It's not always about being funny.

Finding humor in the wake of the tragic Batman shooting in Aurora

I guess there’s gonna be a 12-way tie for Best Supporting Actor this year…” -anon comedian

Anyone who has read me for any length of time knows that I don’t pull punches, I say what is on my mind, and I’m always one of the first to attempt to wring humor from the darkest, bleakest tragedies. When a celebrity dies, I interview him or her, sometimes within hours of the news breaking.

Ah, it’s the old “shoot a hole in the bottom of the popcorn bucket” trick.” -me

On October 28, 2009, a 15-year old girl was the victim of a gang rape that was witnessed by a large audience who didn’t do anything to help her, not even call the police. On October 29, 2009, I published this post that belittled those unwilling to lift a finger to help. The comments are mixed, with many people acknowledging that what I wrote was just a different way to bring dialogue to a terrible situation, and others being unwilling to look past their own anger and grief to consider that humor has its place in every aspect of life.

That’s why I only watch gay movies. This shit would have never happened at Magic Mike…” -anon comedian

In a private Facebook group to which I belong that is comprised solely of comedians in the Central Florida area, I posted a challenge for those who were interested: comment with any comedic commentary that they might have on the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at the screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” that left 12 dead and 58 injured. Some of the comedians participated, myself included, and you’ll see a few of their lines (edited for content and/or grammar), along with mine, throughout this post. But others declared it TOO SOON and NOT FUNNY and SOME THINGS ARE NEVER FUNNY.

Bullshit. There is no such thing as “too soon”, in the proper context. Would I go up to a relative or friend of the victim or even anywhere in the vicinity of Aurora and try to make them laugh? No, unless they were a very close friend – someone who I knew so well that I knew what they needed to get through this. But otherwise? Humor is how I react to terrible situations. It’s how I deal with life, and it’s what many people need, whether or not they’re emotionally affected by a tragedy that may or may not have a personal connection to them.

This was like 9/11 for nerds.” -me

I’m going to tell you a story that only a few people know. I had a friend named Chris, and he and his wife would come over to our house for game night when I was married. Chris would drink a lot of wine, and just get more inebriated and more hilarious as the night progressed. During one game night, as my phone continued to get texts loudly, Chris would follow each loud DING! with “Ding! Fries are done!” and he continued to do that with every text until it was stuck in all of our heads. Every time we would hear that DING!, each of us would think “Ding! Fries are done!” and then silently damn Chris for that.

Gunshots – the only thing louder than black people in a movie theater.” -anon comedian

A few months after this happened, Chris died, the victim of a car accident while he was riding his bike. I sat with his family at the hospital. I held his mother’s hand while she looked at his body. And when I rode to the wake with two of the friends who had always been there at game night, we sat in awkward uncomfortable silence, completely in shock of how quickly his life was taken. And then I got a text.



We looked at each other, and I said, “Ding. Chris is dead.” And the laughter that followed was cathartic, it was emotional, and it was necessary. Even today, when I get a text message, it reminds us to laugh a little, to live a little, and to remember Chris. And while I’d like to think that Chris is somewhere that he can witness this and he approves, it doesn’t matter if he does. This was for us.

The real tragedy? 25.99 for a small popcorn and a drink.” -anon comedian

One of the participants in the Batman thread posted a link to an article in Psychology Today that I found interesting.  One quote in particular seemed appropriate:

“. . . some psychologists classify humor as one of the “mature” defense mechanisms we invoke to guard ourselves against overwhelming anxiety . . . being able to laugh at traumatic events in our own lives doesn’t cause us to ignore them, but instead seems to prepare us to endure them.”

Humor helps us realize that everything is going to be okay. That no matter how bad and bleak things may be, there will be recovery and survival. That even death and loss are surmountable by those who remain. That we’re strong enough to get back up and continue moving.

Don’t you hate how sticky the floors of movie theaters get?” -me

For thirty years, my mother has worked elbow deep in people’s chests, helping to artificially stitch together hearts and the organs we need to survive. Some people come out alive, some die for no reason. And a morbidly dark sense of humor is how she has always coped. When I was nine years old, the Challenger exploded, and the next day, as we were all reeling from the shock, she told me the jokes – the ones you all know.

Those of us who take solace in morbid humor do so instinctively. It’s in our makeup – it’s who we are. We do this not to laugh at the victims or to mock the emotions of those close to them, but to proclaim to the universe, “Bring it on! I can take whatever you’ve got!”

Couldn’t he have waited until next week when “Step Up Revolution” premieres?” -anon comedian

I’ve been accused of being callous, of being incapable of feeling empathy, of being heartless and a terrible person. I’ve had comedians who do impressions of cancer patients and mentally challenged people tell me that I’m in the wrong. That some things aren’t funny. I’ve been told that the fact that I posted that in a private forum shows that I don’t agree that there is humor in everything.

