THE BLOG
03/02/2016 12:23 pm ET Updated Mar 03, 2017

In Defense of the Offensive

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Viewers, readers, consumers, friends, family and, yes, even myself sometimes, listen up. Breathe. Sit down. Relax and try and enjoy. You're killing yourself over comedy. Your anger and stress from being offended is destroying you from the inside.

I'm not a comedian. I am fortunate to be able to work with many great comedians and love viewing comedy: stand-up, sketch and even, on occasion, improv. I try and see as many shows as I can and expose myself to as many comedians as possible. With each of them comes a unique view of the world.

Comedians work hard at their art form. They pine over perfect wording in little notebooks, practice their sets tirelessly in the mirror and then have the courage to get on stage or video and put themselves out there in ways most (including myself) couldn't fathom. They constantly tuning and perfecting their craft on social media.

"Why are we holding their offensive jokes to a higher level of scrutiny than the issues they're bringing to light?"

This country has been spoiled with talented and intellectual comedians such as Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Larry Wilmore and Sarah Silverman (to name very, very few). They've continued the work put in by Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, and George Carlin (again, to name a few) that challenged how we experience comedy. We love them until we think they've gone too far.

Why are we holding their offensive jokes to a higher level of scrutiny than the issues they're bringing to light? At the root of the scrutiny is a personal uncomfortableness to the subject matter. Reader, I am going to address you directly. Why did a joke make you uncomfortable?

Did the joke make you uncomfortable because you think the issue is serious and you don't believe it should be joked about? Good, then you're almost getting the point. The joke should, in some way, offend you and make you think. Thinking is not bad. I repeat. In bold. Thinking is not bad.

If you want to partake in something mindless there are thousands of hours of programming out there for you. Making you think and/or feel doesn't make the joke unfunny; it doesn't make the joke unuseful. In fact, if you'd see offense as a way of shedding light on a problem, your life could be a whole lot less complicated.

If you can't laugh at an issue, realize what is upsetting about it and turn it into a positive. DO something about it. Join a group, donate to a nonprofit, write an op-ed on how terrible this post is, anything. We have to realize as a people that posting on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter isn't doing anything.

Did the joke make you uncomfortable because you disagree with the comedian's standpoint? Consider, for a moment, that you're being offended by a scripted act meant to make you laugh. It is not in a comedian's job description to make you like them. Also consider if what you find offensive is something that you choose to ignore because it's easier than facing the issues the joke might expose. You have a right to your opinions and indifference.

"Our society has traded book burning for Internet shaming."

If you feel the need to say something, do so at the appropriate time when you understand why you're offended. Have a point and don't be defensive. Simply disagreeing with something doesn't make a joke unfunny. Use this discomfort to better understand your own opinion. Not liking something isn't a reason for an outburst at a show or on social media. If you can't answer why you're offended, work to figure that out. You'll better yourself with understanding instead of coming off as a curmudgeon.

Now, there are jokes that go above and beyond bad taste. There are jokes that are not just offensive but hateful. Internet reader, I plead you: Let these jokes die. You cannot stop them from happening, but you can stop them from mattering. Hate spreads when shots are returned. It rallies those spewing hate. It gives their voice meaning. Don't feed them. The best thing you can do when you think something goes too far is to ignore them. Silence is excruciating.

Laugh. Please. You'll feel better. If you can't, breathe, take a step back and look at what the real issues are. All offensive jokes have lessons if you can look past what you find hurtful. Our society has traded book burning for Internet shaming. If we put the pitchforks down and realize why we're offended, we can have a real conversation on how to heal the root of the issue -- or at least people would laugh more... which wouldn't hurt.

Your hate mail can be directed at @themattott.