Clean comedy trumps dirty offensive jokes every time and on so many levels

If you have ever taken a look at the adverts of the fifties and beyond you will immediately notice one thing – the things that people joked about and made fun of are very different to what we laugh at today, and this is a good thing. Whereas before comedians joked about anything and everything, the world was much smaller and less immediate. When you performed stand-up comedy, your audience was limited to the people around you and they could not record, Instagram or Snapchat your performance in real time. There was also no internet connections. People accepted offensive jokes, because that was all that there was.

These days, we live a little differently, and much more diversely. Today, Australians identify with more than 270 different ancestries – some of whom came here as migrants, others who’ve lived here all their lives. We now work, live, date and interact with people who don’t sound like us, look like us or even act like us all the time, and this diversity has brought home the reality that so called ‘edgy’ humour doesn’t always work for the best.

We’ve all endured the awkward moment that occurs when a joke falls flat – often through no fault of our own. Much of what we consider funny is tied up in the words that we use, and how we play on those words. That said, some things are universally funny. Take for instance, the laugh of a baby, or a whoopee cushion. It is something that will elicit a giggle in pretty much everyone who hears it, no matter what language they speak or religion they observe.

The trick of a great comedian is being able to find the common ground and use that as a springboard for a funny quip or joke. Believe it or not, extensive studies have been undertaken into what people laugh at and don’t laugh at. The results show us that while humour differs across cultures, we tend to stand united when it comes to what we laugh at – and it tends to touch on what we have in common, rather than what divides us. Edgy jokes are easy to make, because offending people doesn’t take much skill. Finding something that not only doesn’t offend everyone but actually makes them laugh – that is the mark of a true comedian.