Years ago, I’d arrived at the office and was racing to my desk when I passed by the conference room, where an editorial meeting was taking place.
This was at the height of the political correctness movement, and the funny thing is, I was one of its biggest proponents. I spent whatever moments I wasn’t at parties running out into the street to protest the government, homophobes, offensive movies, and anyone else who did the wrong thing–or worse, nothing.
But I was in a giddy mood this day and felt really cocky, so I stuck my head into the conference room for a second and made a weird wisecrack.
“I’ve just been diagnosed with lupus,” I deadpanned.
I knew the staff would find this riotously funny, slurping up every bon mot I served because after all, I was such a fabulous wit and the paper was the lucky weekly recipient of my glorious gift for wordplay.
But my remark was greeted with horrified silence. No one knew what to make of it. My pulse slowed and I started sweating.
“I’m allergic to myself,” I nervously added, hoping I’d get a laugh this time. I made sure to say it as if the first line was just a setup. The second one would not only explain the joke, it would deliver major yucks.
But the air became evern more weighted with horror. Everyone thought I’d really been diagnosed with some terrible illness. I looked around and saw jaws dropping and people’s faces turning flush with upset. And the few who figured out that I was joking thought it was the dumbest thing they’d ever heard, so they were equally horrified. And they were right.
Fortunately, the whole faux pas taught me a valuable lesson:
Know your audience. Un p.c. jokes only work on rare occasions, so you’ve got to know when and where to drop them, and mostly importantly what to say and how to say it.
I no longer crack lupus jokes anywhere.