Is it okay to joke about suicide?

Comedy and Tragedy

There’s a new article from Salon asking, essentially, is it okay to joke about suicide? Comedy often tackles many taboos in society, rape being one of the most-talked about recently, but suicide isn’t normally one of them. Suicide in general is a touchy subject, but to joke about it? Yikes.

I remember when I was maybe fifteen or sixteen, my uncle was living with us. At the time, as he self-deprecatingly referred to it, he was the “clown in the basement.”  Reason being, along with my brother, we and the rest of the neighborhood thought he was hilarious. What was the source of his comedy? Suicide jokes. He’d joke about slicing his wrists or downing a bottle of pills or hanging himself – you know; suicide. And we played along too, sometimes conjuring up our morbid suicide jokes. It made for some legitimately gut-busting times in that damp, cold basement where the clown resided.

Was it wrong, though? In hindsight, I don’t know because I know at that time I hadn’t discovered my passion for the subject. I just thought it was funny stuff. I wasn’t considering larger implications of, “Well, is this something we should be joking about?” The thing is I still find that kinda dark, morbid humor to be fun to engage in. Of course, with very select audiences, as that’s not typical humor.

I guess, I don’t know, I’m of the mindset that there are no limits to comedy except that, obviously, it has to be funny. If it’s not funny, then what the hell are you doing? You’re not doing comedy – that much seems certain. There’s more to it, though. I like comedy that pushes people and shakes people’s sensibilities. I think people need to be confronted with that which offends them to some degree or that which they don’t want to discuss, like suicide or rape. And comedy can offer that avenue of discussion or at the very least, as comedy should do, it can shed a humorous light on painful subjects.

As the article says, there’s a fine line between laughter and pain. The comedian’s job is to learn how to navigate it therein.

4 thoughts

  1. Well, to answer your question, it wasn’t wrong. Humor is defense mechanism that is honestly therapeutic to a degree. When a person stops making jokes or being funny about a serious subject, that’s the real red flag.


  2. Joking about suicide is pure comedy. Not political correctness. People who have a problem with suicide jokes take things too seriously. There has been scientific studies about the correlation between intelligence and humour. Scientific studies suggest people with lower intelligence are more likely to be gullible, arrogant, blindly reacting to fear, and taking things too seriously rather than laughing and making fun of people and things. This article reminds me of these George R.R. Martin’s quotes:

    “Fear cuts deeper than swords.”

    “People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.”

    “Laughter is poison to fear.”

    “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

    “The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them.”

    The people who live in fear more than laughter have emotional instability and usually have mental disorders.

    Enlightenment emerges when fear is vanquished from civilians when they are given freedom of thought and freedom of speech to allow creative thoughts and innovative conversations that give birth to intellectual growth rather than regressively putting people in the dark where uncertainty and fearfulness are birthed.


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