The Instigator
Con (against)
8 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Is there any subject/idea off limits in comedy?

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/13/2014 Category: Funny
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,785 times Debate No: 45819
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (15)
Votes (2)




Because of the subjectivity of humour, and likewise that of sensitivity to topics (and further, that sensitivity being a choice -not the immediate-behaviour kind, but the definitions/attitude kind)...

Because of the goal of comedy being solely to elicit laughter, and share the perspective of the comedian....

Because the same first principles of ethics and morality used to argue that something is off limits also uphold the right to freedom of conscience and hence expression...

Because comedy is inherently in jest (and especially shock humour), the argument that values are being upheld or challenged varies with the earnestness of the comedian (which can only be declared, defined, and known BY the comedian)...

Because of the beauty and creativity that many appreciate and live for that has resulted (this being immense, indefinable, and nearly infinite) from the challenge to their expectations by comedians, whether this be their own material, or a change in attitude, etc....

Nothing is off limits in terms of subject matter in comedy.



The last sentence to me seems like your thesis: "Nothing is off limits in terms of subject matter in comedy".

Obviously, I disagree.

Comedy is meant to be funny and entertaining, not necessarily insulting. The more controversial comedy is the duller it gets.

Here are some things that I consider to be off limits in comedy:

- The 9/11 terrorist attack
- Presidential assassinations
- Racial humor

All of those things can be hurtful and therefore less humorous.

Because you said that nothing is off limits in comedy, I will win this debate as long as one thing is off limits.

Thanks and look forward to your response!
Debate Round No. 1


"Comedy is meant to be funny and entertaining, not necessarily insulting."
Not necessarily. But likewise, it's not necessarily meant NOT to be insulting. Anything that makes people laugh, and that need only make ONE person laugh (because it's so subjective

"The more controversial comedy is the duller it gets."
Again subjective. I find it quite the opposite. Controversy and testing perceived limits can be and often is very funny. George Carlin, Bill Hicks, and Doug Stanhope are three brilliant examples of this. I don't need to argue anymore to refute this. But will add that the comedic venue for the exploration of the sensitive is an effective way of making public and vocal things that we are afraid to share, or topic we fear to broach. And it's a lot more palatable than some high-minded, entitled sniveler squealing about what you "can and can't say" that's for sure.

Insult comedy is also it's own genre. So, uh...

The list you provided are things you specifically do not find funny to joke about. All that needs to be asserted is that I find them funny (and I can honestly see a clear shot from here, to humour, in each of those). Again, your not finding them funny does not make them off limits, nor does any mob rule sway that fact. But to expound, I'll find some funny stuff online for each.
Presidential Assassination: youtube: /watch?v=11Fl9ZVJ7B8
Racial Humour:

The comments have brought up some points, and if I have the space later, I'll address them.

I'll end by saying that finding humour in something cannot be equated with finding it funny. That Chinese guy that jumped off a mall balcony 'cause his girlfriend shopped too long. His death is not funny. But the absurdity and extremity of the situation can be funny abstractly, and the shock to the system such events produce is coped with by many with laughter.


If you look around you will find that many people have lost their jobs because a joke. Therefore, there are subjects that are off limits.

How about newton elementary? Try and make a joke about that.

There are subjects that are off limits in comedy.
Debate Round No. 2


I have thus far meant provably, objectively off-limits. The fact that some people get fired is an example of something that's prompted the question, because I find it objectionable (due to my belief that nothing is off limits), but it's not an answer to the question. Some people find some things off limits. That is unequivocally not the same as there being on independently-verifiable standard by which to judge the "limits".

Andy Warhol said "art is what you can get away with", and it's a testament to the point I'm making. To say that what you can't get away with hence isn't art is to miss his point. Art (and hence comedy) is anything the artist conceives of it to be. That others allow or disallow will be the difference between that artist eating or not, succeeding financially & critically or not. But it has no bearing on the fact that it's still art. The implication of the quote is that others will treat as art what they allow you to get away with, and that the "mob rule gets to define social constructs" is how most people will conceive of things (most people being sensitive, self-centred, and small-minded, in most subject ares and instances), but NOT that these actually constitute the reality.

The reality is that you define what is funny to you, not what is funny. Hence pranks. Hence black comedy. Hence comedians with and also without audiences.

