Laughter and stereotypes: Should I tell that joke?

Some jokes should have never been born.

I love a good joke just as much as anyone but some jokes rely on nasty stereotypes, and just end up being rude and hurting people’s feelings. So that’s why I’m writing this blog: camne nak tau kalau a joke is a good joke or if it’s a joke that really just shouldn’t be told at all?

See, my friends tell me I laugh at everything and that it’s really easy for a joke to tickle my funny bone (which is great for me ‘cause who doesn’t like laughing, amirite?) But! There are some jokes that just aren’t that funny. There’s a point when a joke becomes us laughing at someone rather than laughing with someone.

And with everything going on right now with COVID-19, that’s like the last thing we need! Imagine cracking a stereotype kinda joke pasal this pandemic when its affected so many people. I think right now, we could all use a little kindness.

Stereotypes are harmless… right?

Indians are drunks. Chinese are calculative. Malays are lazy.” I’m sure we’ve heard these statements beribu-ribu kali at home and at school.

But the thing is, the more we rely on stereotypes, and we keep using them and saying them again and again, we stop really seeing people for who they are and just see them as a walking punchline.


Meh kita kasi example:

I meet someone named B. We’re studying at a busy café. Our waitress is a Chinese girl with blonde hair. She walks to our table with our order and alamak semua salah. She apologises and rushes off. As soon as she leaves, B turns what just happened into dumb blonde joke.

First off: What does her hair colour have to do anything?
Secondly: The café was really busy, and she was really apologetic.
Thirdly: How would you feel if you were in her shoes? Idk about you, but I would probably have run off to the bathroom to cry.

It’s really important that we realise jokes and stereotypes can very quickly turn into bullying, so jangan simply-simply say something you can’t take back okay?

Okay but how do I call out these jokes?

If you’re ever caught in a scenario like the above, you’re probably not gonna know how to react to such a joke, or how to call out your friend or someone online.

Here’s a few ways you could use to deal with the whole situation:

  1. Jangan ketawa k?
    By laughing along, you’re kinda endorsing this type of humour – basically saying that you don’t mind jokes even if they hurt other people. It’ll just give the person telling the joke more motivation to make more jokes like this.
  2. Tell the person you don’t find it funny.
    The point of jokes is to be funny – if you tell them it wasn’t, orang yang buat lawak tu will then have to ask themselves why they find it funny.
  3. Tell the person their jokes make you uncomfortable.
    Especially if this person is a friend, you should tell them why that joke made you uncomfortable. Most of the time, people don’t realise their words can sting – telling them about it might make them think twice lain kali.
  4. Walk away from the conversation.
    If you’ve done step 3 and this person still insists on telling jokes that rely on stereotypes or are just really hurtful, walk away. It is 100% your right to say “I’m not gonna entertain your nonsense kbye”. Online pun sama. Block je.

Akhir Kata: So… Should I Tell That Joke Tho????

Okay, if you like telling jokes, tapi you masih tak sure kalau your joke is okay to tell or not, here’s what you should ask yourself before you make the joke:

  • Why do I think it’s funny?
  • Does this joke rely on a stereotype?
  • Is it racist? Sexist? Any other type of -ist?
  • How would I feel if this joke was directed at me?
  • What is the reaction I want from this joke?
  • Will anyone be offended by this joke?
  • Will anyone be hurt by this joke?
  • Do I really need to tell it?

TBH, if you even have to ask yourself if a joke is okay to tell, then moooooost likely you already know the answer J

Trust me, you’ll know. And trust that it is way better to be safe than sorry – I would much rather not tell a joke if it had the potential to hurt someone else’s feelings. We can only live together in peace if we are to the people around us and that includes being sensitive when it comes to the things we poke fun at.


On that note, I’ll leave you now with one of the most unproblematic teka-tekis I know:

Baju manakah yang paling keliru?

Baju kemeja lah.

Sebab dia baju ke-meja?! 😊

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Tati Wira

A 20-something fierce believer of children's rights!
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