had to say something. I couldn’t sit back and watch someone mock a defenseless fictional character for a cheap laugh. She’s already been through so much.

I should grow a thicker skin and stop taking things so seriously, right? Or maybe I should ignore subjects that upset me.

That’s what I thought you cold-hearted villains would say.

Now that I’ve presented the problem it would be unfair not to offer a solution.

We need to agree on topics to avoid at all costs, unless we’re having serious conversations with stern expressions and lots of sighing.

I’ve come up with a few suggestions to get the ball rolling, but I hope we can work together to develop the official “List of Topics We Won’t Joke About. Ever.” to present at the April 14 Board of Visitors meeting.

Here’s what I have so far: death, tragedy, disaster, poverty, disease, war, religion, substance abuse, terrorism, any social issue on which there are two distinct viewpoints, white-collar crime, feminism, the weather, Salad Creations, “Celebrity Apprentice,” seersucker, Zune mp3 players, light bulbs, liquid, Feng Shui, fantasy baseball, chairs, what constitutes art, Monopoly, lizards, whether or not taffy is delicious, infinity and John Mayer.

There is no way to joke about these things without offending others, so I propose that we stop joking all together. Knowing this list could prevent just one person from feeling emotions ranging from “mild discomfort” to “really offended” is all the convincing anyone should need.

How can you sleep at night knowing your laughs come at the cost of another person’s happiness?

No one deserves to be offended by strangers who seem to voice their harsh opinions just to get a rise out others and make their own lives more bearable, if only for the promise of a rare moment without despair and the weight of being alive resting on their slightly hunched shoulders (they know they should sit up straighter, but sometimes it takes so much to sit up at all).

When you see someone fall down, you don’t point and laugh; you help them up, give them a hug and tell them everything will be okay.

Consider this your hug. We can overcome the Insensitivity Epidemic as long as we’re willing to help each other up every once in a while.

There is no room at UMW for comedy that questions norms and pushes boundaries. It is, after all, our God-given right to never be exposed to anything that could offend us.

Let’s play it safe from now on.

Let’s make 2011 the year we finally get serious about being serious.

The next time you need a laugh, remember there are only two true kinds of comedy: knock-knock jokes and Dane Cook stand-up routines, edited for basic cable.

Everything else is just cruelty.


  1. Salad Fan

    All I want to do is tell people how delicious Salad Creations is…

  2. Anna

    This is hilarious! I didn’t know that the bullet started a humor column! keep it up!

  3. Ben

    This is a joke, right?

  4. bill clinton

    I’m pretty sure this a big F– You to the people who were complaining about some previous articles. lolz

  5. Klango

    Yay! Funniest viewpoint ever. I love donuts.

  6. Al Gore

    Yep, that was the best this column has been.

  7. RW

    Comedy is a way of expressing truth, even if it is “not politically correct” in a way that everyone can connect with. No, rape and murder are never funny, but many other things are fair game. If we all looked at the world to be as serious, depressing, and destructive as it is sometimes, there would be no happiness. Humor by comedic geniuses like John Stewart breathe life into things we would gloss over for fear of upsetting someone. Also Dane Cook is awful.

  8. dg

    didn’t get it?

  9. Pwnsauce

    Should we take this seriously? If I say something insensitive that isn’t directly aimed at you (the author), why would you be offended? If you’re offended by something I say about someone else then you really need to change that mindset. Think about it. Are there any real repercussions for you if I make an insensitive joke about someone that died? No. If I’m gonna make a joke like that do you really think that voicing your opinion on how bad it is will influence me to change my behavior? Absolutely not.

    Stop joking altogether? If this is actually what you think is a good course of action, you’re just plain dumb. Sure you’re allowed to stand up for others, but by no means is it an obligation. Start worrying about yourself for a change.

    You asked the question “How can you sleep at night knowing your laughs come at the cost of another person’s happiness?”
    I sleep quite soundly.

    Did you know 9 out 10 people enjoy gang rape?

  10. R

    Oops, only skimmed it last night and missed the sarcasm. Oh well.

  11. Jordan Kroll

    Pwnsauce might be on to something, you guys. Maybe I need to lighten up and stop taking everything I read/hear so seriously. I’m graduating soon and the real world is going to be awfully scary if I can’t take a joke. Pwnsauce, do you have any tips on determining when it’s appropriate to take something seriously and when it’s okay to be in on the joke? As a rule, should we always strive to be in on the joke? This information will be crucial as I begin my quest to finally “get” comedy.

  12. Arnold

    I would never dare to speak for Pwnsauce, if that is his real name, but perhaps I can answer your question Mr. Kroll. You talk about the real world being an awfully scary place if you can’t take a joke. Well, it IS an awfully scary place, and if you’re not scared and/or offended at all times you are doing something wrong.

    As for getting comedy, I suggest a comedy mix tape. In addition to Dane Cook and knock-knock jokes, I would suggest “not” jokes as a viable source of humor. Sometimes they take a few tries to fully understand, but when properly executed they are a thing of beauty. I also enjoy prop comics, but I am not sure how well they translate into the mix tape format. Perhaps you can explore that topic and give us your thoughts in a serious manner at some point.

  13. The important difference between your tasteless jokes and the tasteless jokes which Jon Stewart or his corespondents make is that their jokes clearly identify the real issue at stake.

    I understand that some people think your work is funny. There is a small amount of value in being funny, but there is a large amount of harm in trivializing a serious issue.

    When Samantha Bee makes sexist jokes on The Daily Show, the audience is not only amused, but also left with a greater understanding of the nature of sexism and the harm that it causes. When you make jokes about depression in the bullet, you’re just making fun of people with a problem.