And please refute the three refuting example I offered to your "off limits subjects' before introducing new subjects, or ask yourself what your arguments are actually achieving. Since you've simply repeated your previous arguments in a new form, and offered nothing to effectively counter mine, I don't especially feel the need to continue contriving new justifications for my hitherto solidly established assertion.



Just because a comedian jokes about something and people laugh doesn't mean that its okay. Your examples of 9/11, assassination, racial humor, suicide... Although people can make jokes, it doesn't mean that it should be allowed.

But, back to the resolution. Is there any comedy that's off limits? There is a small nightclub near my house. My friend tried to audition as a comedian but the club rejected him. Why? Because his comedy had racial humor in it. After some research, that nightclub and many others do not accept racial humor. In other words, racial comedy was off limits.

So there is my argument in a nutshell. Many clubs outlaw certain comedy topics, therefore proving that there are off limits subjects in comedy. I believe I have upheld my burden of proof for this argument by proving that there are off limits subjects in comedy.

Thanks for a great debate!
Debate Round No. 3
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by SIICmanSIIN 1 year ago
Pro doesn't understand the concept of subjectivity. Con is clearly the winner.
Posted by jdtroughton 2 years ago
Hulksmash, there are no justifications for conduct points er way, let alone to Pro.

Neither for spelling and grammar (if anything, that's unequivocally my point).

ou're convinced by what you're convinced by, okay.

But only I actually used any sources at all (incidences toward that case that what another finds off limits has succeeded comedically with a broad audience, cause don't we humans just love mob-rule as a system of measuring subjective things).

On that basis, I'd argue this constitutes 'vote bombing', & I really won this one, so I'd report it if you don't change it.
Posted by jdtroughton 2 years ago
LOL. That story writes its own jokes.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
I think he means cookie elementary.
Posted by jdtroughton 2 years ago
I see what you're saying. I'm not emotionally blind to the sensitivity of the subject matter. There are times and places where I'd feel uncomfortable saying such things (say a Sandy Hook memorial), but to say that absolutely this or that shouldn't be joked about is to legislate your feelings onto others, which is what I'm arguing is at least equally, if not more inappropriate and inhumane.

Is it funny that a bunch of kids and teachers got shot for no reason? I don't think so, and I'd imagine it'd be hard to find someone who finds that fact itself funny. But the juxtaposition of serious subjects with irreverence, or ill-placed pragmatism (ex. saving money on pensions) can be funny, at least potentially. I don't think my writing did that the best justice, but that's why I don't get paid for my jokes, lol.

I'd rather live in a world with offended people, and be offended myself sometimes, than live a world where the offended make the rules about how everyone else should feel and express. Extrapolating out those two hypothetical worlds should reveal a clearly better one to live in, on the whole. If you've ever been to a feminist event, you might know what I mean...

By the way, how many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?


Posted by the_streetsurfer 2 years ago
Wow... I thought you wouldn't do it. That is insensitive and inhumane. Seriously.
Posted by jdtroughton 2 years ago
"The town of Newton, CT is in mourning, where the armed rampage of 20-year-old Adam Lanza claimed the lives of twenty children and six adult staff members in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

While many are shocked and outraged by the recent events, Superintendent Fernando Vasquez notes that since the shooting, student to teacher ratios are better than ever before, and the school board has saved thousands in pension disbursements to the now deceased faculty members."

Just off the cuff...
Posted by the_streetsurfer 2 years ago
Newton elementary was a school shooting that killed 20 kids no older than ten including several teachers. I await your joke on that.
Posted by jdtroughton 2 years ago
So voters know, the resolution was never:
IF you can prove some people disallow certain jokes then YES there are things off limits
The resolution has been:
IF you can prove that some topics can never be funny (an entirely subjective judgement, this is an emotional, not really intellectual case to be made, in that sense) then YES...
Posted by jdtroughton 2 years ago
Streetsurfer (or anyone who knows) please tell me what you mean by "Newton Elementary", and I'll see if I can't crack you a smile using it as the premise for a joke.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Actionsspeak 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's arguments were short and empty
Vote Placed by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: I am giving Con points in this debate although Pro could have easily won it by providing sources rather than heresay. Also, Pro had a hard time getting around the likes of Chris Rock who makes racist jokes all the time. Great debate all round. Great work.