Is this joke offensive?


Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

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54 Responses

  1. Glyph says:

    Try the veal!

    It doesn’t read offensive to me. It’s got nothing to do with any orientation or gender, it’s just a riff on the tedium of the overly-familiar in marriage; an old, old, OLD topic.Report

  2. Brad says:

    Humor is always in the eyes of the beholder and contextual. I think as comedians go, it is meant as a clean/humorous send up on the comedian’s own marriage using same-sex marriage as a backdrop.Report

  3. greginak says:

    Doesn’t seem offensive to me at all. Like Glyph said, its a joke about the tedium( a delightful tedium of course) of marriage. Hell it could be a Henny Youngman or Milton Berle joke its so old and middle of the road.Report

  4. NewDealer says:

    Not really. The joke is groan-inducing and in many ways old-fashioned but it is not really offensive or homophobic in any ways that I can tell.Report

  5. greginak says:

    The worst sin of the joke is that it isn’t actually funny or remotely original.Report

  6. veronica dire says:

    I found it mildly amusing. I guess.Report

  7. Kolohe says:

    It’s less offensive than the Washington Redskins, more offensive than the New York Football Giants.Report

  8. Vast Variety says:

    The joke isn’t offensive, although the comedian in question needs to learn to write his jokes instead of reusing ones from Robin Williams movies.Report

  9. Kazzy says:

    I could see potential for offense in terms of trivializing the unique experiences of those in “real” same-sex relationships.

    For instance, I could imagine a gay, lesbian, or bisexual audience member hearing the first part of the joke (“I’m in a same-sex relationship…”) and thinking, “Hey, this is a comedian I can connect and identify with,” and then hearing the second part (“The sex is always the same.”) and then thinking, “Nope.”

    I’d be surprised if that was the typical reaction, but I could understand someone responding as such.Report

    • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

      the joke is terribad, but i think going to a comedy/”comedy” themed show and being annoyed at incongruity between setup and delivery is a misunderstanding of comedy/”comedy”.

      was the joke supposed to be bad? e.g. it was a play about a comedian who is bad at comedy. aka my funny bone has leukemia: the paul reiser story.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

        I just want to be clear and say that I wouldn’t have reacted that way but having taken a bit of time to try to decipher it, I could see that response.

        What made me think of it was a speaker who shared a failed engagement he offered once. During it, he stood up there and said, “I’m gay.” A gay person in the audience then stood up and said, “I’m gay, too.” Only, the speaker wasn’t gay. His intent was to disarm the audience and challenge certain assumptions. But the person who had thus outed himself to the group felt alone and manipulated upon learning that.

        Now, the contexts are very different, which is why I would chide the speaker and probably not even notice the potential for that dynamic with the comedian. But if pressed to attempt to identify why someone might have become upset, that is where I’d go.

        Also, as someone below notes, the local culture could be an issue. I don’t know what it is like to be gay or in a same-sex relationship in Singapore (if that is where this happened).Report

      • dhex in reply to dhex says:

        i’m reading this as “a comedian, who is a character in this play…” rather than a comedian who happened to also be on the same bill.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

        Re-reading the OP, I realized I didn’t catch that part. Some clarity from Murali would be helpful. I jumped right to cousin-as-audience-member and a comedian onstage doing a bit. I see now that the cousin was in the play alongside a comedian character who offered the joke. Was the cousin herself angry? Or was her character angry? Now I’m all confused.Report

      • Murali in reply to dhex says:

        It was my sister, not my cousin in the play. And right my sister plays a social butterfly. The comedian character is the protagonist. The play is an annual thing done by medical students for charity (and fun) with the different years competing against one another. The friend was another medical student who didn’t even attend the play, but heard the joke second hand.Report

    • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

      Today i read some quote from George Carlin about growing up Catholic. While i and many other people consider Carlin to be hilarious and a genius, i can easily see how a lot of his stuff is offensive to Catholics and religious people in general.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to greginak says:

        I don’t think of him as offensive but I don’t think of him as being super-funny. He seems to go on a lot of monologues with what some people see as truth-telling but does not contain much in the world of jokes even non-traditional ones.

        Though he did have one of the most interesting career transformations. This is a very young George Carlin:

      • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        There is a certain offensiveness to a lot of humor. The Jewish scholar, Ruth Wise, wrote a book about Jewish humor that was published a few months ago called No Joke. In an interview for Tablet about her new book, she mentions that she and bunch of other Jewish professors were telling Jewish jokes one day. After the other professors left, a non-Jewish administrative assistant approached her and told Dr. Wise that she did not understand the jokes and thought that a lot of them would be seen as anti-Semitic coming from a non-Jew. The joke in question:

        A Englishman, German, Frenchman, and Jew are walking through a desert and are terribly thirsty. The Englishman says that he is so thirsty, he must have tea. The German says, he is so thirsty he must have beer. The French says, that he is so thirsty he must have wine. The Jew says, that he is so thirsty that he must have diabetes.