I’ve had other comedians tell me that they hope members of my own family get raped because of the words I said. I’m okay with that (not raping, obviously – but if you want to have consensual sex with the members of my family, go ahead) – people deal with emotions in different ways. Some people shut down, others lash out. Some people get irrationally angry, and some just want to blame every contributing factor. You’ll find people who won’t talk about it and those who cry just thinking about it. Everyone has some way of dealing with life and the ups and downs that it brings.

It’s amazing how realistic 3D effects have gotten recently.” -me

Me? I make jokes.

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108 Replies to “Finding humor in the wake of the tragic Batman shooting in Aurora”

  1. metalmom

    Anyone who knows you, knows that you are one of the most compassionate people. I ‘get’ the jokes. I am one who laughs uncontrollably at funerals. I am the first to make ‘cancer jokes’ when a friend or loved one is diagnosed. We need to protect our psyche. Some things are just beyond words, beyond emotion, beyond comprehension.

    On the plus side, I haven’t seen any movie spoilers….

  2. Loukia

    When it’s a personal tragic story involving a friend, I get how there can be humour during those moments that seem so dark. A shared joke among close friends and family, which result in laughter… I get that. It’s a great way to remember that person. It can feel good. But I don’t agree with finding humour in situations like this… I mean, I think you (as someone who makes jokes like, for a living) sharing a joke about this situation or 9/11, or Columbine, or whatever – with a friend or friends in person, would make your friends say “Oh, Adam… no…” while maybe smiling. But I can’t find anything about this funny right now. It hurts my heart so bad. I hate that this happened, and I hate how so many lives are forever changed because of one useless piece of shit who did this. I wish you’d write a post about how stupid and useless and senseless guns are…
    Anyway, I know you’re a nice guy, so whatever. 🙂

    • happyhippierose

      @Loukia, It’s not okay to make jokes, but it’s okay to politicize this incident to help support your own beliefs and agenda?

      Sorry if that seems harsh, I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy.

      Everyone will see different ways of moving forward, different phoenixes that can rise from these ashes. While you’re seeing gin control everywhere… we’re seeing jokes.

      • D.B.

        @happyhippierose, we need more gin control… that stuff is truly wicked… it doesn’t serve a good purpose other then to remove paint. Let’s take everything dangerous away from all the law abiding people and make them live in the Disney park.

          • Allyson

            @Loukia, politically speaking, guns are the citizens’ way of defending their own freedoms. As you’re from Canada, you are not suffering the loss of freedoms that I am. I am watching drop-jawed as my government turns into a dictatorship, and I while I do not own a gun because I have kids, many people in my family who I know will protect me, do. This country is going to come to riots if not all out civil war, and when that happens, we’ll all be grateful for the second amendment not having been destroyed. And umm btw – making new laws to prevent something like what happened in Aurora – stupid. The guy wasn’t obeying the laws already in place. How would new ones make him behave differently?

          • Allison Zapata

            @Allyson, As a fellow American citizen – I could not – respectfully – agree less. No one NEEDS to collect AK-47’s for a hobby. Keep your hunting rifles, fine, but how about giving up things like “gun collecting” hobbies for the good of this country? Or, at least, maybe have a system to flag someone who buys 6,000 rounds of ammo on the internet. We cannot base every law in this country on what some dudes decided SO LONG AGO. Adaptation to the times is not a bad thing.

            Also, dictatorship?

          • Allyson

            @Allison Zapata, out of respect for Adam, I will not continue this here, although if you would like to discuss further, you can email me king(dot)prawn(dot)pepe(at)gmail(dot)com

            I will say this, however. Part of freedom is the acceptance that some bad things will happen, and some bad people will “get away” with stuff. But every limit we put on the bad guys we put on ourselves, and every time we ask for a new law or set of laws we are giving up the freedom to choose for ourselves what we can do. And when we give up enough of that, you get dictatorship.

          • Allison Zapata

            @Allyson, Oh, come to think of it, I actually do believe some of our freedoms are in jeopardy. You know, like the government trying to tell people who they can and cannot marry…and telling me I can’t do as I wish with my lady-bits.

          • Allyson

            @Allison Zapata, I agree with both of those points. Government should not be in our romance, or in our bedrooms. I’m for limited government – not conservative agenda crap.

          • D.B.

            @Loukia, collect… invest… research… some of what I own has appreciated 500% in the last 5 years, pretty darn good return. I haven’t killed anything with a gun since high school. I rarely even shoot. The trick with investing is knowing what to buy.

            Different people focus on different things. I have friends who like stuff 100+ years old, many of my more interesting things are from WWII. I have two AK-47s – one is Polish from 1979, the other is Romanian from 1983 – they are completely different. Certain aspects of mechanical engineering and machining can tell you a lot about the people at a point in time (in this case the Polish took more pride in their work.) One of my finer made guns is a Swiss K-31 from the 40s. Compare an AK-47 with an AR-15 and they are worlds apart, reflective of their different origins.

            Guns can really become an academic pursuit like coins, stamps, and trains. Lots to read, lots to research, and you never know everything.

