An article in the N.Y.Times profiled Chario Antonio, 79, a waiter at the Manhattan comedy club Dangerfields, who also tells jokes. Each night, he puts aside his apron and closes the show with his comedy routine. Antonio who has been working at Dangerfields since it first opened in 1970, has heard hundreds of thousands , perhaps millions, of jokes over the years. His own repertoire of jokes skews towards the ” tasteless, the vulgar and the offensive.” and he says of himself” My mind consumes only dirty jokes”.
Chario Antonio is by no means an anomaly. Most of us are like him, though we may draw the line at different places. Why is it so? Why do we tend to like jokes about sex, bodily functions, ethnicity and other non-PC topics? Why are the stand-up routines on Comedy Central so raunchy and laden with four letter words?
I have never really heard anyone talk about the reasons for these preferences but it seems to me it has to do with our childhood when some topics and some words were taboo. As we grow up, we delight in using those words and talking about those topics more and more openly. Partly it is the freedom we experience in doing so and partly it is the desire to shock. Girls, being “the gentler sex”, are more circumspect and profess to be shocked by such talk but, to some extent, it may be mere pretense. Certainly, listening to the female comedians on cable TV today, they are not any the less raunchy than their male counterparts. Wanda Sykes and Tammy Pescatelli (the Foulest Mouth in Television Comedy) are a match for anyone in the raunch department. Seeing the women in the audience laughing their heads off at these routines tells me that women and men are no different in their enjoyment of such humor.
I like all kinds of jokes, dirty or otherwise, but only if they are funny. Four letter words do not, by themselves, make a performance funny and I am amazed at how many stand-up comedians use the ” f-word” gratuitously. Even Bill Maher whose forte is political comedy, is among them. I don’t remember this of him in his early years but, now, it is very pronounced. I have noticed the same trend in other comedians too and it is rare to see a stand-up routine which is not liberally sprinkled with f-words.
There are two types of jokes I don’t care about. One is ” insult humor” in which the comedian picks on people in the audience. Don Rickles, who pioneered this type of humor, was humorous at times but , too often, such comedy today is mean-spirited and nasty and not funny. Insult humor is also like bullying; the poor schnooks in the audience have no chance. If they try to retort, the comedian puts them down even more harshly and very publicly. The other genre is “sick” jokes, which leave me uncomfortable even as I laugh at them.
The unfortunate thing about dirty jokes is that they are all that spring to mind when I am searching for a joke to tell at party. Try as I can, I cannot think of a ” clean” joke and I wind up listening to jokes, many of them old chestnuts from twenty or thirty years ago. I guess the joke’s on me.