    I wish you were as witty as the Daily Show. I see the points you are trying to make. I understand where you were going, even with your article about SAD. The trouble is you don’t have the skill to pull it off.

  14. Arnold

    I agree with the above poster. I read Mr. Kroll’s columns with the goal of being educated, not entertained.

    For future topics, I would suggest “Thought You Knew: Solving America’s Reliance on Foreign Oil.” Or “Thought You Knew: Tau as the new circle constant relating the circumference of a circle to its linear dimension.” I think topics such as these would perhaps help you reach the proper ratio of infotainment.

  15. kevin

    When I first read this column, I was not sure if it was in itself a satire of someone who does not have a sense of humor. I usually enjoy reading what Jordan writes for the Bullet, but your standpoint on jokes is ridiculous in my opinion.

    Rather than be ashamed of America for its “tasteless” humor, I am proud of it. In other countries with oppressive governments, freedom of speech is limited and people aren’t allowed to joke about just anything. We should take pride in the fact that we allow people to joke about anything, even if they offend some people.

    You attack Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the Onion for this trend. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are comedians; it their job to make people laugh. They point out the absurdities in the world and try to brighten peoples’ day as well as enlighten them as to what is going on. Sure they “mock the important issues,” but that’s why it’s funny. The Onion’s job is the same. You blame them for making you upset with their satire and not blatantly announcing that they are a fake news site. The Onion may not be for you, but you shouldn’t criticize them because a lot of people are tired of reading about that rapist in D.C., the car bomb in Fallujah, or the presidential primaries that start two years before Election Day. If you had your way, this world would be a much more somber, humorless place.

    In my opinion, offensive humor is the funniest humor. It’s edgy, it’s interesting, and it usually points out some truth that isn’t obvious. Take for instance George Carlin. He’s joked about the death penalty, religion, poverty, war, substance abuse, and other controversial topics. He’s one of the most beloved public figures of our time.
    “There is no room at UMW for comedy that questions norms and pushes boundaries. It is, after all, our God-given right to never be exposed to anything that could offend us.” Are you serious? Not only are you disagreeing with our first amendment right of free speech, you are essentially advocating for a fascist-like censorship of media. That sentence is something that seems like it was written before the Enlightenment. Being offended is just another part of living. If someone is unfortunate enough to not have an open mind when it comes to humor, they should ignore people like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the Onion.

    Humor is subjective. Someone somewhere might find your knock-knock jokes or Dane Cook’s routines to be offensive. Does that mean they should be ashamed? I understand that you dislike this type of humor, but neither you nor anyone else is in the position to tell people that they are “cold-hearted villains” for laughing.

  16. Thomas

    To make myself feel better about the humane race, I’m going to assume that all the negative commenters here are being just as satirical as Jordan is.

  17. Cassandra

    Dear Jesus. I’m with Thomas. I’m just going to leap off the tallest building I can find if some of these comments aren’t trolling.

    Also, Damian, perhaps many people “get” Samantha Bee’s jokes because TV is safe; the Daily Show is safe. We’re informed it’s supposed to be funny; we’re watching Comedy Central, the studio audience is laughing, Colbert is making a funny face… And we’re informed it’s also educational because they’re wearing nice suits & interviewing grown-ups who’ve written thick books.

    But reading a student-written article, with no audience to tell you it’s funny, with no professor there to help you decide if it’s offensive or not, is risky. Heaven forbid we think for ourselves. Who knows what would happen if we stopped to question political correctness & over-sensitivity.

    So, thank you Jordan for this piece of satire. I’m just sorry it seems to have whizzed over so many peoples’ heads.

  18. Jenny

    Some of J. Kroll’s readers are taking themselves a bit too seriously. Lighten up and maybe you will learn something from Mr. Kroll.

  19. Leah Yegneswaran

    To the writer of this article, who wrote a previous article on Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, and other mood disorders:

    I really wish that I could get behind the message that I feel you’re trying to get across: that some issues, while serious in and of themselves, can be joked about in a way that’s both funny and non-offensive.

    The problem is that your writing doesn’t quite read the way I have faith you intended it to. I’m sure you meant to come across as someone who understands that these issues exist, are serious, and cause very real problems for those who face them every single day: despair, self-injury, injury of others, death, or other mechanisms of coping, relief, and sometimes in extreme cases, an untimely exit from this world.

    The problem is that you don’t come across that way. Truthfully, you come across as insensitive. You sound like someone who thinks these problems are fictionalized or fabricated and that people who have sympathy for friends, family members, or associates with these debilitating conditions are overreacting and giving into someone’s pity-act. That’s not the case.

    I have lived with mood disorder, in myself and in my immediate family. It has almost torn my family apart and it has almost destroyed lives.

    I am not comfortable with the way you presented this issue in your writing. If the intent was to be humourous on a universal level, you failed. If your intent was to be humourous to the majority of students, INCLUDING those who suffered from mental diseases or disorders, you failed.

    In this article, where I believe you were trying to humourously respond to critics of your earlier writing, you failed again. Massively.

    Instead of coming across as a self-aware writer defending an article, you sound petty and like a bully.

    Please spare yourself and this campus the embarrassment of further defense of what I find truly indefensible.


  20. Jenny

    Fabulous job Mr. Kroll! You have hit the nail on the head again. All good writer’s write to obtain a response from the reader. You have “them” talking…you have done an outstanding job. Keep up your exceptional work. You are a talented and quite clever writer. I dare say the positive and the negative responses on this comment board were precisely what you intended. Very clever!

  21. AcidicPlague