The joy of dark comedy

Don’t go to see a dark comedy if you’re not willing to be offended, if you’re the type to be offended, that is.

I’ve seen plenty of dark comedies, from established playwrights and new writers. I’ve even performed in one, I enjoyed the script so much.

I don’t think good dark comedies take themselves too seriously, always filling a serious moment with genuine humour and a touch of cynicism. They push boundaries and almost tempt the audience to be offended by the more shocking moments.

The best examples of dark comedies I can think of are Hangmen (of course), and classic TV series The League of Gentlemen. There are thousands of others, no doubt, though perhaps less readily available in large-scale theatres such as Leeds Grand and Leeds Playhouse. I wonder why? Do they not tick a political correctness box, or are audience numbers just too low to make it viable?

This leads to my next question: is there anything we can’t make a joke out of? Are there some topics that are strictly off-limits, even if all jokes are meant with no malice or seriousness? Furthermore, who decides these limits? Who is the joke gatekeeper, deciding what is just a little too offensive to be shown on a public forum?

I’d genuinely be interested to hear your thoughts. To me, if I saw a trailer for a show, or read reviews detailing its subject matter and I thought it would touch upon my sensitivities or make me uncomfortable I would avoid it, and think on it no further. Generally, however, I’m quite a fan of dark comedy… when done well. I don’t think I’d like mindless jokes about offensive topics, designed to create a shock factor. But when we examine the artistry behind writing such as Martin McDonagh’s scripts, we see carefully crafted one-liners and jokes that go far beyond their offensive nature. Successful dark comedy should make you think and examine your own views on subjects we often turn away from – shock factor shouldn’t really come into it.

Let me know your thoughts – find me on Twitter @_SophieJoelle.

One thought

  1. Dark comedy- hard to know what to make a joke out of. Dark comedies do tend to make jokes out of serious topics. Just never really seemed to think of this at all. In any sort of theatre- I defiantly do want some sort of comic element in there

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