Trigger Warning – Uncensored Comedy. This short phrase encapsulates the problem Mike Celestino and Robert Garren are tackling. What are the triggers and to what extent should comedians or society protect the vulnerable from the potentially harmful messages of comedy? I use that word ‘harmful’ because issues arise to more than just a matter of ‘offensive’ messages. Intellectual or even emotional indignation at a message is something we can easily set aside. But comedians are blamed for causing others to recall traumatic stress, marginalizing real problems, perpetuating cultural inequalities, or directly inciting violence. And the new documentary “That’s Not Funny” is a hard look at the hardest topics in comedy. You’ll see Hitler, hear the N-word (no I’m not typing it), and hear rape jokes. Oh, and of course lots of blasphemy. Be warned, be offended, and consider your stance on an equally important topic in comedy: censorship.
For my part, I was most offended that he failed to mention uncensored comedian, artist, satirist Tim Minchin.
Celestino, who is Openly Secular as an atheist in the documentary, frequently returns to the idea that “everything is ok or nothing”. He refers to a “social justice witchhunt” from an “outrage culture”, though I don’t think he do so to marginalize issues. He rightly points out the therapeutic value of comedy, and how one person’s pain may be another’s therapy. (My analogy, don’t blame him:) In weight lifting, 125 lb barbell may strengthen one person but crush another. On one day, that same weight for that same person may be helpful, and on another day, maybe after an injury, that weight may hurt the person. In a one-on-one situation, we can expect trainers and exercise partners to accommodate injuries, but comedians don’t have that luxury. On the other hand, listeners can’t unhear the jokes are unseen the images in a way they could opt out of workout. Where is the responsibility and where is the line to protect people from comedy?
Director/Narrator Mike Celestino and producer Robert Garren (co-creators of the award-winning documentary short The Last Days of Cinerama) present an exhaustively-researched cultural analysis utilizing a vast array of archival footage and media spanning more than a century of Western humor.
OPENING NIGHT SELECTION – Freethought Film Festival 2014
WINNER – Best Documentary – Flagler Film Festival 2015
And I haven’t even revealed his most controversial idea. “That’s Not Funny” is a full 90 minutes of well-researched, insightful commentary about a topic we should not take for granted.