        The joke plays on certain stereotypes regarding national drinks and ethnic characters. From a Jewish perspective, the joke is about self-awareness of these stereotypes but told by a non-Jew, it can be really mean.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        ND, how about his third career transformation when George Carlin became a non-offensive actor on a PBS kid’s edutainment show and performed his roll without a shred of irony or insincerity.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Carlin had jokes and also Rants. When done properly a comedic rant can be funny and/or an acute observation. As he got older, he tended more to rant and cut back on jokes a bit.Report

      • Pinky in reply to greginak says:

        Dennis Miller says that conservatives get upset at jokes about God and liberals get upset at jokes about everything.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        Miller’s just bitter because he’s never been funny.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Thats sort of funny coming from Miller since before 911 turned him conservative he had plenty of liberal fans. Its even odder that plenty of comics are liberal with many liberal fans. Certainly Carlin has plenty of liberal fans as do Maher, and Pryor etc etc. And certainly comics are Hollywood types and we know that every single person in “Hollywood” is liberal. Its almost like Miller is tossing out a joke to conservatives to verify their own beliefs about liberals.Report

      • Kim in reply to greginak says:

        Who the hell do you think of as being “super funny”?

        Comedians learn a lot about humor from Carlin — he’s
        among a very few “required readings” in the field.Report

      • morat20 in reply to greginak says:

        Miller was one of the folks that 9/11…broke, for a lack of a better word.

        9/11 surely changed a lot of peoples views on a lot of things, but it was a rare person that went full-tilt and just absolutely rearranged their world view.

        Listening to him before and after 9/11 and you’d be hard pressed to believe it was the same man.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to greginak says:


        There is also that.


        Most of the praise I’ve seen Carlin get is for his rants and as a general “truth-teller”Report

      • Chris in reply to greginak says:

        I often use his (Miller’s) joke about having a great grandfather who lived in Nashville, where he worked in the rhinestone mines.Report

      • Chris in reply to greginak says:

        Also, I never thought Carlin was funny, but when he became preachy and holier than thou (not wholly un-ironic, given that much of that preaching and holier than thou-ness was about religion) I thought he was downright annoying.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        ND, a lot of people think that the main point of comedies these days is truth-telling, especially for stand-up comedy. For some, the truth-telling aspect of comedy is more important that the actually requirement to be funny to the audience. I think that the truth-telling aspect of comedy is receiving a detrimental amount of attention because comedy allows everybody to say some very non-polite and not-diplomatic things that you can’t say in normal discussion unless your with people that already agree with you. Since comedy is at least partly viewed as not serious and you can never be sure of the sincerity of the joke teller, its a good medium to get across a message to people that would never hear it in the first place.Report

      • Kim in reply to greginak says:

        Lee, ND,
        I doubt anyone was thinking that Carlin didn’t mean it when he called all the anti-abortionist women ugly.
        We may forget (the joke’s old, okay?) but he was pretty much the first person to make that observation.

        The funniest truthtelling i heard recently led off by talking about Sweetums…
        (You’d have to be a real history buff to actually get the joke — there’s about three more for the chumps).Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        Carlin was a genius with words. He became famous for his rants, but his early, perfectly clean, completely non-political, pure absurdity is also amazing.

        Try to come up with a short, self-contained joke funnier than

        “Forecast for tonight: dark”.


        “We have a partial score: New York 7.”Report

    • Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:


      If I did see the potential for offense in the joke, it would probably be along the lines you talk about here. I also think, as you and at least one other has pointed out, that the local context might also be relevant. And perhaps the personal context as well. I, personally, find certain things very offensive even though to others they seem innocuous.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        I’m trying to think of an analogy that might make that angle a bit more obvious to people. If she had said, “Sexual slavery is a real issue facing our society. Trust me, I’d know. I have sex every day, never enjoy it, and never get paid.” Or, “I thought we outlawed slavery. But I beg to differ… I work at Walmart.”

        None of those are perfect analogues and I think are obviously offensive in a way that the joke in the OP isn’t necessarily so. But, as you point out, context matters.

        For the record, I’m not arguing that the joke was offensive. Rather, if we were all sitting at a table together watching the play-in-question and a lesbian friend stormed out angrily at that line and we were all left trying to figure out why, this is what I’d come up with.Report

  10. Perhaps it depends on the particular struggles of your sister’s friend. Was this in Singapore, Murali? I don’t know the situation there, but I could see getting upset if I was in a society that constantly pissed all over my sexuality and my relationships. If you had to take such barbs every day, it would probably stop being funny and start being insulting, even if the joke itself was/seemed fairly innocuous.Report

    • Alan Scott in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

      According to the Wikipedias, Singapore still criminalizes homosexual sex.

      Yeah, I can see how an LGBT person in Singapore might be offended in ways that those of us in places that treat our LGBT populations half-decently would not be.Report

  11. Tim Kowal says:

    Nice try, but opposite day was last week. No one here will accept your premise that anything can “be” offensive.Report

  12. I don’t see anything offensive about it. It ranks an anemic “Mildly” on the amusement scale, but I don’t find it remotely offensive. And same-sex marriage is an issue I Take Seriously, so you can consider my answer authoritative.

    I don’t know why your sister’s friend got angry.Report

  13. Damon says:

    Well, it’s rather funny, and more funny than a lot of “Buyer and Cellar”, which I saw in NYC a while back, and which I enjoyed quite a bit. The entire audience, except me, thought the guy was hilarious. I’m no Barbara Streisand fan nor am I a gay man. The rest of the audience was however.Report

  14. ScarletNumbers says:

    It is only offensive in the sense that the pun is trite and obvious.

    The joke itself isn’t offensive per se.Report

  15. Mike Schilling says:

    It’s mildly amusing. I don’t see how it’s offensive to anyone.

    How about “I’m in an opposite-sex relationship. Sleeping with her is the opposite of sex.”Report