Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side!
That is your classic ‘joke’ (although I don’t claim it to be the best), it doesn’t offend anyone, involve use of profanity, and can be told to people of all ages. Whilst I don’t confess it to be an amazing joke, or indeed one makes sense, it is one non the less.
Take jokes that are sexist, homophobic, racist etc etc are they still jokes? Well the purest will say “no they are not!” As they poke fun at minority groups, make fun of peoples disabilities and mock things which (in some disability cases) have no control over.
On the other hand, the freedom of speech brigade say “well I’m entitled to say what I want, and if they are offended then thats their problem”.
Personally I am in two minds as to whether jokes that touch on the mentioned topics are in-fact jokes, or just jabs a sections of society masquerading as jokes.
The whole point of a joke is to make someone laugh, and just as we are all different, well all find different things entertaining. Take for example a person falling over a banana skin – the typical scenario from many a cartoon, it (in theory) causes the children watching it to laugh. It doesn’t mean that the makers of the cartoon are mocking those who are short sighted and therefore can’t see the skin, or indeed hope that the victim cripples themselves in the falling over. Its just something that people find funny.
Therefore just as people find who those kind of things funny, others are likely to find the play on words used in risky jokes entertaining. After all, comedians such as Frankie Boyle, Hugh Dennis and Dara O Brian are at their most popular – people like to laugh, and just as we are united by the fact that we are all humans, we are all united by the fact that yes, we are all different.
However that doesn’t mean that I think people should be spurting out exist, homophobic or racist jokes every hour, on the contrary. As with freedom of speech I strongly believe that those are entitled to say what they want, provided it doesn’t effect how other people live or encourage distress to those on the receiving end.
In other words there is an element of tact to choose where and when to say such jokes.
If you know your audience well enough, you will be able to tailor your material appropriately to ensure that people are not offended, and jokes do what their primary function is, to entertain rather than offend.