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30 January 2015 @ 04:55 pm
Rant about dead baby comedy!  
 So just last week, I finally realized, definitively, just how much I hate dead baby comedy. It just hit me. I don't know if it was all the soul searching I'd been doing, or the time I'd spent in sporking circles, or watching internet reviews; but finally I found myself confronted with it. I'd seen plenty of examples of dead baby comedy before, and I remember finding them uncomfortable; but I'd mostly just assumed that I was overreacting, or lacked a sense of humor, or something of that nature. But just this past week, I came across some of it courtesy of a few friends, and was finally forced to acknowledge just how very, very much I hate dead baby comedy.

Before going any further, I think it's only fair that I draw a distinction between "dead baby comedy" and plain "black comedy," which I actually like as long as it's good. TVTropes doesn't distinguish between them, but I think it ought to because I think the line between good black comedy and bad black comedy needs to be made sharper than it currently is, for reasons I'll be getting to in due course. When I say "dead baby comedy," I'm talking about comedy that seems to be interested in nothing but making its jokes as offensive as possible, often at the expense of anything resembling wit or skill.

The sketches my friends ended up showing me were videos from an online web series called "Llamas with Hats" or something of that nature (you can forget about my going back to be sure). There was another video they showed me that looks to be by the same or at least a similar guy, which was much better and lighter in tone, so I'd be prepared to say he may have better works in him, but that's slightly off-topic. The basic premise of the series is that there's these two llamas who, well, wear hats, and one of them likes to go around killing a lot of people in horribly gruesome ways, which exasperates his partner. That's pretty much the joke, it seems (again, there MIGHT be more to it than that, but that would require me to watch all the episodes, and that I will most assuredly not be doing--there's only so much torture I can take!). 

Keep in mind, this isn't an unintentionally funny horror thing, like remakes of old horror films or most of Cannibal Corpse's music. This is something we're supposed to laugh at. The entire point of the video series seems to be, "Here's a dude who goes around killing innocent people for no clear reason at all! Laugh!" Maybe I'm just a prude, or overly-sensitive, but I genuinely don't see what's so funny about the gruesome mass death of scores of innocent people. Especially when some of those people are babies and children (and they are, explicitly, on at least few occasions). I know in my sporkings I've been known to gleefully talk about how much I want to kill and torture and dissect Railrunner, for example, but that's because Railrunner is a complete monster who has it coming anyway. In this case, there's no context for why the lead character even does the things he does, which makes him seem more like Railrunner than anything else.

I mean, yes it's over the top, yes it's not meant to be taken seriously and indeed is so absurd you couldn't take it seriously even if you wanted to. But that doesn't automatically mean it's funny, and it sure as hell doesn't make it good. I'll concede it's substantially less cruel and bitter than the Unoriginality shorts, but given what those things are like that hardly resounds to its credit. 

Here's the thing: I've seen violence and death be made funny, but that usually happens when the audience connects with the killers, or when the victim is a bastard who clearly has it coming, and, in a lot of cases, when the death itself is treated as very artificial and impermanent (this is why few of the deaths in "Baccano!" register as being particularly tragic). Pacing is also key--the reason why a series like "Baccano!" is funny is largely because the pace is so frenetic and fast that you don't get a chance to think about exactly what's going on. You can't just make a "comedy video" that's wall-to-wall death and torture without any sort of context (or, in the case of the videos I watched, a conversation about wall-to-wall death and torture without any sort of context) and expect people to laugh.

Ultimately, though, what bothers me more than the videos themselves is the trend in general. Keep in mind, my college buddies find this sort of thing acceptable to watch. I can understand how someone who was 12 or 14 might think it was funny, but these people are 21-22 some years old! Surely they realize that a joke based entirely around people getting killed for no clear reason isn't especially witty, funny, or clever! But that's the problem--it seems like there's a sizable contingent of people out there who think that any joke about violence or death, no matter how forced or offensive it is or how little context or point it has, is black comedy and thus above reproach, and passes implicit judgement on those who complain. I didn't complain to my friends when they showed me these videos, in part because I assumed they'd thought I was raining on their parade, or just lacking in a sense of humor--though if they try to force any more of them on me I probably will complain regardless of what they think of me anyway. I'm not saying these kinds of videos should be banned, or that I'd think any less of my friends who did like them; but I wish I didn't have to feel like the odd one out for thinking, yes, these videos are actually crap and actually do deserve my ire. And I sincerely wish dead baby comedy would stop being a thing.
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