Chocolate and Gold Coins

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Freedom To Make Lame Jokes

I like to kid around. I love subtle humor and I insert it whenever possible. Sometimes nobody gets it. Sometimes people think it's lame.

Oh well, so what? Not everyone can be Greatbong. Like C-Gawker wrote last month – some posts will be lame. And some jokes will be lame. This is what blogging is about: throwing your rough-cut writing to whomever is interested. Often it really isn’t worth reading. But it is the honest revelation of the real person.

Sometimes I look at a paragraph that might cause offense or might cause a laugh and I wonder, “Should I cut it out?” Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. If the joke is not way out-of-bounds I prefer leave it uncut.

Others sometimes post lame jokes also, I might add. For example, India Uncut – as great a blog as you are likely to read – had a rather lame series of jokes on cricketer Monty Panesar. Probably Monty never read them. If he did, he might have chuckled. But he might have taken offense. And Sikhs might have taken offense because they might have interpreted the Ponty series as an example of an ethnic Sikh joke. But I say, “Some jokes are going to be lame. If we never take risks, we become humorless."

Of course, one should make every effort to improve the lame joke into the not-so-lame one. But if it is a choice between cutting it out or not, I would prefer to leave my writing uncut.

I try to be a nice person but sometimes my lame jokes might offend someone. If I were really really nice like Sunil, I would never risk offending anyone. I’m not that nice. Like I said, “If we never take risks, we become humorless.” I sometime post lame jokes in the hopes that others will laugh along but knowing full well some might not like it. It is a risk I take. I’m just not that nice.

For example, the post on the blogger meeting recap had some lame jokes thrown in. The joke about Chetan doing something called “Budginay” and the reference to my wife’s reaction to my meeting Piyush Gupta, (she really did say, “Oh-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo-yo!”) might have caused offense if they were the types who take offense easily. Hopefully they will take this in good spirit.

There was a long paragraph in there about Curious Gawker that was probably a fairly lame joke:

I should mention that the real reason we had this meeting was trap someone: the notorious terrorist Ondiran Khan, number 5 in command in Al Queda. He now lives in Phildadelphia and blogs under the pseudonym Curious Gawker. We hoped to lure him out into the open by the hopes of meeting Arnab the Greatbong and some free food. The Feds were waiting to nab him and send him to Gitmo. But he never showed. Maybe the food court food was not enticing enough. Maybe someone tipped him off. We’ll try to do this again in May or June and see if we can trap him next time. Please, no one tip him off this time.


I don’t think Curious Gawker would take offense to this but maybe. It just expresses in a light-hearted way our disappointment that Curious Gawker was a no-show. Both Arnab and I asked him to come and he seemed interested but he didn’t come. The paragraph makes fun of his anonymity and his Anti-Bush politics by making him into a terrorist “on-the-run”. Hopefully he would have laughed but maybe not.

Suppose not. Suppose Curious Gawker had in fact written to me saying that the joke was lame and offensive, and he feared that others (the government) might really believe that he was a terrorist. Suppose he said that he would prefer that I remove it, (of course, he did not do anything of that sort). I respect C-Gawker. For Joe Blow, I wouldn’t care less. But for someone like C-Gawker, I will go the extra yard and I will edit my post. I would feel bad though. But I would get over it. I might try harder to avoid offense in the future.

I might give C-Gawker a bit of a hard time, though. I might write something like this:

Curious Gawker
I am so sorry; I must profusely apologize. I have removed the offending paragraph and I will post an apology with a post entitled "Curious Gawker is not a terrorist" just to clarify that it was just a stupid joke.


In fact, a very similar incident happened to me. A blogger who I greatly admire and respect took offense to one of my posts and politely asked me to amend it. Like I said, I don’t like to edit my posts but he is a blogger I greatly admire so I would go the extra yard for him. I did so and wrote a letter like the one above. I was kidding about the explanatory post (isn’t that obvious?).

The response…Woof! I saw a side of this blogger I had not seen before and hopefully will not see again. Let us just say that he was not amused.

