Comedy is known for being subversive and delivering poignant (and funny) observations about tough and/or dark topics, but is there a line?

It seems like there is, because we’ve seen certain comedians cross it – and while not being funny at all – but what is it?

These 13 people are discussing what makes a good joke and whether or not there are some things that aren’t funny, no matter how you frame them.

13. It’s not as easy as it seems.

Good comedy is always based on turning something on its head; you expect one thing and then the complete opposite happens.

This also 100% explains what babies and toddlers find funny. For example, there was a video where a kid laughed at paper being ripped up. That doesn’t seem very funny, except the kid understood that paper in sheet form is so basic and normal, it’s the way it SHOULD be, but ripping it in half is completely contrary to it’s existence.

12. It’s really not funny.

Pranks on people who don’t want to be involved, especially ones that physically or psychologically hurt people.

11. It depends on how good they are.

Yea! Whenever someone says “oh thats just not pc enough huh?” Its like, no im not offended you just suck at delivery.

I think the line oftentimes is, if the listener can tell that half of the dark joke is that the joke teller knows what they are saying is what an idiot would say, then it can work, when the delivery is also good.

10. Consent always matters.

Physically involving people who didn’t want to be involved (e.g. YouTube / TikTok pranksters)

ANYTHING should be allowed on pure standup comedy though.

9. It’s all a matter of perspective.

The best take on this I have heard is that it matters who is the butt of the joke. Rape jokes are ok if you’re making them at the expense of the rapist.

They absolutely aren’t ok if they’re at the expense of the victim.

8. There are always consequences.

Everything should be allowed on pure standup, but if you act like an asshole on stage, don’t be surprised when you get treated like one.

7. Some people didn’t ask for the limelight.

The kids of public figures / celebrities. They didn’t ask to be put on display, so you should avoid making jokes about them.

I remember when TV comedians were making jokes about Chelsea Clinton during her father’s presidency and it was just in horrible bad taste.

6. Just say no.

Stealing jokes.

5. There are consequences, though.

Nothing. Everything should be open for criticism and commentary.

4. Nothing at all.

I’m so tired of censorship.

I don’t even like to say, “That’s not funny.” Sometimes it might slip out of my mouth, but I try to avoid it. I’ll say, “I don’t find that funny,” or “I don’t understand the humorous element you’re trying to make,” or “Maybe telling that joke isn’t worth the strife it caused.” But I don’t say, “That’s not funny.”

If ONE person laughs, even just the person telling the joke, it’s funny. It’s subjective.

People tried to censor art the same way: “That’s not art.” When obscenity laws were being worked out, people would call these nude works “not art” to get them censored.

Anything can be art. Anything can be funny.

3. Just like real life.

I agree 100% but also see a LOT of irony here. Everything should be open to criticism and commentary in comedy, but most importantly in real life as well. It is amazing how censorship only applies to real life but in a comedy context anything goes.

Why can’t people see society for the absolute joke that it is and have open and honest dialogues with each other instead of picking sides and allowing the government and media to foment hatred and division amongst us?

2. It’s not good form.

Shock comedy, and what I’ll call “bias comedy.”

If the punchline itself is just the fact that you said a racial slur, or made fun of somebody with cerebral palsy, that’s pretty lame.

Also, if the only reason anyone is laughing is just because you made a political statement and they agree with you, that’s pretty lame as well.

1. If you’re good enough…

This depends a lot on tone and delivery.

You can make jokes that are political, social, or racial commentary that are funny and also hit a nerve. But if the comic isn’t good it can just come off as angry, insensitive, derogatory, and just plain not funny.

Mediocre comics can do this a lot thinking they’re being edgy or poignant, or just to get a rouse out of the audience. You’re not doing any of that you’re just bad, come up with some better material.

There you have it – this was actually a really thoughtful discussion.

If you have something to add to this list, drop it in the comments!