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Demosthenes's avatar

Is the concept of "punching up/down" in humor legitimate?

It’s an idea in comedy and satire that making fun of the establishment/white people/rich people or anyone else in the majority or seen as having power in society is “punching up” and thus okay and funny, but making of racial/sexual/religious minorities or people who lack power in society is “punching down” and thus is not okay and not funny.

From an article on the concept:

“Trans people, people of color, immigrants, ESL immigrants — whoever might be considered a minority — are the worst targets, because comedy inherently requires a shift of power. People who are targets merely for existing are already operating at an inherent loss; the real gold is in taking a shot at someone who thinks they’re invincible. At comedy’s core is risk, and there’s no risk in making fun of the already-mocked.”

So what do you think? Can “punching down” be funny? If you’re a member of a minority group, do you find humor targeting your group to be funny? (I am Hispanic and LGBT. I can find humor targeting these groups funny if it’s clear that it doesn’t come from a position of contempt. The problem is when it’s not clear).

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