The Joke’s on Us
There’s not much we can’t find a funny side too when the timing is right, I will never understand why something called a photo-bomb of some happy smiley face at a location where a bomb has recently occurred that killed others can ever be appropriate at that time, but different people and cultures cope and respond in different ways. So maybe in retrospect after the Charlie Hebdo incident we ought to be aware of other people’s sensitivies though in no way do I approve of the reasons for his death in that way.
The fact is that humour is a coping strategy for many very serious tragic events from a death in a family, to Covid. I watched a BBC programme last week on laughter where it explained that it’s fine when you’re in the mood and like a particular style of humour being used about the subject in question. It is far from fine if it’s used when you’re not in the mood and you’re butt of the humour. Then it’s being used to tease, bully or intimidate others. They cited an example of a couple of people having to hug each other tightly at a funeral so as not to offend other mourners among many others.
We need humour to make us laugh at ourselves at times for all the ridiculous things we get up to, even though we know we shouldn’t. As a stress release valve cartoons help us get through the average day.
The more serious the issue, the darker it gets. The darkest humour is often from those, and indeed for those with the toughest jobs of all amid disasters such as all the emergency services, those in the military and others at the frontline of horrendous events including war artists and journalists and their film crews.
Humour is very much about timing. I remember vividly how the jokes round the ‘Herald of Free Enterprise’ ferry disaster often offended me, luckily there’s only one I remember which wasn’t quite as insensitive given the loss of life that I will share “Pst, Wanna buy a lorry? Fell off the back of a ferry.” I think it would’ve been better had no lives been lost though.
On Twitter this week partly as a follow-up from my ink themed Media of the Week, I challenged people to come up with cartoons on the most serious issues I think we currently face that can actually make us laugh. Whether any cartoonists take up the challenge is another matter, but I hope some do.
Currently we have backlogs on waiting lists due to Covid for other medical conditions that are serious painful and life-threatening. So serious is the situation that sadly I now fear not only even more preventable deaths as a result but also that our beloved and globally admired NHS will not remain a free service at the point of need for much longer.
Hardly a laughing matter for any of us, yet our valiant medical staff, already exhausted by dealing with Covid victims certainly do need their dark humour to keep going, especially when we could’ve avoided a ‘fuel shortage’ here when it also affected medical teams getting to patients on time. My own carer was delayed for her regular visit by nearly an hour. Imagine if they all were and then found they couldn’t refuel to attend your loved one.
It’s bad enough the NHS is swamped with folk who could wait or sort themselves out but if you are genuinely seriously concerned as I was last Saturday then yes, go online first to NHS 111 as calling them you find you have to wait over an hour just for advice. Many then phone 999. How is that going to help with backlogs when it’s just advice you really need. You could be the next emergency that medical teams cannot get to in time. Please go online first to trusted sources of advice wherever you are instead as I did.
I did burst out laughing though at some of the cartoons that appeared at the beginning of the week. Such as one that said, “I had to panic buy a car to panic buy petrol” but sadly couldn’t find it again.
When it comes to the political cartoonists, caricatures can become very vicious indeed and perhaps rightly so in some cases, but I would like to think as often happens here in the UK that that’s to reflect the mood of the average person on any political issue at the time and not a means to discredit the issue itself whatever individuals may be found guilty of. Away from politics for example, R Kelly’s recent conviction shouldn’t lead people to demonise or fear all black people or their various genres of music.
We have a very long standing heritage in the UK when it comes to irony and satire when it comes to important issues that many cultures get shocked by, especially on political leaders which in other cultures can easily result in being incarceration to never be seen again. I think here we are lucky and should remember how lucky we are in that regard before doing the same with regard to other ideaologies that different cultures respect and admire.
Humour gets even more interesting though when it gets combined over different issues I find. We never do belong to one group or section of society so humour for Asian gay men is different from that of white European men be they gay or not. I personally get bored with stand up comedian s who only seem to have one topic to build their material on, but if you are in a minority group, and in some way or another we all are, I can see the attraction.
Most of all I think we need to warn others about our sense of humour ahead of awkward moments such as a funeral so that they understand should you find yourself fighting with your body to regain control where something has inconveniently just got you laughing uncontrollably.
I leave you with two links the first from my favourite pen and ink artist, who is now deceased. Ronald Searle was a cartoonist who worked for Punch magazine but people often forget he was a cartoonist first before being a political one too. So here are his drawings on my former profession, theatre. http://ronaldsearle.blogspot.com/2007/03/punch.html?m=1
The second is a link on cartoons about artists http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2013/12/charles-keenes-cartoons-about-artists
Lastly… I was going to save them for myself…