    • Avitable

      @Loukia, you’re a sensitive person, and I can understand that looking at this in a lighter context might not appeal to you. It’s not designed to make people reduce the impact of the tragedy – the humor helps them deal with the impact. That’s why it’s important.

  3. Kim

    This is how I dealt with things in almost 20 years of law enforcement, what they call gallows humor.

    Most people don’t get it, but I do, and yay for you for writing about it!

    Love ya fucker.

  4. D.B.

    9/11 for nerds, loud people, Step Up… yes, yes, yes.
    Some colleagues in this foreign local invited me to see Batman with them (in English even) told me it wasn’t safe to see it in the US and laughed a little… so at least the rest of the world has a sense of humor (about us.)

  5. happyhippierose

    Incredibly well-written, Adam.

    I’m one of those cope-with-humor types. At my Grandfather’s funeral, I was asked to speak. Technically, it was a virgin attempt at stand up more or less. I laughed, I told the funniest stories about him… and to a crowd of grieving people, IT HELPED. It’s what was needed. When I was going through chemo, I was the one with the most cancer jokes. It’s just my way of not crying every ten seconds.

    Deflection, avoidance, levity… all different attempts at coping. My Dad is the kind of person who would rather be angry than be sad, and I get it. We all have our own ways of handling heavy feelings. You did a crackerjack job of explaining this.

    Love this section:
    “Humor helps us realize that everything is going to be okay. That no matter how bad and bleak things may be, there will be recovery and survival. That even death and loss are surmountable by those who remain. That we’re strong enough to get back up and continue moving.”

    ITA, 100% with all of it. For many of us, it’s how we roll forward.

  6. Kyra

    I think this is tricky. I think when you are among friends, when it’s something that has happened to you, when it’s been long enough, that humor can open doorways. I think when it’s not your tragedy, when it’s obviously way too soon, when it’s a career opportunity for you to make waves or gain publicity off the victimization or tragedy of others and making the splash as soon as possible is the goal in order to feel relevant – that’s when I believe caution and respect should be used.

    The lines are fuzzy, the timing varied, and sure someone will always be offended. However, at the same time it’s important to realize if you are going to go forward with it, that you need to consider where it’s coming from, the context, the sheer amount of people who could be hurt and offended. I do believe there is such a thing as too soon. I do believe there are some things that won’t ever be funny. Do I think this shooting one of them? No. I think given enough time, this has too many obvious opportunities – so many, that it’s hard not to accidentally trip into one of them without even meaning to. Do I think it’s time now? No. Because it isn’t done yet, things haven’t settled out, there are still active situations, people in the hospital in critical condition. But that’s me, and where I personally think the minimum line is in this particular situation.

    • Avitable

      @Kyra, it’s definitely very tricky. Blundering into this could give the wrong message. It’s also an issue of the fact that more people have died tragically in the time it takes me to write this comment than died in Colorado. Does that make any of the tragedy any less? No, but it puts it into perspective that it is possible to step far enough back right now that humor can be appropriate in some setting.

      I do know exactly what you mean, and I appreciate your perspective on this. 🙂

      • Kyra

        @Avitable, I understand your perspective on this, but I had to comment back to say that leveraging other tragedies against this one to make it one of many, and thus open season for jokes isn’t appropriate. It’s justification that’s misplaced, regardless of the situation. If another person is murdered, it in turn wouldn’t make any more sense to say “Well all those people died in the Batman shooting, so timing really isn’t an issue.” It isn’t a situation of quantity of crimes making it acceptable. Instead, each situation, each individual, each victim is a case on their own. A murder in California does not devalue a murder in Germany, and so on. I do not believe that quantity gives license.

  7. Tara r.

    I laughed during my grandmother’s funeral because of something ‘serious’ the pastor said. It was like she was reaching out of her grave for one last attempt to save my damned soul. I couldn’t help it, but I did try to cover it up as crying. Most of my family would have never understood why it was important to see unintentional humor in a eulogy.

  8. Cap

    One of the things I love about you is that you listen to people’s opinions but you never let it stop you from putting your own particular stamp on things.

    Humor is subjective. Sometimes I think you’re hilarious. Sometimes I think you aren’t funny at all. Sometimes I just smile and walk away. I don’t comment a lot, but I thought you should know that regardless of whether I am amused (and I was in this case), I truly admire your guts in putting it out there.

  9. Allison Zapata

    I get this so much.

    Making jokes is the only way I can deal with most situations.

    When we lost the four of them in the plane crash, and had to clean out their house, we laughed through our tears all day long. Looking for my cousin’s vibrator (so her dad wouldn’t find it), and never finding it, and saying “guess it went down with her” – stuff like that all day long. We clung to it.

    I love the story about your friend. There’s nothing much more cathartic than laughing and sobbing at the same time. Also, so sorry. xo

  10. Dave2

    I don’t have a problem with people finding the funny in a tragic situation… everybody copes with things differently. What I DO have a problem with is these same people being offended because I don’t find it funny.

