Can Cancer Be Funny?

It’s a thorny subject which can polarise opinions.  Is it appropriate to create comic responses to tragic events? Should we really look for the funny side of something that isn’t in any way amusing?  Where do we draw the line between edgy humour and being offensive?

I tend to think that most subjects are up for grabs, the main criteria I use to judge whether or not the humour has worked is the intention behind the joke or story.  If done just for cheap laughs, to be overly sentimental or as a shock tactic then it will usually fall flat or just be downright offensive.  If there’s compassion, truth and experience in the writing, black humour can help with understanding the world around us and make the audience think about their responses to difficult situations.  I’m really intrigued by the prospect of 50/50 starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt about a young man with cancer and his relationship with friends, family and older patients.  50/50 is written by Will Reiser who was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 24 and I imagine he’ll bring a great deal of honesty to the story.

Done well – and chances are with Gordon-Levitt in the central role it will be done well – this could be both heart-breakingly sad and unexpectedly funny.

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  1. Hi Louise, I’ll be seeing this next week as it premieres at a local film fest. I was skeptical at first as cancer is no laughing matter but it’s based on the writer’s personal experience so I think it’ll be a poignant one as well. I like Levitt and I think he’ll be great.

    • There are always reservations when storylines like this come up, but I think being based on the writer’s own experiences will help. It won’t be true for everyone who has experienced cancer, but it will be for him. I’m looking forward to it – would be really interested to see your review of it.

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