Welcome to Unfiltered– the section of our site where the readers can send in posts about anything they’re into. All Unfiltered posts do not necessarily reflect the views of The Interrobang.
By Anthony Rumore
Gallows humor is characterized by the use of satire in the face of painful, tragic, horrific or frightening situations. It is the act of making a joke about a situation that does not normally lend itself to jocularity. Gallows humor has been documented in literature dating back to the middle ages. With the exception of perhaps the hyena, no other animal besides humans has adapted to seek amusement in fight or flight crises.
More often than not, gallows humor is met with revulsion. It is not uncommon for people to react with the same level of disgust to the joke as they do to the appalling situation that it mocks. As a person that often deploys black humor in my jokes, I am regularly perceived as a heartless monster by those that do not share my sense of humor. I have a tendency to post tasteless lines on my Twitter @CigarsNscotch following a tragedy, or even more tragic to some… a celebrity death. While there is some shock value to the quips, there is wit involved as well. The responses to my sardonic online musings are strongly polarized. I am met with either laughter or vehement anger for the same joke. Ironically, the people that are angered by me making light of dark subjects are quick to wish death, disease and pestilence on me, my siblings and my children. Maybe the Egyptians of biblical times were fans of gallows humor, it certainly would explain all of the plagues.
If gallows humor is so taboo, then why do I do it? What makes someone like me tick? What makes me mute the television and play a medley of Beach Boys songs when I watch coverage of a tsunami? Honestly, I find it therapeutic. It is akin to whistling in the dark. It’s a much gentler way to process unpleasantness. This may surprise some, but much of what I joke about are things that actually terrify me. Death, rape, illness, catastrophe, etc., are all things that have the ability to keep me awake at night involuntarily considering the possibility of their random strikes. Most people prefer to tip toe around these subjects as if the mere act of mentioning their existence warrants enough karma to invoke them. I feel openly mocking my fears is a powerful tool in disempowering them. While it’s certainly not the same, it does remind me a bit of a practice used by the Western Plains Indians called Counting Coup. This was a practice in which the Indians would prove their courage by running up to an enemy in battle, merely touching them with their hand, then escaping back unharmed. Okay, maybe gallows humor isn’t exactly a gallant means of gaining prestige for bravery, but it is a rather effective defense mechanism.
What about the victims? Don’t I have empathy for them? Surely I wouldn’t find amusement in any of those circumstances if they affected me personally. Quite frankly, the jokes are never intended for the eyes or ears of the victims. It’s safe to say that the recipients of various horrific adversities are not perusing the timeline of a satirist during their time of need. The gags are written exclusively for everyone else that experiences that hollow, uneasy feeling inside of their guts when hearing about someone else’s tragedy. Unfortunately there are times when someone has weathered a similar catastrophe, and may feel offended by my jokes. I’m not laughing at their pain, I’m simply avoiding mine. That may sound like a cop out, but I don’t fall to pieces everytime I hear someone tell a fat joke. Hell, I write some of the best ones. The people that I view as the real ghouls are the holier than thou art, sanctimonious scumbags that will bring the jokes to the attention of someone that they would hurt. They do so under the guise of consciousness and moral outrage, but they do it for no other reason than to make themselves look good. They will selfishly inflict pain upon a victim in order to paint themselves as pillars of justice and humanity. If there is anyone that should be reviled and met with contempt, it is someone like that.
There is another theory regarding my sense of humor and the motives behind it. While I’m not going to give equal time or credence to this second thesis, I should at least be honest enough to mention it. There is in fact, the distinct possibility that I’m just a complete dick.