I have to come abhor people who just can’t enjoy morbid humor, or more precisely get offended by it as if it isn’t now mainstream.
I assert that “Poor Taste” is an always moving goalpost. There’s a moving Overton Window on what’s appropriate. It may lurch a few feet forward from time to time, especially in the Bible Belt, but its progressively more nebulous since the dawn of Seth MacFarlane as a
creative force. Family Guy and American Dad, the Crown Jewels of the Fox ‘Animation Domination’ line up, routinely show murder, suicide, heroin use, 9-11, terrorism in general, religious beliefs of all faiths and plenty of dead hooker jokes. These are 2 of the highest rated programs ontelevision and have become embedded in our society and our collective .
Here are some facts about Family Guy and American Dad that back up my assertion-
– They are among the most successful shows on TV, proving their humor IS mainstream.
– Brian Griffin, a sentient dog who can speak routinely dates and has sex with woman. This is something people hung up with pointing out how tasteless the show is never seem to address. (This proves they never watch the show)
– American Dad features dozens of deaths and suicides per episodes as collateral damage to the Smith Family’s domestic problems. The characters usually dispose of bodies or something equally morbid while having mundane discussions. It’s brilliantly funny.
The rules of casual conversation are in flux. It’s difficult to communicate with people who have a ‘pre-MacFarlane’ humor views. The ‘last wave’ of humor will always still be viable, but MacFarlane has rewritten everything and changed the face of comedy forever.
– Seth McFarlane hosted the Academy Awards and closed the night with a number called “We Saw Your Boobs”. Name something more mainstream (and usually stuffy/boring/ pointlessly artsy) than that? Most hope he does it again.
Who could have foreseen this when Family Guy was repeatedly canceled by Fox? In most cases you would have to say that the cancellation definitely shows there was a time when the show was just too cutting edge to ever be defined as ‘mainstream’. Then a curious thing happened. The show exploded in re-runs on Cartoon Network. There were just enough episodes to make it possible to hook people and acclimate them to a brand new humor that was undeniably ground breaking and funny. A wave of support so strong emerged the show made another return to Fox Network to join the damage control triumph of American Dad, a show made just to fill the MacFarlane void as he and his creative team geared up and cranked out some of the best episodes yet. Years later both shows are just getting funnier and more popular.
The Double Edged Sword-
You need to be pretty smart to use these comedic devices in everyday life. You also have to accept that there’s some people, left behind by the current progression of comedy, who will be pissed about these jokes.
If you’re uncomfortable with Dead Hooker jokes and the like, you’re sort of left behind. No one will be held to accounts for making light of any situation. True, everything isn’t supposed to be fair game and some occasions are somber by nature, but things have changed.
That said- read the room. The consequences of being to glib are sure to take a toll if you lay it on too thick or too often.
UPDATE- 7- 2022 Since I wrote this we seem to moving even faster towards progressively more crass speech in general.