    I’m not saying you, Adam Avitable, specifically… but there are people I know both IRL and online who are genuinely offended when I either say “I don’t think that was funny” or even when I don’t make any response at all. Then it’s all “FUCK YOU IF YOU CAN’T TAKE A JOKE!” and “WHERE’S YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR?!” and “YOU’RE TOO STUPID TO ‘GET’ MY HUMOR!”

    Well, whatever. I read the stories of people bravely trying to save lives or help other people survive only to get killed for their trouble, and jokes about them seem like they’re being made fun of. Partly because they’re not around to be in on the joke, but mostly because such selfless acts and sacrifice deserve respect. But that’s just my opinion. I don’t judge you for seeing things differently, and I know what I’m getting into when I come here. Nobody forces me to read your blog.

    No, I have no problem with you or your jokes… or anybody else’s… only the people who judge me for not finding them funny.

  11. Mom101

    I think it depends on the humor. And the audience. I still remember how adeptly the Onion pulled it off after 9/11 when I thought I’d never laugh again:

    Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves in Hell: ‘We Expected Eternal Paradise for This,’ Say Suicide Bombers

    God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule

    Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake

    What was genius about that is that they still managed to convey: we’re all in this together. With due respect Adam, I’m not sure that a joke about the blood on the floor hits that mark, so count me among those who’s not (nor may I ever be) ready to hear it. But then, that’s why it’s hard to get a job at the Onion.

    Thanks for putting it out there either way.

    • Avitable

      @Mom101, I do love how The Onion manages to walk that line. And I do appreciate and respect your opinion – that one doesn’t hit the mark in any way, actually. I posted it because I said it privately, and if I’m trying to make a point about humor, it would be hypocritical to pretend that everything I wrote was acceptable. Thanks again for your, as always, reasoned input. You remain one of the few bloggers out there who always has my respect.

      • Avitable

        @sweetsalty kate, you know those dark things that we think, that creep around the edge, but we don’t say? Or we don’t say in public? That was one that I said in private, and wasn’t willing to give myself a break and not post it. It was not designed to be funny, even – just an example of the things being said.

        I don’t laugh at victims.

        • sweetsalty kate

          @Avitable, Yes you do, and you’d like us to. No matter how some may try to frame this as some kind of collective wound, it’s not our tragedy. Those were real people. They are not comedic fodder. You were pointing and laughing at the dead corpses of a six-year-old and her mother, and making light of their deaths, and of the terror of every single person in that theatre. Terror that is not yours to fictionalize or laugh at. You did it on a Facebook page, and then did it again here. That’s not private at all. You wanted props for it, slaps on the back.

          Would you still make jokes about the hilariously sticky floor if it were your sister and your niece that had been gunned down?

          You can’t backtrack now and say that you didn’t mean it to be funny. This whole post was an argument for why it’s okay to point and laugh at victims. That anything is fair game. For me, fair game ends when I pause and think about how I’d feel if it were me, which is something that you and your buddies on Facebook didn’t do.

          I don’t want any of it in my periphery.

          • Avitable

            @sweetsalty kate, I’m sorry that you see it as laughing at the victims. I’m not backtracking when I say that it’s not meant to be funny. The post was about using humor, and I was illustrating the darkest things that were said privately because I try not to hide anything that goes through my head. Even when it’s despicable and dark. Putting it out there is important to me.

            Victims are not comedic fodder. I agree with you, and I do think about how I would feel if it was me mourning a loss. And the way that I’d deal with it is the blackest of humor, because that’s how I process anything.

            The death of each of my grandparents, my friend Chris, and other friends who have passed away – I dealt with them personally with a black sense of humor, because that’s how I cope. So when I look at this situation and put myself in the shoes of the survivors, that’s what I would do. That’s why my brain goes to those places.

            I posted those lines to show how dark those places are, and because it would be disingenuous of me to only show the “lighter” of the lines that came out of that discussion, and I do my best to avoid being a hypocrite or a false person. And know that as hard as it may be for you to understand, that was not me making fun of the victims.

  12. Adrienne

    this right here is one of the many reasons I love you.

    Minutes after my mom took her last breath, my sister number 1 walks to her bedside and starts tickling mom’s feet “I always wanted to do that” she said. Sister number 2 plays with the controls on moms bed making her head go up and down as if she is “yelling” at sister number 1 for doing that.

    I think my mother would have pissed herself laughing, you know if her bladder hadn’t already released itself when she died.

  13. B.E. Earl

    My first text to a buddy after hearing about the events had something to do with Fred Willard reacting to the shootings by saying what he did in that theater last week wasn’t so bad after all.

    Humor wasn’t my first reaction. But it was probably my third or fourth. Nothing wrong with that.

