In a move long anticipated in the comedy and entertainment world, the National Society of Comedians (NCS) has approved the use of "jokes of and about genocide." The NCS, which decides when and if certain controversial topics can be joked about, made the move amidst pressure from the nations comedians.
Joe Keller, a stand-up comedian for the past 10 years, had worked hard at lobbying the NCS to clear the way for genocidal jokes. "I mean, there are only so many things to use for material. We, as comedians, should not be prohibited from topics that can be used for humor and thus the benefit of mankind," stated Keller in a letter to the NCS. Keller's letter was signed by 100 American comedians who have been waiting over a decade to use genocidal jokes since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
An earlier petition to the NCS in 1998 was denied, after the NCS determined that genocide was still a sensitive topic in America and, out of respect for victims of genocide, the topic should be avoided in mainstream comedy. The recent change in status from "prohibited" to "possibly funny" has caused outrage among human rights activists. Kathy Thimes, a spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, is among a contingent of human rights groups that question whether a topic that deals with the mass annihilation of human beings is ever appropriate for comedy. "I don't think genocide is funny to those who have been affected by it. Of course, those primarily affected are not around to appreciate the humor, but I'm sure if they were, they would not be laughing," stated Thimes in a press release to international media.
NCS also faced harsh criticism when they made headlines in 2001 after approving the use of pedophilia and mental retardation in joke content.