Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Different Folks, Different Jokes




My son is laughing at a video where people on the beach get showered with gull poop after some teen’s feed laxative laced chips to the unsuspecting sea gulls.
“What’s funny?” I ask. “Think of the dehydrated birds?”
“C’mon. It’s only a prank.”
Going by Karan Johar’s advice, ‘Not your cup of tea, don’t drink it’ I close the video. But an anonymous comment on the video stays with me. “Brilliant. I’m going to try this.”
I feel like a preachy mother who doesn’t know how to laugh. Because ‘funny’ videos showing a toddler flying off the swing and falling with a thud also appall me. Does age have something to do with humor? As Aamir says, “I am not a 14 year old who can laugh at cuss words.” 


Whether it was Bollywood or Twitter, the jokes at the AIB Knockout confused many and divided many more. As it happens, when a controversy hatches, some opinionated voices on the internet begin to shout so loudly that they refuse to listen to any disagreement. Consequently, the rational voices, afraid of being lynched on social media emerge after some sanity is restored. Funny, but the opposite happens in real life where religious moral minders are the first to flex muscles.

Humor is subjective. What is funny for me can be silly for you. So Aamir is a hypocrite when he objects to the roast and Ranbir is ‘cool’ because he is all for it. Twinkle is even better when she says she is more offended by Arnab Goswami than the AIB roast. Good. But what if Ranbir is simply pandering to his young fans? Would Ranbir approve if his family was the butt of jokes? What if Aamir is simply taking a stand on behalf of his friend Salman? Would Twinkle be hailed as a popular columnist if Mrs. Funnybones had blasted the roast? This not to say that all of them are liars. But how many of us are truly honest when we take a public stand?
 

While I am all for the show being watched as an adult movie, I am confused on several fronts.If popular trends mirror society, will I be comfortable if my kid narrates cuss laden jokes at home? Am I supporting the show only because I support 'freedom of expression'? What if the event was conducted by Hindi speaking stand-up artists using colloquial offensive words? Would the social media activists support them?  Perhaps, we are treading in grey waters. Perhaps there is no absolute right or wrong. I don't know. What I know is that I don't want Mr. Ashok Pandit as my moral minder.

‘Offence is never given, it’s taken. If you are offended walk away,’ say AIB supporters. Agree. But how many of us are mature enough to walk away when we are the butt of a cuss laden joke?
For me, freedom of expression comes with some sense of responsibility. I cannot listen to loud music at midnight because my neighbors will not walk away. Not without protesting. As Justice Orwell said, “You cannot go to a crowded theater, and shout, fire.”

 
Even at the cost of sounding preachy like Aamir, why cant we be more tolerant in understanding that any alternate view comes from a different culture, a different mindset, a different approach, a different reference, a different vantage point and a different upbringing? Why should Russell Peters ask Aamir to shut up? Aamir was reacting to a question and not sermonizing on his own. We can disagree with Aamir, maybe he is a hypocrite, but he has every right to speak his mind just as Twinkle has. Why is it so difficult to agree to disagree without calling names? After all, different folks, different jokes. 

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Also on Huffington Post.

Image Courtesy:www.brunchnews.com

49 comments:

  1. right and wrong can be defined to perfection.there is definite right and definite wrong.people find excuses in the name of circumstances and culture coz they are opportunists.culture defines what's right and wrong to perfection,but people distorted culture too to say right and wrong varies across cultures.the human morals in purest form is culture.only a person who has led life that is naturally human can define right and wrong to perfection or to flawless rationality.

    one's mindset is influenced by two factors like social environment he/she was brought up and parenting.people form different opinions based on that.but there is only one definite right opinion for every argument.so one should be able to read other's mind before arguing and he/she should stay away if you know the person can't come to right conclusion.am calm most of the time coz most of people don't have acceptance to truth and i don't like to argue blindly for the sake of it.argument will be sensible between people with equal magnitude of wisdom or people having acceptance to truth even if it hurts their ego.

    amir too was on wrong side when he made pk, people like amir support things according to the mileage they get by making statements on controversies. aib guys and amir are on wrong side at different circumstances,i don't find difference between both.

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    1. Thank you for expressing your views Rohan. Tolerance and respect for different sensibilities can go a long way.

