Sat | May 27, 2017

A likkle joke me was making!

Published:Monday | March 2, 2015 | 3:00 AM
Sean Penn

Jokes are like well-laid plans. When they come off, it's magic, but when they don't, ahm, not so much.

Sean Penn, whose acting credentials in Hollywood are without question, decided to drop a 'joke' at the Oscars recently. When Penn was presenting the award for best picture to Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for the movie Birdman, Penn 'joked', "Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?" So of course every Mexican who gave a hoot was less than pleased at Penn's attempt at stand-up comedy. Immigration as a joke topic is like homosexuality for Jamaicans. Dependent on how you play it, it can go terribly wrong.

Now Inarritu said afterwards that he and Penn are friends and basically those type of jokes are common between them. But that's where Penn, and so many other people, get this joke thing completely wrong. Because it's a joke between us, doesn't mean it's a joke for everybody else. I had a friend at university whom I used to call Lowlife, he called me Pea Brain. Don't remember how the nicknames came about, but I digress. One day after greeting me in his usual manner, a passerby was flabbergasted, first at the comment, and then at my nonchalance. We had to explain to her 'that's how we roll'.


context matters


Clearly, now that we are both professionals, I doubt he would call me that in front of my boss, nor I in front of his. But if we're just hanging out like two college buddies, Pea Brain and Lowlife it is. The fact that Penn and Inarritu have that rapport is great. But for every Mexican or any other immigrant who knows the horrors of trying to get across the border in search of a better life, it's hardly comedic.

The other thing you need to realise is that what's a joke for me and someone else, may not be a joke for me and you. Recently somebody joked about my weight and I was offended. The joke, in isolation, was funny. It also raised a valid point (fact is I'm more

portly than I was a year ago). But it offended me because that individual and I aren't at 'that' level. So I could tell Inarritu the same thing, and he punches me in the face. But him and Sean a bredren! Some people just don't get the 'rapport joke' concept.

Finally, there are different types of jokes. You have the corporate jokes, legal jokes, political jokes, man-and-woman jokes and, of course, rum bar jokes. Now the latter type is unique. That's because all the others can be used in circles outside of which they were

created. So a nice legal joke can work at , let's say a service club meeting.

But rum bar jokes can and should only be used

within the confines of a rum bar. Not in public, and not at the Oscars! Later.

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