Trio skates to the edge of tastelessness — and sometimes falls over it — with Sick Humor, part of its "Uncensored Comedy" block this month.
The show is aptly named, for much of the content centers on illicit jokes one might mutter to a friend known to share the same point of view. But broadcasting adds to their power, and most are definitely cringe-worthy.
Sure, there is a scholarly discussion of the genesis of the jokes — and their power to diffuse our feeling of powerlessness and fear following a tragedy — but the presentation at times is flawed. For instance, a long clip of the launch and explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger
is immediately followed up by a joke. As was the case when it happened, a little distance is needed.
In the words of one of the writers of the brilliant satire newspaper The Onion, society finds a way to joke about things thought unfunny, but the best sick jokes find the right target. (One of The Onion's best post-Sept. 11 headlines: "God Angrily Clarifies 'No Kill' Rule). But not all the jokes in the special live up to that rule, and many reflect the worst of human nature.
Another part of the themed block is more thought provoking, especially when viewed in the context of media consolidation and the narrower worldview it is bound to further engender. Outlaw Comic: The Censoring of Bill Hicks
details the struggle of the self-proclaimed 'Dark Poet,' a humorist who challenged his audiences to think. Most broadcasters roundly rebuffed him for his tendency to skewer big-money religion, pro-life activists and any other mainstream groups he deemed hypocritical.
America is the land of free speech, but as the Dixie Chicks recently found out, it's only free when you're solidly in the majority. Hicks was celebrated elsewhere, but in this nation, minority voices like his are often relegated to smoky clubs, alternative media or heavily censored TV appearances. Indeed, the special notes, producers allow viewers to be titillated by sexual humor, but will "protect" us from anything confrontational to the majority's social view.
Check listings, as both specials run throughout the month on Trio.