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"Is it wrong to find humour in war?" Topic

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835 hits since 31 Oct 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0131 Oct 2017 9:55 p.m. PST

Old… but still an interesting question…

"Aside from Adam Sandler films, few things in life are less funny than war. Mass slaughter and widespread destruction are no laughing matter and yet, it seems, we can't stop laughing at them. As a new Dad's Army film marches into cinemas, it's clear that warfare can invade even the most family-friendly of big and smallscreen comedies. And it's been doing so for decades. Dad's Army, which is set during World War Two, ran as a sitcom on BBC television between 1968 and 1977, while M*A*S*H, set during the Korean War, was on CBS from 1972 to 1983.

Isn't there something tasteless about this phenomenon? Should we really be amused by large-scale bloodshed? Graham McCann, the author of Dad's Army: The Story of a Classic Television Show, argues that the combination of warfare and humour can be uniquely comforting. "What Dad's Army says to viewers is that, for all the frightening and confusing and alienating aspects of war, there was also a sense of continuity and familiarity. It's a very reassuring idea that people still had their foibles, and still lead ordinary lives, even during WW2."…"
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Hafen von Schlockenberg Inactive Member01 Nov 2017 12:08 a.m. PST


TimeCast Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Nov 2017 2:40 a.m. PST

In the British Army black humour is generally regarded as the norm, and is seen as a coping mechanism.

It is also wickedly funny and helps to keep moral up in desperate conditions and circumstances.


Fred Cartwright01 Nov 2017 2:47 a.m. PST

I don't think Dad's Army made fun of mass slaughter. No one got killed during the entire run of episodes. Humour is a great safety valve in the blackest situations. None of the comedies about war Imhave watched have handled it in anything but a sensitive and appropriate manner.
A more interesting question – is it wrong to make fun of Adam Sandler? :-)

deephorse01 Nov 2017 3:40 a.m. PST

You can attempt to find humour in almost anything. Dad's Army, M.A.S.H., and Blackadder being prime examples of success. Others such as Hogan's Heroes and Bluestone 42 completely failed to amuse me in the slightest.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2017 6:22 a.m. PST

Knowing lots of vets and cops a certain amount of humour is important to keep you sane

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Nov 2017 7:08 a.m. PST

Bill Mauldin's cartoons are hilarious, but he never showed any 'mass slaughter'. Or even small scale slaughter.

Legion 401 Nov 2017 7:15 a.m. PST

Knowing lots of vets and cops a certain amount of humour is important to keep you sane
Agreed …

uglyfatbloke01 Nov 2017 8:09 a.m. PST

Depends on the setting and delivery as to whether it's a damp squib or a real blast…..

foxweasel01 Nov 2017 8:29 a.m. PST

If you didn't laugh you'd go mad.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2017 8:51 a.m. PST

Yup, humor is a survival mechanism.

Socially, we want to be sensitive and make jokes that will amuse and not offend the people hearing it, but that's true of any subject matter, not just war.

But the question contains its own answer by using the word "wrong". We're not asking if it's normal, healthy, or socially acceptable to find humor in war, but is it moral? So that depends on your morals, and there are a lot of puritans today. There are a lot of people of every stripe telling us that this or that is wrong and trying to constrain our behavior and even our attitudes more than is typically the case in modern societies. For many of these puritans – who would stridently object to that label – finding humor in war is wrong. But hopefully your goal is not to please those people, because that's a fool's errand.

Wolfhag01 Nov 2017 10:18 a.m. PST

A true story from when my son was on deployment:
An IED went off in a market square where they were patrolling and they responded to the scene to give aid with their Corpsman. It was the typical grisly scene with body parts strewn on the street. Women wailing and crying, etc. The LT points to a smouldering naked buttock that is no longer attached to the owner's body and remarks:

"Hey guys, look at that smoking hot piece of a s s".


Tango0101 Nov 2017 11:43 a.m. PST


Good one Wolfhag…

Agree that humor is neccesary…


JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2017 12:21 p.m. PST

British Airborne in the Falklands (Mount Longdon, I think, so 3 Para)
Cry of "**** I've lost my arm!"
Voice from the darkness, "No you haven't, it's over here"

Raynman Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2017 1:34 p.m. PST

You need to have some release. If you don't, you implode. Not good for you or your mates in the combat zone.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2017 1:49 p.m. PST

My favorite movie growing up was "Doctor Strangelove," so obviously I don't have a problem with it.

Choctaw01 Nov 2017 1:50 p.m. PST

+1 Frederick. I've done this job for many years and sometimes it is either laugh or cry.

Several years ago I was out looking for a bad guy. I was stopped at a red light and some creep parked beside my squad took a shot at me. He missed but my car was a mess. After the chase a city officer asked me if I had been shot in the head or did I just have a bad haircut. That helped me through an emotional time.

BattlerBritain01 Nov 2017 2:23 p.m. PST

I'm still laughing over 30 years later……

The Brit military I've worked and served with have to be some of the funniest people I've ever come across.

And you have to laugh sometimes or else you just wouldn't cope.

