What is something illegal that shouldn't be?


What? That baby has more rights to be born than the adult caring him, and yet has to wait 18 years to have sex with another adult?! He might as well kill himself.

That is a risky joke. Specially on text, without context, and without you knowing who I am. It has a much better chance of being funny if told by a comedian to an already warmed up audience than if it were Matt Gaetz writing it.

I wanted to tweet the above. But I was afraid. Even though this blog and my Twitter account are anonymous (and have zero followers), I still resist exposing some of my thoughts.

What is a joke? Does it have to be funny to be considered one? Do you have to laugh? Is it enough if I think it is a joke? Or do others have to agree with me? How many others?

The dictionary definition of a joke is insufficient to answer these questions. A joke is "something said or done to provoke laughter." What a missed opportunity to define it with one instead. I would have gone with:

joke (noun)

Anti-abortion laws.

So what is a joke? Adam Robinson says that if you want to innovate in a particular field, you should focus on the words that are commonly used, and try to define them simply. It took him a month to define stupidity.

In her show Nanette, Hannah Gadsby explains what a joke is: a setup and a punchline. And it's not only about provoking laughter, it's also about raising and defusing tension. She equates a joke to an "abusive relationship."

A setup and a punchline. Tension and laughter. Yin and yang? There is a missing piece. A joke also works as a pacifier. Now that you are laughing about it, you don't have to care about the problem that made you tense in the first place.

There are thousands of people dying from the devastating invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert jokes about people in Russia struggling to pay the metro. Bo Burnham jokes in his Grammy award-winning song that the world already ended. Jimmy Carr jokes that the killing of Gypsies was one of "the positives" of the Holocaust.

Isn't it all funny? It must be because that is what we are paying attention to. It's truly an abusive relationship: We pay to go on an emotional roller coaster. We pay again consuming the media that wide spreads these comedians.

The world is facing major troubles but Will Smith slapping Chris Rock over a joke got all the attention. Tense. Then all the memes and jokes that followed diffused the tension. Many referenced our global poor state of affairs so we can acknowledge it. And laugh.

Now Ricky Gervais thinks of a more insulting joke about Jada Smith's boyfriend. And so it goes... These comedians are making us stupid. As per Robinson's definition of stupidity, they are making us "overlook or dismiss conspicuously crucial information."

We don't discuss the problems when we laugh at the jokes. There is no need anymore to go out and protest. Or to write to our politicians demanding action. Or to change our own behaviors. It's OK not to now that a joke made us acknowledge the problem. We even feel good about it.

But don't worry, after all, this post is just one big joke about the absurdity of anti-abortion laws.

Why was I afraid of posting my joke on Twitter? Many would probably laugh at a comedian telling it. And, yet, many others wouldn't.

These jokes are always made at the expense of someone else. And at the audience's expense too. They have to get all tensed up. While we may think it is OK to "punch up", do we really need to punch at all?

I wonder if my fear to publish is an empathetic reaction. I don't want anyone to get hurt by what I write. But that is how these comedians are making money: Someone gets hurt so we can laugh and dismiss the world's troubles.

I'm not advocating we stop these jokes. The incentives are too high for those telling them anyway. But we don't have to stop at the joke. Some comedians already do this. They share additional materials and research related to their content. Some also offer a call to action.

Perhaps the next time we hear them, we can consider doing something more about their jokes too. And not stop at the laughter.