Punching Down

There’s a lot of punching down going on in the world right now, and it doesn’t make me happy. Perhaps the most obvious source is the upper levels of the United States Government, but it doesn’t stop there – not by a long shot.

So what exactly IS punching down, you may ask? The definition of “Punch Down” from the Urban Dictionary, is: To make a joke at the expense of the less powerful or more oppressed group.

One comedian who’s been guilty of this frequently – and unapologetically so – is Ricky Gervais. I’ve enjoyed his comedy shows, but his proclivity in recent years for punching down is annoying at best. He’s far from the only one, but perhaps the best-known of the punch down comedians is Andrew Dice Clay. He took aim at those who were already downtrodden, reaching for the lowest hanging fruit possible. It makes me cringe.

A colleague of mine, a fellow author, is also a stand-up comedian. He sometimes takes issue with people who don’t appreciate certain types of humor by declaring that, having not done stand-up, those people don’t “know” comedy well enough to judge. If that’s true, then why does anyone attend stand-up comedy shows at all? Clearly none of us – save other professional or semi-professional comedians – are experienced enough or have refined enough comedy palettes to appreciate it, so the effort is wasted.

‘But Bill,’ I hear some of you thinking: “aren’t you just being too sensitive?” Yes I am, and fuck you for being completely INsensitive. There are a LOT of people hurting out there, and what we need now in the world, more than anything else, is MORE sensitivity, more comfort, more plain old human decency. In the United States we have brown people in concentration camps, and their children have been separated out, some with no record of where they’ve even been sent. Black people are dying at the hands of police in staggering numbers, and violence against LGBTQ people is at an all-time high as far as I can tell. It’s easy to grow insensitive under those circumstances, to become cynical and uncaring, but now more than ever we need to fight against that apathy.

Punching Down isn’t the problem, but it’s a symptom of the problem. We need to consider this, and try to think of ways to help instead of laughing at the pain of others.


On this, the brink of starting a new decade, my hope is for a world that will begin to care again, that people will genuinely wish the best for others. It is in this spirit that I offer everyone who reads this my best wishes for a happy new year. May 2020 usher in a kinder, more thoughtful and more uplifting decade than the one we’re about to put behind us.

One thought on “Punching Down

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.