Are You A Horrible Person?
I stare at the black card in the centre of the table. It reads, ‘What would grandma find disturbing, yet oddly charming?’ I go through the white cards in my hands and chuckle uncomfortably at the awkward combinations I can make. A few are genuinely funny and hardly offensive: ‘Ryan Gosling riding in on a white horse’, ‘Erectile dysfunction’, or ‘Passive-Aggressive post-it notes’. Others are too uncannily near the mark to be funny: ‘Hospice care’, or ‘Dying’. And some are quite honestly awful: ‘Battlefield amputations’, or ‘Dead parents’.
Not as awful as they could be, though. The prompt card was rather light compared to the next black card, which read ‘What did the US airdrop to the children of Afghanistan?’ I suddenly regretted using Ryan Gosling on grandma…
Those of you who consider yourselves to be anything but politically correct have probably recognised the fantabulous ‘party game for horrible people’ I am referring to. For those who haven’t, let me introduce the 17+ game known as Cards Against Humanity. The goal is simple: Make the funniest combination using a black card and a white card. The former pose questions or ask you to fill in the blanks and the latter provide possible answers. They are generally inappropriate. But that’s precisely the point of the game; laughing even when one feels bad about laughing.
In the few months I’ve spent at NYU Abu Dhabi, I’ve noticed that most people shun unconventional humour — racy jokes, dark humour or absurdities — because a silent authority seems to have set these rules of decency. Yet, from what I’ve seen, these restrictions apply only to the public sphere, where people strive to stick to the environment’s conventions. Indeed, during my first semester, and right before writing this article, I realised that many were not satisfied with this status quo. In the privacy of our rooms, our ‘cosmopolitanism’ is the root of many puns, and we are less concerned about the stereotypes we throw around.
Of course, one could argue that freedom of speech is clearly exacerbated when one is alone, and that one should have manners in public. However that is not what I am trying to highlight. I mean to say that in our school, it is socially unacceptable to pick the wrong line of humour because ‘future world leaders’ cannot possibly make phallic jokes. Except, of course, if they hide behind an anonymous satirical newspaper named after hummus’ main ingredient, or if they simply choose to epitomise absurdity — I’m sure a few names come to mind.
At NYUAD it is frowned upon to do things by halves: solve world famine or don’t even try. Publish a novel or forget about writing. Be known as a clown or give up humour altogether. Maybe a little moderation would do us some good.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not advocating excessive or misplaced humour: there’s a time and place for everything. Some jokes go too far, and people should be able to judge accordingly, but if we can’t laugh at dark humour in a world where, let’s face it, there are quite a few problems, we’ll all soon be pretty depressed. Some stereotypes may very well be broad generalisations with no factual basis, and others, however much we may be annoyed by it, are grounded in truth, Precisely because we are well-informed, open-minded people who can take them with a grain of salt, we can find humour in them.
A new black card falls upon the table and the person who drew it reads it aloud: “It’s a pity that kids these days are all getting involved with _______,” he calls.
My gaze settles on the card in the middle of my hand, and I know I have a winner:
Alex Bagot is a member of New York University Abu Dhabi’s Class of 2017. Alex, like so many other people his age, has absolutely no idea what he wishes to do with his life. But he writes in his spare time.
Cards Against Humanity (UK edition) is available from Amazon price £20.00 plus p&p