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Butt of the Joke
By:Cheng Guan Kher

In every form of humor, be it a visual gag, a comic-strip, a sketch, a one-liner or a full routine, there's always a target or a victim. The butt of the joke. as we popularly called it, can be a person, an object, an animal, a place or even an idea or a view.

You can start off by picking on yourself. Self-deprecating humor is popularly exploited by many stand-up comedians as an ice-breaker to warm up their crowd. What they do is, they ridicule their own obvious shortcomings or insecurities. They picked on themselves, so to speak. It can be their physical outlook(fat, nerdy, etc), their failures, their race, their character or their intelligence (or rather lack of it!) The late goggled-eyed comedian Rodney Dangerfield is famous for this kind of humor. He always began with his signature line "I don't get no respect"!

The next victims are celebrities or authority figures. They can be movies stars, presidents, your headmistress or even your dad! That's why the tabloids love to publicize and mock celebrities' shortcomings, blunders and idiosyncrasies. The more famous or more powerful the person, the bigger the laugh.

Objects of ridicule can be of anything and everything. Props or objects are standard comic devices for both visual and performing artists like cartoonists and clowns respectively. Most of these objects are visual cliches; common every day things which the audience or the readers can associate with or relate to. Though props are animate objects, but we can take one step further by giving them a mind of their own. One very common set-up drawn by cartoonists is a man watching TV and the TV set makes a cheeky or sarcastic remark at him, without his knowledge. Objects and also animals can be used as visual metaphors. Most political cartoonists in the dailies employ this device of visual humor.

Animals can be used as target of humor, but most of the time, we are not actually laughing at the animals. Animals are usually used as metaphors for human fear, foibles and other weaknesses. We can find many animal traits that are recognizably like human traits.

You can heap lots of funny stuff on places or settings. To start off you can make fun where you live. Or a famous street, an office, a sleazy joint or lover's lane. Practically anywhere , as long as you can mock at.

Ideas or views that can be of humor targets is abundant too. It all depends on the audience or readers concerned. As views or ideas are personal in nature, targeting them to elicit laughter can offend the person concerned. They can be sensitive and controversial. So tread on this ground carefully at your own discretion. Or you may get a kick in your butt and end up you being the butt of the joke!

A freelancer from MALAYSIA who dabbles in both visual and performing art. Cartooning, script-writing, acting in TV and movies, doing voice, sound and singing impressions under the stage-names: Wacky Willy and SFX-Man.

Cheng Guan Kher

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