  14. Blondefabulous

    When my grandmother passed away, my mom, sister, & I were at the funeral laughing our asses off. Why? Well, every funeral I had ever been to in Florida was at a place where there were large double doors off to the side where after the service, they wheeled the casket out to the hearse to head to the cemetery. The church we were in in rural Georgia had a small single door so of course I asked my mom with a completely straight face, “What are they going to do? Flip granny on her side & squeeze the casket out the door?” which of course dissolved us into fits of laughter as the Southern Baptist preacher extolled my Grand Mother’s virtues. Gallows Humor…. it gets ya through the rough shit this fucked up world hands out.

  15. sweetsalty kate

    When you’re diffusing tension with humour at the bedside of your own loved one, yes. When you’re capitalizing on – pointing at – someone else’s disaster for your own comedic gain, no. Mining for material to prove your chops as a badass, fucking no.

  16. Coal Miner's Granddaughter

    I agree, hon. The only way I could make it through my father’s and uncle’s deaths within 10 days of each other on top of the last remaining brother and his kids squabbling over my uncle’s possessions was to laugh over some gallows humor.

    9/11 for nerds made me snicker.

    I weep for the families of those who died. I would happily strangle the piece of shit who did this to them. But I will laugh, too. Because in the end, that is what heals us.

    Thanks, fucker.

  17. Krëg

    It’s about time you posted something that made me genuinely laugh.
    “Sticky floors”, man, that’s funnier than Jesus using the holes in his hands to masturbate.

  18. Megan

    It’s very common to use humor as a defense mechanism. When Mitch was on the road, he came up on some horrible things and it was one way to deal with them. For example, an elderly woman jumped out off a high floor of the building she lived in (she died). Someone asked Mitch when she was last seen alive. He responded, “Around the seventh floor.”

    Laughter is healing, and while finding the humor in tragedy is not for everyone, we do need to understand the reasons behind it.

    • Avitable

      @Megan, the idea that it has to be your personal tragedy in order to be allowed to find humor is the issue I struggle with, because I disagree. Every time I read an article about someone who died in that shooting, my heart drops – humor is how I have to look at it or else I’ll obsess about it.

  19. Ed

    Gallows humor is my refuge. It’s like the time my apartment got robbed (and *thoroughly* trashed-it took days to clean up). I told the police officer, “I don’t know whether I want to laugh, cry or throw up.”

    In the years since, I’ve learned that laughing is the best of those three. In my own head, it’s how I own what’s been done to me (or mine), yet it’s more defiant than anger. It’s the mouse flipping the bird to the eagle. It’s me (and by extension us) saying, “I’m better than the worst you can do.”

    We who laugh about these things know in our hearts that it still acknowledges the tragedy, respects those who suffered loss, and expresses hope that these things never happen again.

  20. Allyson

    I apologize for jumping on the gun control issue up there. Sometimes I can’t help myself. On your actual post – I have always felt that as long as I am able to laugh, I can get through anything. Even during my bleakest depressions, I have tried to find humor. On the morning of September 11, 2001 while I was waiting to get confirmation that my dad was not working in the towers that day, I was quivering with fear. All my friends came over to my house and we sat and cracked jokes while I continued to try to get through on phone lines that felt permanently out of order. When I finally heard my dad’s voice, I cried – sobbed, really. It took four hours to get through to him. I may not have survived those hours, if I had had to endure somber seriousness the whole time. (My friends later told me how the color had gone from my face for those hours, and they thought my body was shutting down.)

  21. Chrisor

    You don’t know me from Adam (I’ve been waiting to use this phrase!) but I have to put my 2 cents in. There is humor in EVERY subject/situation, no matter how tragic. It’s the time and the place that may be inappropriate. Anyone who goes to a comedy club, has no business taking offense to ANY routines. You’re there to laugh. I see nothing wrong with making these jokes in a closed setting among friends or like minded individuals. I wouldn’t try to joke with anyone who was in that movie theater or anyone who had a family member die in the tragedy. That being said, we have to have humor during the worst times or we will crack up. Laughter releases stress and emotional pain. I really admire you for tackling this topic on your blog! 🙂

    • hello haha narf


      i need to disagree with the statement about if i go to a comedy club i have no business taking offense to ANY routines. it is the job of the comedian to know their audience and make them laugh, it is not the job of the comedian to make the comedian laugh. of course i might not find everything a comedian says to be funny, but i personally feel that is my job as a consumer to weigh the good vs. the bad and decide if i wish to continue to support that performer with my almighty dollar going forward. just don’t tell me that it is my responsibility to find everything i see and hear acceptable simply because i paid to be there. maybe the comedian made a mistake with a certain joke, maybe i made a mistake buying a ticket (and maybe one of us is just having an off day). regardless, neither the comedian nor i have a right to say the other has “no business” feeling the way we do.

    • Avitable

      @Chrisor, I think that people can take offense if they go to a comedy club, but the only reaction that they should exhibit is to be quiet or leave. Heckling is not an appropriate response to someone who’s offended by a comedy routine in a club.

