When we joke with each other, we take the sting out of disagreements. We are saying “I think you are stupid and wrong, but I respect you enough to try to make you feel better about it, and acknowledge we’re both fumbling monkeys.”
When we joke with each other, we defuse awkwardness and uncomfortable realities that otherwise are left unspoken. We can all admit we all have flawed, farting bodies, and it’s not a big deal.
When it comes to discussing controversial or emotionally-laden issues, there are few things as valuable as a strong and well-tuned sense of humor. It is a near-panacea for interpersonal conflicts. It makes romantic relationships easier, it makes work relationships more productive, it makes family almost bearable! Individual humans are weak. Humans united in a group are strong. And an absolutely crucial lubricant that allows groups to continue to function without wearing themselves to dust is humor.
Guys, not to go all evo-psych on you or anything (I’m sorry Wes, don’t hate me!), but there’s a reason that women find humor attractive, and this is it!
I am friends with people of wildly varying stances on many Issues. Some of them hold positions I strongly disagree with. On the other hand, there are people I’m acquainted with that agree with me on most issues of substance, who I cannot stand. The thing that separates the first group from the second group is humor.
A lack of humor is a glaring red flag that Something Is Wrong with your movement or group. One of the most striking things about the pre-2000s culture wars was the staggering imbalance in humor. The Christian Fundamentalists and Right Wing Scolds were completely bereft of humor. They couldn’t take a joke, couldn’t make a joke, and generally didn’t understand what this human emotion called “humor” was. Frank Zappa and The Simpsons and South Park were degenerates that were destroying Christianity and ruining women’s virtue!
(This isn’t the case anymore, the right has had some good humor for a while, and the left doesn’t have as much. It’s strange how times change, and gives an insight into which direction the moral authoritarians are drawn)
Famously, those in power try to keep a tight rein on what humor is acceptable, because they know that unsayable truths become sayable by the jester. Humor is anathema to Fear.
For all these reasons, I think Humor is one of humanities greatest assets. When we laugh together — even at things that really suck, even with people we don’t particularly like — we destroy the myth that others are alien monsters. We are actively tearing down the walls of dehumanization that were wrought in hate.
I’m not here to debate the particulars of the Oscars and of if any given joke was good or bad. I am here to say that Humor is Important. It should be nurtured and encouraged.
It should not be suppressed, and especially not with violence.
Yes, obviously all rules have exceptions in the extremes. But the DEFAULT should be to accept humor and play along, hit back with jokes of your own if needed. Physically attacking someone making a joke requires overwhelming provocation, because it chills all subsequent humor, and that is very bad for continued social functioning.
Which is why I’m saying Will Smith is a gigantic buttmonkey, and we should all fling poo at him for a while. He screwed up, and burned a lot of good will at the Oscars. That sucks for him, but he’ll get over it. Maybe his friend Chris Rock can give him some tips on how to do so with grace.