In this blog, Stand-Up Comedy Tips: Give Offensive Material to a Character, I suggest that material too offensive, harsh, sexist, racist, or controversial can still be in the show if given to a character.
When I was the opening act for the male-strippers at Chippendale’s, I was doing six to eight shows a week for nearly four years in front of three hundred and fifty hormone charged women. I wrote a joke I thought was very funny:
“Sure women want equal rights – but are you willing to fuck for them?”
It’s clearly politically wrong and the all-female audience would turn on me if I said it. I know because I did the joke once. The response wasn’t really hate, but more like disappointment. For most of the show I’d become their ally in making fun of the men who would enter the club after the show. I felt the joke made the audience feel attacked by someone they had grown to trust.
Being a devious sort of person, I still wanted to do the joke. It took three weeks of thinking until I decided to give the joke to a character that would say it without realizing how offensive it really was. Enter the character – Bob Hormone.
Here are a couple of caveats that can help you tread this mine field of controversy:
- Pick the Right Character
I selected the character Bob Hormone because he’s the kind of jerk who’d leave the three top buttons of his shirt undone, called women “babe,” and pointed his index finger like a pistol as a greeting. When Bob said the joke, it became a comment on the kind of idiots who actually think this way and a lampoon of the women’s movement. Both sides took a shot. The joke worked great.
- Have a negative opinion about what the character said.
If the audience dislikes the sentiment of the joke or bit, you can attack the character for being a douche. This lets the comedian off the hook for having written such an offensive joke because the character can be blamed. Even though we know the real douche is the comedian.
This technique of giving offensive material to a character can work great, but beware that some audiences will see right through the ploy and hold the comedian responsible for an offensive joke for which he’s ultimately responsible.