‘It’s just dark humor!’

Annie Cerria

Today’s teenagers are forced to think about mortality more often than they should, given the number of highly publicized school shootings and the sad spike in teen suicide rates in recent years. As such, many students have begun to use humor as a coping mechanism, gravitating towards dark humor for relief. 

Dark humor has been around for generations and has mainly been a way for comedians and writers to make light of traditionally taboo topics, such as death or racism. It has always been considered a more fringe comedic style, but has become popularized in recent years with shows like South Park, which uses non-politically correct humor to both mock society’s problems and push the boundaries of what is considered funny. 

I personally enjoy “dark” comedians who utilize the style in the correct way, like Anthony Jeselnik or Pete Davidson. As someone who can quickly become depressed by the cynical and overwhelmingly negative tone of everything nowadays, it’s nice to be able to laugh and smile at things rather than let myself be consumed by their morbidity. 

However, dark comedy today has been diverging from its traditional style of making fun of taboo topics and is now being used as cover for people to say offensive, incorrigible things while passing it off as their “dark sense of humor,” which is a gross misuse of the moniker. 

An example of this is the comedian Louis C.K. In 2017, after staying out of the public eye following his admittance to sexually harassing several women, C.K. began doing stand-up sets in New York City, in which he proceeded to make fun of, among other groups, the survivors of the 2017 school shooting in Parkland, FL. 

C.K. pushed off the criticism that naturally followed his set, saying that the jokes were playing off of his darkly comedic style. But, the reality is that his “jokes” were not dark humor, they were the words of a hateful man using the mask of dark humor to make offensive statements about a group of children who were fortunate enough to survive a mass murder. 

This trend has manifested itself in the halls of WHS as well. Some students’ social media accounts share “jokes” containing offensive language about immigrants, Jews or the LGBTQ+ community. When accused of being offensive, dark humor is often used as an excuse. 

None of this is to say that I think dark humor is an unacceptable form of comedy, or that shows like South Park should be cancelled, or that nihilistic or borderline offensive humor cannot be funny. The issue today is not the use of dark humor, but rather people saying intolerant and offensive things and claiming that their statements were simply “dark humor” when they face criticism for these comments.

If this trend continues, comedians and other shows or films who use dark humor as it is meant to be used will inevitably face more criticism to move away from the comedic style in favor of more cleaner-cut styles, which is not the answer. The answer is to condemn those who cower behind the label of dark humor to spread hatred, not to condemn those who are simply using dark humor to bring light to depressing or taboo topics.