Consent Doesn’t Come in the Form of Silence: or A Deeply Veiled Lesson in Statistics
The Anagram: Nisse: Tots see evil stoic non-co-ed children’s date-rape folly! Cost – one stone! Feminism?
The Context: At the time of its founding, and for at least the first six years of its existence, Bad Comedy was as much about frightening confusing and offending people as it was making them laugh. As such, we tended to go for the weird, shocking and innovative, sometimes even at the expense of things that were funnier but more straightforward. We were all broadly liberal arts anti-hegemony fight-for-the-rights of the downtrodden types, so trying to tackle really offensive topics such as rape, terrorism, genocide etc. in non-offensive ways (or at least ways we didn’t think were really offensive) was interesting to us. This sketch is firmly within the category of “how can we make this subject funny in an acceptable way.”
My first draft of this was heavily influenced by my annoyance with Nisse’s review. I’ve decided not to go the internet-flame-war route with this post because 1. that route is usually pretty pointless 2. I’ve done it recently 3. I’m now less annoyed by the initial post. 4. who am I to complain about someone being annoyingly self-aggrandizing or obsessively/nonsensically theoretical and 4. as I said in my initial draft:
“To say that Nisse is annoying, or self-obsessed is like pointing out that balloons don’t weigh very much or that pencil sharpeners sharpen pencils. Being annoying and self-obsessed is Nisse’s intended function. He’s spent years finely crafting himself into the human equivalent of a “kick me” sign and when one gets irritated by things he says does or writes one is just feeding into the narcissistic masochism that drives him. Which is all to say: congratualtions Nisse, you’ve bested me again. That was really annoying.”
Anyways, my point is that I may have been harder on this sketch than was justified due to that initial annoyance.
My Thoughts: The first thing to adress with a sketch dealing with a topic this fundamentally touchy is “does it get away with it?” and I’d say for the most part, it does. Lara, here playing her stock character of “slightly neurotic woman to whom horrible things happen” is clearly the point of audience identification. She plays the role beautifully, and the audience can recognize that she is more-or-less expressing the progressive point of view on sexual violence, so we can understand that the author’s attitudes are in the right place and sympathize with her character. If there is an object of ridicule in this sketch, it is the Creepy Children, here lead by Emma, playing her stock role of “somewhat unsettling automoton” who continually invalidate Lara’s experience. Of course, this does fall into the vein of humor that goes “ha ha, look at these people oppressing these other people, just like they do in real life” which is arguably also really offensive. I feel like this sketch generally diffuses this offense through the surreality of the direction and performances. It’s hard to see these characters as anything but distant abstractions and thus hard to get very emotionally worked up about anything that happens.
The pleasure of this sketch comes from the fantastic performances all around and from watching the Creepy Children slowly unfold their cold, insensitive logic. It doesn’t have all that many big laughs, (especially in comparison to its running time) but it is consistently enjoyable and interesting. I am also always hugely appreciative of humor that feels genuinely new to me, and the fact that this feels fundamentally unlike most sketch comedy I’ve ever seen makes me like it quite a bit despite my issues with other parts of it.
My three biggest issues with the sketch are the ending, the pacing and the line “when I took the fatal actions that caused my rape”. As I said one of the most appealing things about the sketch is its novelty, but then comes the ending with Ye Olde Drawn Out Pause and Ye Olde Non-Sequitor Prop Joke both of which were done-to-death tropes in Bad Comedy, particularly by this writer. The ending feels out-of-place. The world of the sketch is very well defined and this ending doesn’t work for me thematically, tonal or in terms of pacing. In this regard, the screaming audience member (here played by Mandy, in her stock role of “Screaming Drunk Girl”) is a godsend, because she changes the tone of the sketch and distracts from the disconnect caused by the ending and makes the proceedings a lot less blase.
But perhaps I’m burying the lede: this one-joke sketch is eight fucking minutes long. I see almost no reason it should be longer than five minutes given that really it only has one joke – Creepy Children use logic and statistics in an emotionally innapropriate way – even if that joke is somewhat complicated. It could be four minutes and not really lose much. I kind of like its sluggish pace, and its refusal to go the standard offensive joke route and just barrel through before anyone can think about it, but, Christ, eight minutes? This is punishingly long and slow in a way that rolls past “interesting choice” into “sort of boring”.
And finally, the sketch is walking a delicate tightrope act throughout, and it really falters with one line “when I took the fateful actions that caused my rape”. That comes perilously close to victim-blaming, which a sketch like this can’t afford to do. It recovers with the lines “you should be talking to our boyfriends” and “like forest fires?” which both undercut the Sex Ed Teacher, making her victim-blaming position also ridiculous. If those lines weren’t there, that one misstep could have killed the sketch.