      • Chrisor

        Apparently, I used a poor choice of words to make my point. I was trying to be supportive and never dreamed anyone would find fault with my comment. I now realize now I’m going to have to weigh everything I say prior to commenting which I don’t always have the time to do.

  22. Lynda

    I can agree with you, but I believe there is a time and place for everything. There are some jokes I will make only to my boyfriend, because others might find them to be callous. After my sister died, there were jokes my family and I made, that my sister would totally have laughed at, that people outside our circle might have thought we didn’t care about her. I made the mistake of relay something to a coworker, who looked at me like I didn’t love my sister at all. My dad worked in nursing, and a lot of his nursing friends said he made the job better because of his sense of humor (which I luckily inherited from him).

    Personally, I don’t really share my jokes with a lot of people, because it doesn’t always come across well. Like I said, I can say something to my family, my boyfriend, and a select group. I think for some people, the topic can still be raw. But if you can find a way to make it funny, all the more power to you. I think Dave2 is right as well, though. Don’t be offended if people don’t agree.

    I keep thinking of a Daniel Tosh bit I heard from his Happy Thoughts album. He talks about how a kid was beheaded at Six Flags. “The first thing that went through my mind was ‘Wow, how am I going to make this funny for everybody?'” It kind of reminded me of you.

  23. WorkingMom

    I’m from a long line of Irish Catholics – do I need to tell you what wakes and funerals in our family are like? Best example we have is the youngest cousin uncovering Grampie’s dirty limericks book after the funeral. That evening, we gathered around the dinner table, he pulled it out, and began to read… usually laughing so hard half-way through he couldn’t finish… and would try to pass it to my mother to continue reading. Great and fitting tribute to our grandfather, who would have relished the moment.
    As for how soon, I agree – gallows humor has its place. It somehow reassures you that this was a blip, a rare occurence, and that the world as we know it will right itself and continue spinning as expected. Two post-9/11 moments reinforce this for me. The first was when SNL came back on the air, with fire & police officers standing behind him, Lorne Michaels asked Guiliani if the cast could be funny again and Rudy responded “Why start now?”
    The second was me telling Hubby 3 weeks after that I needed to laugh. We went to a Boston-area comedy club, where Lenny Clarke happened to surprise everyone and pop in. He started talking about 9/11, noting with some particularly worded statements that every time he had a new series, war in the Middle East broke out. Needless to say, the absurdity of his viewpoint was greeted with laughs and applause. And we all knew it would be okay. That’s what comedians like you give the rest of us – the permission to laugh again.

  24. Nona Nelson

    “Couldn’t he have waited until next week when “Step Up Revolution” premieres?” made me laugh.

    It might be too soon for some people and maybe I am the wrong one to judge because I am awfully hard to offend. (That’s not a challenge, fucker.)

    (May I call you “fucker” as a term of endearment?)

  25. hello haha narf

    i wholeheartedly get that some people need humor to cope. that being said, i wish others would get that my sense of humor may be different than their sense of humor and stop telling me that what they say is funny and i don’t have a sense of humor. different things appeal to individuals and to use a broad brush to paint every zinger as FUNNY just doesn’t work. it never will. that whole “you can’t please all the people all the time” thing comes into it and the comedian or friend or relative needs to appreciate the fact that they have a right to say whatever they want just as the listener / audience has every right to react in whatever way they want.

    and i can certainly appreciate the inside humor thing. i still remember being like 20 or 21 when my grandmother died and several of us laughing so hard in the funeral home that we were doubled over howling. visiting friends looked at us like lunatics, but long hours in a funeral home and my grandmother being a funny woman and my family being funny people just got to us. helped us get through the pain of being there. i love the ding, chris is dead story and it made me laugh the first time you told it to me. there are countless other examples. doesn’t mean i find just about anything involving the horrific movie theater shooting funny. and that is ok.

  26. anon reader

    A serious question from a long-time reader. Not trying to be snarky here, I am genuinely curious in your response, if any. I totally get humor being used a coping mechanism, I am largely the same way. However, when your friend NYC Watchdawg suffered his awful tragedy a few years back, I never recall seeing anything humorous about it, nor have I since. (NOT saying that there should be, don’t get me wrong!) I guess I want to know why for some and why not for others? Was it because a young child was involved? Because young children died in 9/11 and in the CO shooting as well. Just wondering where the line is drawn in your world, regarding this subject. Looking forward to your answer.

    • Avitable

      @anon reader, that’s a fair question. And I discussed it a little in my post when I said:

      Would I go up to a relative or friend of the victim or even anywhere in the vicinity of Aurora and try to make them laugh? No, unless they were a very close friend – someone who I knew so well that I knew what they needed to get through this.

      And at that time, I knew that humor was not what he needed, so I kept the dark humor in my mind private instead of sharing it.

  27. Lilith

    You said: “There is no such thing as ‘too soon’, in the proper context. Would I go up to a relative or friend of the victim of even anywhere in the vicinity of Aurora and try to make them laugh?”