Like the lad lieing in bed back in UK after leaving half his leg back in the Stan, but now with it replaced with a metal one. He's feeling down and sorry for himself even though he's in a room of other people just like him.
So he gets up to go to the loo only to fall flat on his face as some bar-steward has padlocked his metal leg to the bed while he's been asleep.
Right, game on! Instantly he's got something else to concentrate on other than feeling sorry for himself.

Wolfhag01 Nov 2017 2:50 p.m. PST

Good ones guys! I'll try to keep it going.

Kyle Carpenter is a US Marine Corporal that jumped on a grenade to save his buddies lived to tell about it. He lost one eye and had multiple, facial, internal and arm injuries. He has a fake eye with a Marine Eagle, Globe and Anchor rather than a pupil.

He and his buddy were at a single's bar eying two single females, one good looking and the other ugly. Kyle says to his buddy, "I get the good looking one, I've already jumped on a grenade for the team".


Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2017 3:04 p.m. PST

No, except when it's accompanied by needless cruelty, slaughter or criminal negligence regarding non-combatants.

Legion 401 Nov 2017 3:57 p.m. PST

Wolfhag +2 thumbs up

Lion in the Stars01 Nov 2017 7:48 p.m. PST

Kyle says to his buddy, "I get the good looking one, I've already jumped on a grenade for the team".

Wonder if his buddy spewed beer across the bar…

I think I'd be ROFLMAO and snorting beer out my nose if a friend of mine said that!

Ascent Inactive Member02 Nov 2017 2:08 a.m. PST

Read Spike Milligan's war memoirs sometime, if they didn't have humour they would have gone mad.

4th Cuirassier02 Nov 2017 3:22 a.m. PST

When I was about 11 I had chickenpox and was off school for several weeks feeling perfectly fine. I quickly ran out of reading material so I went looking round the house for more and found a book called "The Beast Regiment", better known as "Monte Cassino", by Sven Hassel.

I laughed till I cried. It's not explicitly meant to be funny, but it just is. At one point there are infantry streaming past the heroes of 27th Panzer, retreating headlong from enemy tanks in the village. How many tanks are there? wonders Porta. Several hundred, comes the reply from a grunt. "Are they all in the village? It must be a bloody great village," retorts Porta.

Then there is the briefing before battle – "All guns," orders the major, "are to fart off simultaneously" – and the bit where they nearly get killed blowing a bridge and so they write a complaint letter to Mark Clark.

Seen as a comedy unreliable memoir like Spike Milligan's it's quite good value….

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP02 Nov 2017 4:25 a.m. PST

Seems to me this topic really has split into two distinct areas.

The original post was about finding humor in war in popular media like movies or television shows like say Hogan's Heroes or MASH. The question was is this form tasteless.

The second track is what many would call gallows or black humor and among participants. That would include media depictions like Bill Mauldin who were intimately involved.

Twenty five years of active duty taught me the necessity of the second. And to many who have never served some of the stories, a few of which have been shared here, seem incomprehensible. But for many of us we fully understand it was a means to cope and not go stark raving mad.

uglyfatbloke02 Nov 2017 6:14 a.m. PST

The only place you'll find humour as irreverent and black (AKA 'hysterically funny') as the military is among concert crews.
Roadie gets thumb totally crushed; asks production manager what he should do…she tells him to go and hitch a lift up to A&E.

Legion 402 Nov 2017 8:34 a.m. PST

I love "Kelly's Heroes" ! evil grin

Lion in the Stars02 Nov 2017 9:26 a.m. PST

As a vet, if you can't laugh about the absurdity of what you're doing, you're going to break.

The only place you'll find humour as irreverent and black (AKA 'hysterically funny') as the military is among concert crews.

I dunno, Emergency Services (Police, Fire, Paramedics) tend to get pretty black-humor.

Best part of the old Law and Order (no suffix) was Lenny Briscoe's snark. (Though it's funny, the actor who played Briscoe had an appearance as a defense lawyer on the show before getting picked up as a cop).

Wolfhag02 Nov 2017 8:58 p.m. PST

Another deployment story

A Marine Rifle Platoon had a 19-year old Lance Corporal that always complained about MRE's and that they should have his favorite, salted curly fries from Carl's Junior, in each MRE meal.

During the deployment, his platoon was in an intense firefight and he took multiple GSW with arterial bleeding. A medivac was called and the Corpsman went to work on him. Before the medivac arrived the Corpsman told the LT there was nothing else he could do for the Marine as he'll bleed out before the bird arrives.

His buddies stood around him telling him to hang in there as he'll be back home in 2 weeks making love to his girlfriend. The Marine holding him in his arms asked if they could get him anything.

The Lance Corporal smiled up at him and said, "It would be great if you guys could get me some salted curly fries from Carl's Junior", smiled again, closed his eyes and died.

Before my son went in the Marines his favorite fast food was Inn & Out Burger and would not go anywhere else to eat. Now he only goes to Carl's Junior and orders curly fries. I never understood why until he told me he was the Marine holding the Lance Corporal while he died.


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