Can’t you take a joke?

During “the final” last night, I stumbled upon a tweet from Julia Hartley-Brewer. If you haven’t heard of her, and it’s understandable that you wouldn’t have, she’s one of these “journalists” who presents a talk radio show and pops up on current affairs programmes like Question Time and The Andrew Marr Show. Here’s the tweet:

I don’t follow her, but someone I do follow had quoted the tweet with a mocking, ironic comment that he hoped she never lost her job. The tweet stuck in my craw. It brought to mind the seriously awful situation faced by people in Southern European countries, along with articles I had read in the last year or so about how unemployment rates had been shown to coincide with mental health problems and suicide rates. Is that something worth making jokes about? What kind of weirdo thinks that’s funny?

As often happens in such situations, I found myself drawn into looking at reactions to the tweet. Plenty of people were pointing out the strange, offensiveness of it. What was the point of it? No-one really seemed to know. A clutch of cretins had jumped to her defence to lambaste her critics for not being able to take a joke:

So here we go, the Oxford Dictionary’s primary definition of a joke:

  1. A thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a funny punchline.

Now, I know it’s subjective, but I can’t work out what’s amusing about that tweet, and I certainly don’t detect a punchline. Did it make anyone laugh? If so, why? Obviously, the tweet isn’t actually true. Lots of young people in “the whole of Portugal” do have jobs, but a lot of them don’t, and they’re probably pretty depressed about that. Hahahaha–oh.

I think what annoys me about this type of “joke”, is that it isn’t clever, or witty. It is the sort of joke that a bully makes about someone they deem to be beneath them: let’s all gather round the weaker person and laugh at their weaknesses. Unemployment isn’t so bad in the UK, so let’s laugh at countries with high unemployment. Hilarious.

Maybe I just don’t have a sense of humour, as no doubt Julia’s fans would say. While they froth at the mouth.

Anyway, here’s Stewart Lee calling out this sort of behaviour in a much better way than me:

3 replies on “Can’t you take a joke?”

Well, the big problem with this from JHB (bit of a mad bint from what I’ve seen on Sky press review segments) is it’s just not very funny. Yes, I know unemployment is high among the young in Portugal (and Spain and Greece and… well you get the picture), but so what, half the Portuguese team were born in France, because guess what, their parents emigrated a while ago. I know there’s a sizeable Portuguese diaspora in London, but people tell me it’s not so big elsewhere. When I read the tweet I rolled my eyes, it didn’t even merit a groan: it’s just a crap joke, it’s so laboured and it’s not witty. There were better jokes about England’s pathetic performance at the finals. So I can’t get too excited about this, Jack. I’ve seen jokes in worse taste, but not many as unfunny.

I think we maybe agree. Is your point that it’s so lame it possibly wasn’t even worth passing comment on it? If so, you’re probably right.

I think I was just struck by how not funny it was. Just bizarre.

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