How can we tell the difference between a joke and an insult? It seems like a simple separation, but in reality, the line can become very thin over time.
In the words of Jenkins, Ford and Green,
“..a joke expresses something a community is ready to hear; an insult expresses something it doesn’t want to consider”
Let’s take Don Rickles into consideration. Though he recently passed away on April 6, 2017 at the ripe ol’ age of 90, he will remain in the reign of comedy legends.
(and for the kids at home that don’t know this man by the picture below, maybe you’ll know him by his sarcastic, wise-cracking animated alter-ego, Mr. Potato Head from the Toy Story trilogy).
Known as the Equal Opportunity Offender, Rickles’ jokes were finger pointed at everyone.
He didn’t leave anyone out, making his shows a laughing pit for everyone to enjoy. Instead of singling out one, he singled out everyone, an extremely intelligent move. It was because of this that no one found his jokes insulting to the point of controversy. Everyone could take his jokes because, well, they knew they were just jokes.
In his own words,
“I laugh at the blacks, the whites, the purples…”
I think plenty of comedians can take a note or two thousand from Mr. Rickles. Making fun of everyone brings joy to everyone. Making fun of one person or group causes controversy because of the idea of singling out that singular person or group. Don knew better than that and knew that everyone was equally available to be made fun of. It made him a legend, one that mustn’t be forgotten.