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  2. Hmm - I never have liked any humor that pokes fun at someone for what he/she cannot help being or doing. That's my taste, and I hope when I try to be humorous I do not, in my turn, do the same. So, yes, I would be with Aamir in his reaction to the AIB roast. AND I do find it peculiar that when the chorus is yelling for Freedom of Expression it rather vehemently attempts to drown out any dissenting voices. A rather peculiar way of showing support for freedom of expression - by suppressing someone else's freedom of expression :)

    To set the record straight - I would express my total displeasure with AIB Roasts and the like, if need be. What I abhor is the idea that someone should take any extra-legal steps to do the same. AND, as for legal steps, it strikes me as faintly ludicrous to give so much importance to something that is not even a credible bubble in the stream of life.

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    1. So true...."the peculiar way of showing support for freedom of expression - by suppressing someone else's freedom of expression :)"
      We are on the same page.

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  3. I think what I don't like is that when he produces a film with cuss words,that's alright, but not AIB...I agree everyone has the right to say what they want to...Absolutely... But when you are a public figure the things you do are common knowledge .. So AK comes across , to me atleast, as pretending to be something he is not with that statement... I think as a society we are so intolerant... And we take the aid of our culture to hide that fact..that's sad for me..rest AIB was good or not everyone deserves to have their own opinion..But making it an issue is just too much..we have far serious issues to solve , I wonder why we get caught up in all these things you know?

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    1. You hit the nail Naba. Too much intolerance.

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  4. well ..after watching the show I never felt its freedom of expression ..in fact felt a poop coming out of every mouth ..more or less but its same ....When we say there are other issues to be discussed and this is something adult n to be ignored ..I see in reality the filth in every mind ,, the key issues start from mentality and filth in minds and when its public it shows your up bringing .. and loopholes..
    India being already said as Rapisthan or different names where women are not safe .. do we need more filth ?? do we need opinions
    .. .. clean india clean india ,, its a joke .. do we crack those jokes at home? I havent even heard from friends .. Karan johan proved himself to be a MORON publicly.

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    1. Glad you expressed your views Harman. The show divided us on many fronts.
      So good to see you here after a long time.

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  5. I am entering a bog here hoping to stay afloat.It is true that culture keeps changing but if the ill-effects of certain trends are visible is it not our duty to decry them?We all know that we cannot control what children watch or do not watch on net but is it necessary to tempt them?Self control is not at it's peak in teens and curiosity is.
    My daughter has better expressed all this in the following post--
    http://sucharitadatta.blogspot.in/2012/08/depravity-brand-name-fun.html

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    1. Your daughter blogs too? Will check it out Indu.
      Thank you for sharing.

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  6. Asking someone to shut up that too on media is simply too much ... Everyone has a right to express his opinion right ? if humor is at the cost of hurting someone s sentiment s it's simply not right just because we can do so .

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    1. Jaishree, maybe Aamir is a hypocrite but he has done more for the country than Russel Peters. So why ask him to shut up when Aamir was reacting to a question. We all have a right to express opinions while respecting reasoned disagreements.

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  7. to put it simply Volitaire's famous quote is sufficient "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

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    1. Sigh! Wish it was so simple. Just wondering Sundar. What if I make a dirty cartoon of my neighbors daughter and display it in my club house. I have every right to do so. Should I expect my neighbor to walk away? I am struggling with the right answers.

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  8. I don't even know what to say anymore, Alka. I was quite surprised with Aamir's comment considering that he had produced Delhi Belly. But, then like you say, he was asked a question. Yet, why call him names. It was his opinion after all just like we have ours. Besides, at least the guy does so much more than most of the others can even imagine. Yet, we can't leave our opportunities to slam him and call him names. Seriously, sometimes I wonder if social media has given rise to monsters within us. Yes, I hate cussing. I don't do it, certainly not in public. I would hate it if my son did it. Why lie? But I felt that the AIB Roast got too much publicity that it did not deserve. Perhaps we all stoked it by constantly giving our views for and against. Like you pointed out freedom of expression is never absolute but why such hue and cry and legal notices and apologies. The issue has been spoken about just way too much.

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    1. Your words always resonate with me Rachna. True, the controversy has blown over the top. I wrote this because I noticed that those who did not approve of the show were afraid to come out on social media. Moreover, I was trying to find out where I stand. Writing about it helped me to think clearly. So this was more for self than for a wider readership.
      Thanks.

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  9. I have no problem with cuss words. Now, I have watched neither PK nor AIB. I have a couple of the Comedy Central Roasts and some of the language used there is pretty crude sometimes.

    I disagree with Nabanita. If Amir uses cuss words in his movie, it does not mean he condones the use of it "everywhere". As I said, I have not seen the movie. Maybe it fitted the character used in the story.

    The important thing is "context".

    I agree with Suresh that the apostles of freedom of speech are often the most vocal about drowning out opposing points of view.

