The Holocaust is not a laughing matter, Jimmy Carr - opinion

The writer has been struggling to understand how anyone can think it’s okay to joke about the Holocaust.

 JIMMY CARR attends the 12th Annual Stand Up For Heroes at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in 2018 (photo credit: MIKE PONT/GETTY IMAGES)
JIMMY CARR attends the 12th Annual Stand Up For Heroes at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in 2018
(photo credit: MIKE PONT/GETTY IMAGES)

For Jimmy Carr, the British-Irish comedian, nothing is off limits. His repertoire includes jokes about dwarfism, rape, pedophiles, terrorism, disability and the list goes on. He calls it his dark material or dark humor and uses it to poke fun at whoever and whatever he likes, however depraved or disturbing. He’s extremely popular, as evidenced by his sellout shows; however, more recently Carr seems to have pushed it too far.

He warned people ahead of his Netflix show His Dark Material about the terrible things contained in it, which included the following joke:

“When people talk about the Holocaust, they talk about the tragedy and horror of six million Jewish lives being lost to the Nazi war machine…but they never mention the thousands of Gypsies that were killed by the Nazis. No one ever wants to talk about that, because no one ever wants to talk about the positives.”

The joke was met, not with gasps of horror as one might expect, but with peals of laughter. In their defense, some of the audience members may not have been able to fully digest the sheer depravity of the joke. Others may have laughed along, not wanting to seem like party poopers.

Carr himself described the joke as “f*****g funny” and “edgy as hell.”

 Jimmy Carr (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Jimmy Carr (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Naturally, the traveler community was utterly appalled by it – and they weren’t alone.

The Traveler Movement, a charity which works in partnership with the traveling community, tweeted, “This is truly disturbing and goes way beyond humor,”

Olivia Marks-Woldman OBE, Chief Executive of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust added,

“We are absolutely appalled at Jimmy Carr’s comment about persecution suffered by Roma and Sinti people under Nazi oppression, and horrified that gales of laughter followed his remarks.

Hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti people suffered prejudice, slave labour, sterilization and mass murder simply because of their identity. These are not experiences for mockery.”

THE JOKE HAS been branded disgusting and grotesque, and calls for Netflix to remove it from Carr’s performance are growing.

Although members of the audience who were present could, perhaps, be forgiven for laughing along in the heat of the moment, others who weren’t there but laughed at the joke as well should know to do better.

Anyone hearing this joke in the cold light of day would be utterly appalled by its depravity or so you may think; however, a surprising number of people think that Carr did nothing wrong. It was just a joke or dark humor, they assert.

Carr relies heavily on his dark material to give him free rein to utter such obscenities. His fans don’t question it either, preferring instead to brand those who are offended and appalled by it as too sensitive, negative and judgmental – in short, they are the ones with the problem.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve engaged with a number of such people, mainly Jews, on social media and have been shocked by the way in which they have made light of the situation. Instead of calling out Carr, I have been the subject of their criticism and derision.

I wonder whether those same people would have responded in the same way had the joke been about jews rather than travelers.

Given the right context, dark humor can be used to explore taboo subjects that are normally considered too serious or painful to discuss by provoking discomfort, serious thought and amusement.

IN A LAME attempt to sanitize his appalling blunder, Carr stated that the joke had educational quality. However, a fulsome apology would have been more appropriate, followed by a lengthy period of silence and self-reflection.

Regrettably, neither has been forthcoming, thus giving rise to the suggestion that the joke was told in a pathetic bid to shock, to be edgy and to stay relevant. His mealy mouthed words are all too redolent of the playground bully or racist thug who, when pulled up will always seek refuge in the universal cry, “It’s only a joke! Where’s your sense of humor?”

As the British comedian David Baddiel, who is Jewish, intelligent and funny, said “You can obviously tell a Holocaust joke that is cruel and inhumane and mean-spirited and racist… or you can tell one that targets the oppressors, or draws attention to the fundamental evil of it, or shines a light on the humanity of the victims... It’s not the subject matter of the joke that counts, it’s the specifics of the individual joke. Clearly, Jimmy Carr’s was the former.”

In light of the above, I’ve been struggling to understand how anyone can think it’s okay to joke about the Holocaust. Have people become so conditioned to laugh at anything labeled a joke that their morals, values and sense of decency go out the window? All one can hope for is that Carr’s cruel, inhumane, mean-spirited and racist joke backfires on him so we won’t have to suffer him and his offensive routines any longer.

The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Netanya, where she spends most of her time writing and enjoying her new life in Israel.