So there is a lesson here for people like me who like to kid around. Some people will take offense. Some people will not see the humor so well if they are on the receiving end and not the sending end.

So if you post something that turns out to be offensive to someone else, how should you react?

If it is someone you respect, swallow your pride. Just remove the offensive material and apologize. It isn't going to be helpful to point out, "But you make lame jokes too." Just diffuse the situation. If you try to diffuse the situation with a bit of humor – make real sure that the person will laugh.

I will just end this by saying I am really red faced about the whole incident. But I still prefer to take risks and leave my writing uncut.

Update
The person obliquely referred to above writes in to explain that I misunderstood completely the tone of the email he sent to me and that he has no problems with lame jokes at his expense in general as long as they are not intentionally cruel.

7 Comments:

  • Was this post one of the example of lame joke? Same thing that could have been said in one paragraph has been repeated incessently! :)

    By the way, may I know why are you not posting some "new" stuff instead of recycling your nYAT posts?

    By Blogger Ashish Gupta, at 7:45 PM  

  • In fact, a very similar incident happened to me. A blogger who I greatly admire and respect took offense to one of my posts and politely asked me to amend it. Like I said, I don’t like to edit my posts but he is a blogger I greatly admire so I would go the extra yard for him. I did so and wrote a letter like the one above. I was kidding about the explanatory post (isn’t that obvious?).

    The response…Woof! I saw a side of this blogger I had not seen before and hopefully will not see again. Let us just say that he was not amused.


    Hahaha."Woof" expresses it perfectly. The EXACT same thing happened with me, and I suspect this is the same blogger. ;-)

    But I still prefer to take risks and leave my writing uncut.

    Same here.

    You know, if someone comes up with a 'Sense of Humour' Transplant Operation, it would be so great! But in the Indian society, it may face the same problem as eye transplants. Not enough donors. ;)

    As for Panesar, I am sure Amit's jokes spurred him on for his admirable performance in the first test. But then Amit stopped those jokes and so Panesar was ineffective in the second test.

    By Blogger Gaurav, at 2:42 AM  

  • Hi Ashish and Gaurav
    Ashish: All of the recent post have been new stuff, including the 10YAT and 5YAT posts.

    I still reserve the right to recycle old material. It gives me a break. If you don't want to read those posts - they are easy to spot and to avoid.

    Gaurav: We're not talking about the same person.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 9:59 AM  

  • Hey Michael
    I don't think what you said about me was offensive at all. I don't see how anyone could take offense at it. Unless they are one of those Indians who have been scared into total submission after 9/11 and felt a necessity to hang American flags outside their homes even though they aren't American citizens. So no, I'm not very paranoid about the government that way.

    Also, I wouldn't worry about offending people. As someone said, you can't keep everyone happy all the time. I remember a commenter on one of your earlier posts who was insinuating in (what I thought) a kinda threatening tone that if you began talking about religion on your blog you would be shunned by society and the world. Which I thought was pretty funny. And somewhat patronizing. As if the popularity of your blog rests on such a flimsy foundation that it could break down any second if you began to take a stance on any topic of controversy.

    By Blogger gawker, at 11:25 AM  

  • actually....i'm hardly as nice as your generous post gives credit for.

    I'm actually notorious for my non-pc jokes, and the only reason i think i'm tolerated at work or by my friends is that I have lots of non-pc, ethnic-stereotype jokes :-))

    I'm a mean SOB.

    But yes...i do avoid blogging about stuff that might be non-pc, because there's only the blog out there. People reading it don't really know me, so might misconstrue what i say, and there's this tendency in the blogosphere to leave rather nasty, personal comments. I wouldn't like that.

    So, to make up for that, i blogroll and link to the likes of greatbong, gawker or you.

    (and there's plenty of subtle humor in my blog. Seek, and ye shall find).

    By Blogger Sunil, at 2:11 PM  

  • Hi Gawker
    I didn't really think so. But you never know what some people might not like.

    Hi Sunil:
    Sure, I find lots of humor in your blog. But maybe there is more. I will read more closely.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:19 PM  

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