    I don't want to get into another rant about my outrage over other people's outrage, but shall repeat:

    CONTEXT.

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    1. Agree, context, backdrop, and reference all are important. But there are those who will argue over that too. Which is also fine as long as we stay away from abuse and welcome the discipline of reasoned disagreement.

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  10. Hasn't it always been the trend for one ' voice' to drown out the others? Whether it is right or wrong, that is a different matter altogether. I had this discussion with my fourteen year old daughter who was pretty much aware of the ' potboiler' thanks to her schoolmates. She came up with ' what about freedom of expression?' Since when did freedom of expression mean cussing for the laughs intentionally and systematically. Just as my ' freedom' should not infringe on others comfort so my ' freedom of expression' should not abet vitiating the already murky environment we live in. Being a public figure comes with a sense of responsibility. Whether you like it or not, the fans emulate the swagger, hairstyles, apparels and lingo of their idols especially in India. There are many lurking who will not see the line dividing 'just saying' and ' doing'. Do we really need more to add to the grime. And thanks to the publicity, the viewers have increased manifold.If there is really a need for this format why not form an exclusive society for it? Why have it up in a public domain?

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    1. We are on the same page Ilakshee, wish we had many more sane voices.
      Thank you for stopping by.

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  11. We are hypocrites. Judgmental hypocrites having time enough to lash out at everything and anything. Yes, the AIB came out with a roast and it clearly asked people not to watch it if they can be easily offended by it. Of course people watched it and many got offended by it. The point is we criticized even these people who got offended by it. It was their view point and only because our's was a different one, we blatantly ignored theirs. Same applies in the case of Aamir.
    This was a really good post. My little brother watched the AIB and has been off late thinking cussing is really macho!

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    1. Yes, we are at some point or another. Some of us have opinions but we don't want to be questioned. We thrive in the cacophony of freedom of expression but are not willing to accept any reasoned disagreement.
      Thank you for sharing your views Red.

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  12. I know what to expect from such shows so thankfully, gave it a miss:) Always a pleasure to learn more at least on your blog, Alka!

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  13. My friends told me that the video was 'mast'. I watched it, and I did not like it (in many parts). Before this, I've watched just one proper roast, and that was of Charlie Sheen. I had liked that one, for it did not rely heavily on obscenity, but skirted the established jokes on him. They did not personally offend on a whole new turf and also, they did not take digs on anyone else. So, when they said that Charlie kept prostitutes in his closet along with his money stash, the way the joke was bandied and taken seemed amusing.

    There is perhaps another factor why I might not have found that offensive, or why I find Russell Peters, and Jimmy Carr and their likes funny. English is not the first language of my thought. So, I don't relate 'fuck' to the act, but to the general connotation, even when it is implied, or I simply accept it as the verb, rather than a slang word. Whereas in case of Hindi cuss words, my mind is translating them into what is implied, and I am offended.

    Also, I am more of a relativist here. Once, in our final year, I was talking to a classmate from Bihar, who was roaming around with his girlfriend. Somewhere, he used the word 'chu**iya', and I had promptly interrupted him, 'dude, mind your tongue, you have a girl standing next to you' to which the two had almost unanimously answered, 'hamare yahaan ye normal baat hai'. I had said, 'hamare yahaan nahi hai, so please' (for they were in my place, if I am to make a regional distinction).

    But while watching this roast, in between disliking it in parts, and watching in others, I wondered what they were doing. Why should the colloquial terms for our body parts sound offensive in Hindi, when they are too mainstream in English. They are just using the Hindi variant of the slangs, whose English counterparts are often considered suave amongst our youth. Who knows, if our media stays persistent on making these terms common, someday, complete families would be watching such words being used in primetime shows. Going by that logic, I tried to not be offended, but I failed. My reaction was, 'kuch zyaada ho gaya yaar'.

    I feel the different between other standups, and this one was that it was directionless, or rather, purposeless. As for their freedom of expression, let us not try to use our rights as shields while we idly forget our responsibilities.

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    1. When I said any alternate view comes from a different culture, a different mindset, a different approach, a different reference, a different vantage point and a different upbringing, I meant exactly what you say Anshul. Thank you for articulating your thoughts so well.We are on the same page. Wish we had many more sane voices that are reasoned and tolerant such as yours.

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    2. I was reading your comment again Anshul. If the moral minders had not filed FIRs even the AIB supporters and lovers would have toned down the next event. Because as mature responsible adults, we knew that Kuch Zyada Ho Gaya Tha. But before they could self censor, the moral minders jumped the gun.

