Black comedy, also known as black humor, dark humor, dark comedy, morbid humor, edgy humor, or gallows humor, is a style of comedy that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo, particularly subjects that are normally considered serious or painful to discuss. Writers and comedians often use it as a tool for exploring vulgar issues by provoking discomfort, serious thought, and amusement for their audience. Thus, in fiction, for example, the term black comedy can also refer to a genre in which dark humor is a core component. Popular themes of the genre include death, violence, slavery, genocide, discrimination, disease, and human sexuality.

Black comedy differs from both blue comedy—which focuses more on crude topics such as nudity, sex, and bodily fluids and from straightforward obscenity. Whereas the term black comedy is a relatively broad term covering humor relating to many serious subjects, gallows humor tends to be used more specifically in relation to death, or situations that are reminiscent of dying. Black humor can occasionally be related to the grotesque genre. Literary critics have associated black comedy and black humor with authors as early as the ancient Greeks with Aristophanes. Does dark humor make you laugh? You know, all those jokes about painful or taboo subjects such as death, disease, deformity, or sexuality? Well, researchers say that if you appreciate or indulge in dark humor, also known as morbid humor, black comedy or gallows humor, you are probably not just a genius, but also show lesser aggression and are less negative. Not everyone has the nerves or intelligence for morbid humor. You need the nerves because you are making fun of taboo subjects, and getting others to laugh along with you. And intelligence, because understanding dark humor demands astuteness since it is not as easy to understand as your regular everyday jokes. It requires unraveling intelligent word play, and also demands better emotional control so that you can distance yourself from the content and enjoy the joke! When you try to unravel a single word’s multiple meanings, you are pitting your brain’s left and right hemispheres against each other. Top that with trying to disentangle complex emotions about taboo subjects, as well as laugh at them – and you are right out of your emotional comfort zone! From high profile comedians to teens on TikTok, dark humor is a form of comedy utilized across all media platforms. It can bring people together to make light of an unfortunate situation and it can isolate those at the brunt end of the joke. The idea of dark humor is controversial at its core, especially considering that its subjects are often disputed. The harsh and edgy jokes are meant to poke fun at otherwise not humorous situations. 

One of the biggest components of dark humor is the ability of the user to draw on personal experiences, especially difficult ones, to bring levity to it and connect with others that have similar experiences. Race- or gender-based jokes can be funny when made by a person within the demographic of which they are making fun.  When a joke is made at the expense of others, it crosses the line and becomes offensive. This includes using slurs to describe marginalized groups. When the use of a slur is the only punchline, it is best to rethink the joke.  A good way to judge whether a joke relies solely on insulting a group is whether or not the person would make the same comment in front of those they are describing. If there is any hesitance in whether one would want another to hear or see it, then the joke should not be made in the first place. When making edgy commentary about a friend or family member, it is important to check with them first. Losing relationships is not worth a few laughs at the expense of a loved one.

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