    Do you really honestly believe that this is the proper context? Do you not realize that this is the Internet, so that you are already very very very much in the vicinity of Aurora? I could live in Colorado, I could have friends and relatives in the vicinity of Aurora, I could easily have known many of the people in that theater.

    I don’t think that any subject is necessarily always off limits. I don’t think that it is impossible to find humor in tragedy. However, this is not your tragedy. If you want to make a joke at your friend’s funeral and deal with your sadness and grief with humor, that is your right because that is your friend and your sadness and your grief and your tragedy and your healing and your catharsis. THIS is NOT yours.

    I know it may feel like we all own this tragedy because it was on the news and it could have happened anywhere, to any of us. But it didn’t. If you need to use humor to deal with this – do it. But keep it to yourself. Don’t put it out there for the world to see and pretend that you’re doing a public service.

    Just because you have not gone up to the relatives and friends of the victims in person, or intentionally, does not mean you have not reached them. And it does not mean you have not hurt them. So yes, I do believe this is off limits. And I do believe it is too soon. And I do believe it is wrong.

    I believe that you can find humor in tragedy and use humor to transcend tragedy… but this isn’t humor because none of your above “jokes” were actually funny. So I personally see no value here.

    • Avitable

      @Lilith, I respect your opinion and respectfully disagree. From reading the title alone, someone who was close to the tragedy would be able to ascertain whether or not they wanted to read the post, and they could make the decision to click away, just like they could with any other post about the shooting. Anyone who writes anything about the shooting would risk hurting someone, even if it was just a discussion in a serious vein.

      I understand that my approach isn’t suitable for everyone and not everyone will agree with me, and that’s okay. I appreciate the tone and approach of your comment and I do see your point.

      • Lilith


        To quote your above comment:

        “And at that time, I knew that humor was not what he needed, so I kept the dark humor in my mind private instead of sharing it.”

        When you need to deal with your own tragedies, you do what you need. This tragedy isn’t yours, so you could have kept it private in your mind instead of sharing it. One might ascertain from the title of this blog, that they might find… you know, humor. But these jokes weren’t funny; they were just in poor taste. (And I’m a huge fan of jokes that are poor taste, but only when they’re funny.) So I do think you still could have easily reached the very people to whom you claim you would never ever try to say these things.

        I just find your argument to be somewhat hypocritical. Either defend the right to make jokes about anything and everything anytime you want, even if it might hurt people and even if it might reach people personally affected by it and even if that’s not what they “need”… or… don’t draw a distinction. Because by doing so, you contradict yourself.

        • Avitable

          @Lilith, no one-liners are funny. The point of the post wasn’t to be funny – it was to talk about humor.

          I don’t think it’s a contradiction to say that if I know the people personally, I’ll make the decision on what to say, but if I don’t know the people personally, I’ll use my personal space on the Internet to discuss a matter in a way that’s important to me. That’s just prioritizing.

      • Lilith

        @Avitable, also…

        I clicked through to your blog about gang rape and the title was “Gang Rape: Looking deeper”. There’s no indication in that title that it was going to be about finding “humor” in a terrible situation. (If anything, the title would’ve led me to expect quite the opposite – an insightful, respectful deeper look into the tragedy of gang rape.)

        However, you have defended that post here, years later, without acknowledging that it could’ve been very painful for anyone who has been raped. (And yes, I understand you meant to mock the bystanders, not the rape itself… but similar to the point I made about this post, you were not the gang rape victim, so it was not your tragedy in which to find humor.)

        I just don’t understand why in this case, you say you would never say these things to someone who was personally affected (and you claim that someone who was personally affected would know to stay away)… however, you simultaneously defend a post that does not fit that criteria.

        So why make the distinction if you’re going to break your own rules?

        • Avitable

          @Lilith, anything I write could be painful for anybody who has experienced anything I discuss.

          And the idea that it has to be my tragedy to find humor is one I take issue with. Does it have to be someone’s tragedy for them to be inspired or to write seriously or dramatically or otherwise emotionally about it? If someone sees a news story about rape and it spurs them to start an online campaign or talk about rape or do anything, even if they haven’t experienced it, would you say it’s not their place to do so? Why hold that standard to writing humor, then?

          • Lilith

            @Avitable, I understand your point, but you’re ignoring my real point/question: Why make the distinction if you’re going to contradict it?

            You were the one who specifically made reference to “a relative or friend of the victims” and “in the vicinity of Aurora”. When I suggested that the Internet is in the vicinity of EVERYWHERE and a relative or friend of the victims could in fact be reached by this, you used the excuse that the blog title makes it clear what they’d find here so they would know better than to read it if they didn’t want to see humor.

            But in the gang rape post that isn’t true – the title is misleading and a victim/survivor might be shocked and hurt to find “humor” there. And yet you still defended that blog… even though it specifically contradicts the points made in this very blog.

            So my question is which is it? Is it always okay to make jokes about absolutely anything anytime anywhere, no matter who might inadvertently be hurt by your insensitivity? Or should it be (as you put it) “in the proper context”?