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  14. Agree with you Alka. You cannot getaway by saying anything in the name of a joke. And all this controversy surrounding AIB has gone a bit too far. Individually we have a set view and then collectively we agree with another set of views. Both are appealing and both may be right too. "Aap karen toh swami, Hum karen toh harami"...this adage holds good for everything for everyone in life.

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    1. Ha ha Janaki. That was a good one. This is not to say that two wrongs make a right.
      To each his own. For me freedom comes with some sense of responsibility.

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  15. If you ask me, honestly reading more and more about the issue and the views of different people has only helped me get confused about what my own view is. I am not for cuss words. So I am against the roast. But there were only adults who knew what a roast was and were sitting there with their own will. That's fine with me. The freely available video on the net was wrong for me because I saw young boys watching it a Metro, passing lewd remarks and young girls around them feeling awkward. I guess it's high time people keep their views to themselves instead of preaching on social media for likes, shares and comments.

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    1. I am so glad to have connected with like minded tolerant voices through this blog. And you are one of them.
      Thank you Rekha for stopping by and sharing your views. Can't agree more.

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  16. I agree with you on many points. As supporters of roast has to have their say, so should people who oppose the show. I am against banning the show. At the same time, I believe the videos should not have been put on public domain. Some of the jokes were very good some were downright filthy. Specially, the last section of Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. They were using exact colloqual cuss words you mentioned. It was not my cup of tea. i think people should decide if they want to watch such a show or not. At the same time, I think people who get offended by sexist attitude so easily, what are they going to say about such jokes?

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    1. Welcome here Abhijit. I could not go beyond the first part though I forced myself to see it because I write on media issues. We need more tolerance for alternate views. Thank you for sharing your views.

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  17. My views here are in sync with urs. With the advent of social media opinions are swarming like bees all around us. I am highly irritated and keeping away from those who always live on social N/W
    totally bored of this AIB topic. Neither Aamir nor censor board is holier than thou ? Who is ? But I feel no one has patience to embrace others varying opinions and some keep jumping the walls.

    Good post Alka

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    1. Thank you Afshan. I am done with the the issue too....

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  18. My only problem with Amir is, I wish he had watched the roast before condemning it. How is he any different from the lunatics who burn books, hound authors without even reading them?

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  19. A valid point.
    That he disapproved of the show was perhaps discussed in private with Karan and among his friends.When a reporter asked him a direct question, he said he did not approve of it. It would be an issue if he had asked for a ban or something.

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  20. AIB would have never even thought that one video post of their's would create such a ruckus! I know they would be smiling from inside for all the fame and popularity they are gaining...
    As far as being offended is concerned, those who are confident and secure, never get offended by anything!

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    1. Don't know if they are smiling or feeling harassed by the number of FIRs and threats.
      But yes, they are a household name today.

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  21. Aamir does not deserve to do a Holier-than-thou now.

    I watched the AIB show. I admit to have laughed aloud at some of the dialogues. But cussing and swearing and using the F word in each sentence is NOT cool. I mean at least I don't find it cool , or funny. I don't find fat jokes and mockery made on someone's complexion funny either. Well, I was warned !

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    1. If the moral minders had not filed FIRs even the AIB supporters and lovers would have toned down the next event and ensured that it was not available to impressionable kids. Because as mature responsible adults, we knew that The event was a bit over the top. But before they could self censor, the moral minders jumped the gun.

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  22. I am scared to write any comment on this post. First thing, glad I didn't follow anything related to the roast. However, like you said. humor is subjective. When I watch some of Russell Peter's shows, I really laughed hard. While some of my cousins scorn that he has no right to make fun of his own folks. And the humor factor you said changes with age, I totally agree with that. The kind of pranks that makes the teens laugh just gets on to my nerves. I may be old fashioned for them...Now, I am confused what I approve of and what I don't approve of...funny

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    1. That's the sad part. That moderates are scared to comment. You are either with us or against us.

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  23. Vulgarity is never answer to freedom of expression

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    1. True, but what is vulgar for some can be funny for others.

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  24. I agree Alka. About Amir being free to voice his expressions, just like we let AIB be, similarly we need to let Amir be. Because all he was doing was voicing his dissent as purely his personal opinion.The debate will continue coz there's no absolute right or wrong, it's only what's right and wrong for us within our context. I personally did enjoy the AIB roast, not because of the swear words, but because of the 'pun' in some of their quips.Having said that, I don't find anything laughable when I see comedy shows about people getting hurt and as you said, kids falling off the swings etc. Well, I guess, each man to himself.

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    1. The moderates are being sidelined by loud aggressive voices.
      You are either with us or against us.

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