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Take a Joke!

Columns | April 6, 2018

“Oh, take a joke!” is my second favorite way to feel invalidated by a White person.

 

Right after “okay, but, where are you from from?”

 

Yes, please continue to call my humor and personhood into question. I love it!

 

Obviously, I mean this ironically.

 

Please, reader of this small column, don’t come for me after this is published while I use the panini press in Dewick.

 

Don’t ask me if feeling erasure is still, like, my thing. It never has been. It never will be.

 

Hearing your (bad) South Asian impressions and your “thank you, come again’s!” is not comedy to me. It’s lazy. You’re reusing material that has been around for decades, and not only are you not being mindful of the racial implications of what you’re doing, you’re not even being funny!

 

And when I’m in doubt about whether or not I’m being “too much” for my White friends who casually use Apu from the Simpsons as their best, most well-oiled vehicle of humor, I remember the words of Hari Kondabolu.

 

In response to Nancy Guppy in an interview on his work, he said: “People say, ‘well I’m being ironically racist, why don’t you get it?’ Oh no, I get it, it’s just that the things you’re saying have been said to me at face value, so I don’t like hearing it coming from your mouth.”

 

It’s always fun and games until one joke rooted in an ignorant stereotype done at one open mic aids in denigrating the experiences of South Asian Americans, and people of color on the whole.

 

Humor rooted in vast generalizations may be funny to someone who has never experienced the dissonance of being followed with biases in every space one enters, but for every time I’ve been asked if my house smells like curry (it does, and it’s delicious, thank you) or if I pray to more than one god (my religion is none of your business) or if my grandma even knows English (not only does she know it, she taught it in the United States), that humor not only perpetuates that dissonance, it also reduces me to a punchline.

 

Now back to you, reader of this small column, you may be thinking: WhAat is ThIS snOWFlake BEhavior? You’re telling me I can’t make my insensitive jokes anymore?!

You can say and do whatever you please! But don’t expect to be tolerated, applauded, or for me to “take your joke.”

 

In fact, every time I hear, “Come on, take a joke!” I just might hit you with one of these:

 

“No, thanks! I ate before I came!”

 

“I can’t say I have time for your mediocrity today, Brad!”

 

“I am too busy thinking about food that is well-seasoned!”

 

“I hope someone pours salt in your mayonnaise!”

 

“What you’re saying is undercutting my existence. I don’t owe you labor in explaining why what you’re saying is incorrect. That is what Google is for. Keeping you on my mind as you recover from your bad humor!”