The cool thing about being a comedian is that as long as you’re funny, you can get away with anything. It’s basically your job to offend people, poke fun at their vices and then have them pay you to do just that. This past week Boston University hosted Hannibal Buress of “Broad City” fame and I was literally laughing the whole time he was up there. But at the same time all I could think was “Wow, it’s a good thing this guy is funny.” For a lot of his set, he was completely roasting us students; going to town on the fact the BU is a notorious safety school for those applying to Ivies. And the beautiful thing was that he could do this, and we laughed.
During the show, I got to thinking that it was great we could all laugh at him, each other and ourselves. With all the talk of trigger warnings and safe spaces, this comedic relief, so to speak, provided the exact opposite of a "safe space" free from offensive language. And really the only trigger warning we got was a flier warning us about "Potty Language" (which may have just been the university's way of saying "Hey we tried to warn you in a non-offensive trigger warning-y way"). The reason I think this was so great because it was a safe space for free speech.
Now here's the reason comedians can get away with so much: they’re funny and famous. It’s no secret that sometimes, even literally, celebrities get away with murder. If one of my friends came up to me and said “Congratulations on getting into your second choice school…” I would probably slap them instead of howl with laughter at their clever wit. But it was just this kind of humor Buress got away with all night long. It just goes to show that it’s all about fame and context. It amazes me that even though he’s being a jerk, it’s the right time and place for it. He can get away with this no problem because we expect him to be the way he is—and we’re going to be happy with whatever that is.
The other reason comedian sense of humor is so accepted is because we want to laugh. We go out of our way to see these shows and if we’re not entertained, then really, we messed up. It’s a way of avoiding buyer’s remorse, something called post-decision dissonance. We want to reduce this dissonance and convince ourselves that our decisions are right. Otherwise, we wouldn’t trust ourselves to make any more decisions. This is part of why we like comedians so much; if we just paid to listen to offensive jokes, at the very least we want to think it’s worth it.
Granted, these people, meaning really good comedians, are genuinely hilarious. They’ll really keep you laughing for days. But it’s also quite something to note that we might like them so much purely to justify ourselves.