When Is a Joke No Longer Funny?

Yesterday I saw a video on Facebook. It had been shared by two people who are wonderful, loving people, and the title of the video was “Good, clean…funny!” It’s a video that seems to have first been posted online in 2011, but was posted on Facebook two days ago, and has gone viral. (I’m not going to link to it. If you have to see it, you can Google it.)

The video, which runs less than two minutes, is two teen boys pranking a third (their “friend”, according to one site I found) in a community shower using the “never-ending shampoo” prank. (Clean fun? Get it?) And when I first started watching it, it was funny. But then you start to hear distress in the victim’s voice. Then he starts saying, “Help me. Help me,” and it sounds to me like he’s crying. He may not be actually crying, but he is asking for help, and you can see him getting more frantic as the video goes on.

And that’s when it’s no longer funny. But I didn’t want to say anything on either of my friends’ posts because I didn’t want to sound like I was judging them for thinking it was funny. Then I saw it again yesterday evening, shared by another wonderful, loving person. I didn’t comment on that one, either, but I realized that if I kept my mouth shut, I wasn’t walking my talk, because I wasn’t standing up for what I believe in.

So what if this happened three years ago? It’s a great example of how to have compassion for one another. There are a lot of ways to laugh and have fun without making someone the butt of a joke – and then posting it online for the world to see. (And now that so many have seen it, a whole new generation who didn’t know this “joke” will be itching to try it. Just use some common sense and compassion when you do.)

So what if only a handful of people know that I think a joke stops being funny when someone is in real distress? If we see something wrong, and we don’t speak up, we are condoning the behavior, whether it’s sexist or racist jokes, or bullying.

There are thousands of comments on the original Facebook post, and most people think it’s hilarious, and many have watched it over and over. Those who dare to speak up and say that the joke went too far are taunted with replies such as, “Yeah, don’t you see the blood everywhere?” and “How can it be too far? It was less than two minutes?”

Even my twelve-year-old son thought it was funny at first, but that it quickly became not-funny. I used this video as an example to him (after he saw it and gave me his reaction) of how to pay attention to how people are reacting to things and when to speak up if he sees something going on. I already know he’s not afraid to act when he thinks someone is endangering others, but I wanted him to know that not every bad situation is immediately obvious.

Some people will agree with me; others will continue to think it’s just a really funny video. And some of you will blast me because I struck a nerve and you feel the need to defend yourself. Really, you don’t need to. I’m not tracking down every person who’s watched or shared the video. I just needed to speak out, because we can’t tell our kids to stop bullying if we’re not willing to do something ourselves.

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