Totalitarian regimes forbid political satire, whereas democracies thrive on it. No subject is taboo; as writer, actor, philosopher Stephen Fry has said, “It is easy to forget that the most important aspect of comedy, after all, its great saving grace, is its ambiguity. You can simultaneously laugh at a situation, and take it seriously.” Irrepressible wit PETER VERSI takes Stephen Fry’s observation seriously.
A notable example of the validity of Fry’s observation is Roberto Benigni’s acclaimed 1998 film, Life is Beautiful, set in a concentration camp. A Jewish father and his family are surrounded by Nazis. Living in a hostile environment, he uses humour to shield his young son from the grim realities of war. Black humour is the ultimate in the Fry doctrine…
There is no such thing as humour which doesn’t pick on anyone, says Versi. The Irish tell great Irish jokes. The Jews tell great Jewish jokes. Indians tell great Indian jokes, Italians great Italian jokes etc. Not long ago, anyone could say anything about anyone, as long as it was with perceived absence of malice.
A Jewish woman said to her husband in 1912 ”Darlink, did you read the paper today? They blame the Jews for everything! It’s not fair. “What was in the paper darlink that upsets you so? said her husband. She tearfully replied “ICEBERG sinks Titanic!“ This is just one example where no other group could have been used to deliver the joke.
A Scotsman goes to a Pharmacy and asks for a packet of condoms. “How much are they? He asks. The Chemist replies “$9.50 plus tax.“ Always looking to save a dollar, he asks “ How much without the tacks? I’ll tie them on myself…” Unambiguous! Everyone knows the Scots like to save a dollar.
An Indian driving in Australia was stopped by police for veering all over the road. He refused to take a breathalyser on religious grounds, he refused to take a blood test on medical grounds and was taken back to the station. The duty Sergeant said “No problems, we can ask him to take a urine test.” The Indian shook his head in further disapproval. The sergeant asked “What now?” To which the Indian answered. “Racial Discrimination Act strictly forbids you to take the piss out of Indians.” Hopefully ambiguous! So many groups to poke fun at, so little time.
A blonde walks into a library and goes to the front desk. The librarian quietly asks ….”May I help you? “ The blonde says, rather loudly “I’d like a hamburger and chips!” The librarian then says very quietly “But madam, this is a library. “ The blonde then whispers back, very quietly, “Oh I’m sorry, I’d like a hamburger and chips.”
From Versi’s e-mail IN folder:
A fourth-grade teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living.
All the typical answers came up – fireman, mechanic, businessman, salesman… and so forth. However, little Johnny was being uncharacteristically quiet, so when the teacher prodded him about his father, he replied:
“My father’s an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his clothes to music in front of other men and they put money in his underwear. Sometimes, if the offer is really good, he will go home with some guy and stay with him all night for money.”
The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some exercises and took little Johnny aside,
“Is that really true about your father?”
“No,” the boy said, “He works for the Labor Party and wants to help get Bill Shorten elected, but it’s too embarrassing to say that in front of the other kids.”