            I’m asking you to defend the words and “boundaries” you specifically chose to use here. You can’t say that anything goes and then say that there are restrictions, but then contradict those restrictions elsewhere. Take a position and own it. You can’t have it both ways.

            PS: I find it interesting that you refer to this blog as your “personal space on the Internet”. It’s yours, but it’s still public. You can choose what to put here, but at least acknowledge that people can easily find it and be hurt by your words. It’s not like we’re breaking into your bedroom to read your private diary. You’re intentionally and purposefully putting this out there for everyone to see. You have the right to say whatever you want here but know that by doing so you’re potentially causing even more pain to those who read it. That’s your right- but then don’t hide behind “proper context” and “someone who was close to the tragedy would be able to ascertain whether or not they wanted to read the post” if you’re just going to contradict that.

          • Avitable

            @Lilith, I am not contradicting myself in the slightest. I’m prioritizing.

            Anything goes. If I choose not to post it for personal reasons, that’s because I’ve decided not to. If I think it, and I want to write it, then I will write it. It’s that simple.

            I can’t be responsible for who might be “inadvertently” hurt by my writing. I could write an innocuous post about a movie I saw, and someone who had a bad experience at that movie might get hurt by my post. By your standards, I should be responsible for that.

            I shouldn’t have said anything about the title – you’re right. It doesn’t matter. This is my personal space on the Internet, public or not, and when I write something, I write it for me. If someone wants to find it funny, take offense to it, get hurt by it, get mad, or be apathetic, that’s up to them, and I refuse to do anything other than write openly and honestly about how I feel.

          • Lilith

            @Avitable, Come on, with all due respect, you cannot compare someone being hurt about a bad experience at a movie and someone being hurt by your making jokes about the murder or gang rape of their friends or family members. If you don’t care who you hurt, that’s your choice, but that comparison is ridiculous and offensive.

            I’m not saying you have to feel responsible for every person you hurt. Only that you have to own the fact that it’s a possibility and don’t pretend that there’s some secret “context” that makes it okay or not okay.

            I personally don’t agree with your position on “humor” and tragedy in this case, but that’s just my opinion. My argument is that you have contradicted your own criteria for when that’s okay. If there is a “context” that makes it okay in some cases and not okay in others (or “more okay”/”less okay”) then you should maintain that same criteria consistently. Otherwise, don’t make the distinction at all and just say “I can write whatever I want whenever I want and I don’t care who I might hurt.”

          • Avitable

            @Lilith, I don’t write these posts to hurt someone, and it’s not that I don’t care who I might hurt. I use this space to express myself, and I’m aware that there may be people who disagree, and I’m okay with that.

            But context is important. Yes, people can come across this post, but I’m not actively working to bring my post to the forefront of any of the survivors or people affected. That’s a big difference.

            I made a slippery slope argument because that’s where this goes. At what point do I start to worry about who a post might hurt? I never write something intending for it to hurt, so when I have to start considering my potential audience, out of the thousands of people who might see this, it censors my ability to write freely.

            I think that humor exists in every aspect of life, and my reaction to some of the most horrific tragedies is to pull humor out of that dark place. Sometimes I’ll choose to write about it, and sometimes I won’t, depending how I feel.

          • Lilith

            @Avitable, My final thoughts on this are… if you truly don’t want to hurt anyone… then I would argue it’s not a good idea to post jokes about gang rape with such a misleading title. I have to say, if I came across that blog by accident (without having found it through the link in this post and thereby knowing what to expect) it would’ve been extremely upsetting. I can only imagine how a teenage survivor of gang rape would react.

            If you truly don’t intend to hurt people with your attempts at “humor” at least know that you have and you will again. The only thing I can say in defense of THIS post, is that at least the title did reference that it might include attempts at humor and not a “deeper look” (which implies a more serious tone).

            I still didn’t find the humor here to be humorous and I think the insensitivity of “jokes” actually overshadowed the point you were trying to make here. But that’s just my opinion and I’m sure you don’t care much. I sincerely hope that no one from Aurora accidentally found their way here.

          • Avitable

            @Lilith, I do appreciate your opinion. And while I do have to keep it present in my mind that what I say may potentially hurt some person who comes across my writing, I cannot let that stifle my ability to write what I want, freely. Because then the terrorists win.

  28. Robin

    I have a friend who laughs in really fucked up situations. Once when we were teens we had a big fight with her dad who is a fucking asshole. I screamed at him and he called the police on us. When we got back to my parents house (the police got there right as we were driving down the street, heh) I started hysterically crying and my friend? She was laughing hysterically. We all deal with shit differently. I love humor and it gets me through a lot of shit, thank Kevin I have my husband who makes me laugh all the time. I think you should be able to laugh at anything and it’s not that laughing makes a mockery of it, it just lightens the pain of it I think. When you come to my funeral, you should tell a joke or 2, you have my blessing.

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