This comment was by Marcus Williams on the Open Thread Discussion: What’s So Funny About That??
Remember William Hung of American Idol fame? In the audition round, he performed a painfully bad version of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs”, and became famous for how painfully bad it was. Rather than debate whether that was funny or not (I vote “yes”), I raise the example of him and countless others just like him to make the point that very few people can sing at a Ricky Martin or above level, but we don’t usually go around saying some songs are just off limits because so many people perform them badly.
Comedy is art, or at the very least a talent that some people have developed much more than others. There are many William Hungs of humor out there, making terrible or failed jokes that create laughter for the “wrong” reasons, or none at all. It doesn’t mean that any subject should be off limits for jokes, just because so many people make us cringe when they try. The great artists do it so well that when you laugh at their jokes about some taboo subject–rape, nut kicks, the word “nigger”–you will convince yourself that “that’s different” because they can’t possibly be singing the same song you’ve heard so many William Hungs butcher. It is different, because they’re doing it well, and that’s the art of it. They don’t get there by appeasing the people who say they never should have joked about that subject in the first place.