Things not to joke about


In the words of one of my favourite comedians, Ricky Gervais, “There is nothing you can’t joke about”.

And that’s true. There’s a certain Article 19 on a certain Universal Declaration of Human Rights that gives you the right to express any and every thought without being afraid of anything… or so I thought.

You see, I never read that article 19 until now. I thought it meant I could say anything I wanted and that’s it. I thought that if I said something controversial, something that people would not agree with me, there would be nothing wrong with it. If I said, jokingly or not, “my girlfriend’s sister is sexier than my girlfriend”, there would be nothing wrong with it. Guess who has to sleep on the couch now… Here’s how that whole conversational exchange went:

She: Baby, do you think I’m the prettiest girl in the world?
Me: Haha, you’re not even the prettiest girl in your family

And I don’t really remember what she was yelling at me afterwards, I was mainly focused just a bit below her neckline. But then I noticed she wasn’t talking anymore. Instead, she was looking at me furiously, as she was expecting an answer I didn’t have. So I said the smartest thing I could think of:

Me: Umm, what?
She: You heard me, you’re sleeping on the couch tonight!
Me: At least let me get my pillow

She agreed. Boy that went well for me. Because the first thing I did when I went to the bedroom was to get a pillow and a blanket, throw them on the couch, and run back in the bedroom, faster than Speedy Gonzales high on speed. Door locked from within, “Alexa start playing Break on Through by The Doors” and sat back, enjoying a lit cigarette in a room where we don’t allow smoking.

That didn’t really happen. I never had an Alexa, let alone a girlfriend who’d agree to live with me. But that’s the beauty of jokes; they don’t have to be true stories, they don’t have to be things you actually believe, and as long as we both agree that what I’m saying is not meant to be taken seriously, I should be allowed to say anything. But nonetheless, there should be some things you can’t really joke about. Like cancer. I remember some time ago, I had a friend, like a really close friend. Sometimes, he’d get these really bad headaches and he’d get moody about them so I had to deal with it. Just so it happens that one day, I decide to pull a prank on him and swap his painkillers with similarly-looking vitamin pills. Surprisingly, the vitamins worked the same as the real pills. When I told him I swapped the pills as a joke, he got really mad. I told him he wouldn’t get it. After all, he’s a Cancer and I’m an Aries, not a very compatible duo. You see, Cancer is a water sign and Aries is a fire sign. No wonder he was always a turn-off.

There is this old joke that goes like “a dark joke is like cancer; funnier when children get it”. That applies to all jokes. But really, cancer is not a thing you should make fun of. It is sad when you have cancer, but it is even sadder when people you know get diagnosed with it. You see them act like it’s no big deal. “Like c’mon, everyone probably has cancer! It’s all the GMOs and junk food we eat. And with the modern medicine, the chances of surviving are getting higher every day.” They quit smoking, they quit drinking, and if they live in the civilised world, they might get prescribed medical marijuana… Lucky sons of bitches. Not only can they now act like they’re better than you for quitting all the “bad” habits, they can even smoke weed in front of you while you try to inhale as much residual smoke as possible to get a glance at their elevated way of living. While you have to buy your weed from some shady guy in a park who probably contaminates it with rat poison and who the fuck knows what else, they buy high quality weed from a guy in a white lab coat. If they told me I would get unlimited, high quality weed supply from a scientist certified by the government but in return, I had to get injected with cancer, I’d be unzipping my pants while they were still talking. Inject both of my legs with cancer, I don’t need them. Fuck walking, I’m flying for the rest of my days.

But it’s not OK to joke about cancer. Even if they say “survival rates are above 70%”, that only applies to people that catch it in time. Most people don’t. And it’s sadder when the doctor tells you that you have 6 more months. 6 more months of high bills and bitter-tasting pills. Cancer isn’t funny.

Speaking of statistics, I read here that in a survey, 44.5% of 200 terminally ill patients reported a fleeting desire for death. That doesn’t make sense to me. Those people already have cancer, why would they want to kill themselves? Death is already granted. In that situation, all they have to do is stop taking the pills and that’s it. I wanted to tell a couple of suicide jokes next, but these people want all the attention to themselves.

Suicide isn’t funny; most people wouldn’t get the joke because they have never been in that situation. They just can’t relate to the jokes. If you start a joke by saying “a man walks into a bar”, everybody can relate to that. Or if you have kids and Louis CK starts telling jokes about his daughters, you’d relate to that and find it funny. But if I say “bungee jumping is a lot funnier if you replace the shock cord with hemp rope tied around your neck”, most people wouldn’t laugh. But on the other hand, most people wouldn’t go bungee jumping, so it all depends on the audience. Tell that joke to Chris Cornell, he’d find it funny.

Suicide, on its own, is not funny. Joking about people taking their own life isn’t funny. And I don’t get it why people call them weak. It is not an act of weakness. Those people don’t go like “Man, I’m tired of doing my taxes. Screw this, I’m killing myself”. They try too much to overcome hard times, but the way certain chemicals affect the brain pushes them to take their own life. Most of the time, suicidal people try to postpone the act as much as possible… giving them enough time to decide how to do it. My question is, why don’t they plan for a legendary way to go? Thinking of jumping from a building? Do a backflip. Walking in the railroad with your headphones on and volume on maximum to not listen to the train? Nuh-uh! Run towards the train and play chicken with the conductor, see who gives up first. Thinking of deepthroating a shotgun like Kurt did? Take a couple of sword swallowing classes beforehand, turn it up a notch. Lie on your CV about previous bullfighting experience, and walk into the bullring wearing a red ball gown and high heels.

There’s an urban legend about this guy who came up with this Rube Goldberg plan when he decided to commit suicide. He stood atop a sheer cliff and tied a noose around his neck. He tied the other end of the rope to a large rock. He drank some poison and set fire to his clothes. He even tried to shoot himself at the last moment. He jumped and fired the pistol. The bullet missed him completely and cut through the rope above him. Now freed from the threat of hanging, he plunged into the sea. The dunking extinguished the flames and made him vomit the poison. He was dragged out of the water by a kind fisherman and was taken to a hospital, where he died of hypothermia.

I don’t know if there are scientific papers about why people make jokes, but I have my own theory developed over years of having fun at the expense of others. When you tell jokes to other people, they smile, they laugh, they forget what was bothering them and their brains start releasing feel-good chemicals. Having a sense of humour makes it easier to integrate into a community of people because those chemicals act just like drugs for the brain. And everyone that tried drugs before knows how amazing they are, so people who tell jokes are in a way, drug dealers. Who wouldn’t want to befriend their dealer?

On the other hand, joking is a good coping mechanism. Imagine losing your right hand and instead of crying that you won’t ever be able to play guitar ever again, you say “masturbating will be harder now, but I’ll get the hang of it”. You’ll be able to say “give me a hand with this” and then follow up with “it might be helpful if you give me the other hand as well”.

And to conclude with my three-paragraph-long theory, telling jokes is a good way to shift attention to other things. Remember Robin Williams? One of the most funniest people you’d meet. Yet he died from self-inflicted asphyxiation, after struggling with dementia. I didn’t know about that before he died. Most people didn’t. He was telling jokes so everyone assumed he was happy. And no, he didn’t hold his breath until dead. He hang himself on Aug 11. That jolly guy from A Merry Friggin’ Christmas went away like a Christmas decoration.

In the words of Bugs Bunny, don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive.