“Sometimes people just want to do something good for others and it is taken the wrong way,” he said. “Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes.”
Known for his cutting, sometimes off-color comments, Olga finds himself in hot water once again with the KPI, the TV watchdog. This time, he has been warned over making fun of an overweight member of the audience during a live show. His track record – chronologically recorded by one online news portal as a “top 10” list of Olga incidents – includes upsetting a band by calling them the wrong name and then talking through their performance; condemnation after he joked about rape during a spate of public transportation rape cases last year and also having the distinction of managing to irk members of both the Hindu and Muslim communities through his antics.
While the rape and religious affronts are inexcusable (the latter falling under the longtime prohibition against mass media content that touches on SARA, or ethnic, religious and social issues), it’s a finer line when it comes to physical humor, which is a standard component of slapstick and traditional comedy.
It would be unfair to only single out Olga, because other comedians have also overstepped the line. The comedy group Barito, for example, caused an uproar in 1999 by lampooning then president Abdurrahman Wahid, who was visually impaired, answering the telephone by putting it on his head.
Entertainer Tika Panggabean believes that resorting to physical jokes at some point in a routine is inevitable; “we use the physical in our own lives every day, too”, and also sees that this type of humor has been on the increase in recent years.
“It seems like it’s a trend, because maybe people think it’s easier to focus on the physical to get laughs,” she said on Wednesday.
The flip side is that today’s public is more worldly in its tastes and understanding of what is good-natured humor, and what is cruelly making someone the butt of the joke based on physical deficiencies.
“People today can tell the difference between humor and what goes too far,” she said. “Of course, you can never make fun of a physical handicap. And you have to think of the situation. Comedians have to be careful when it comes to TV, because it’s not only about hurting the feelings of the person who is being made fun of, but also that TV reaches a broad audience, including children.”
She reiterates that even the most accomplished comedians sometimes use physical humor, but as “spice” in their routines.
“It should only be the spice, not the main menu. Because anything with too much spice doesn’t taste good … if we make the physical the one and only source for our comedy, then it’s very likely that there will be a ‘natural selection’ of elimination not only for the humor but also for the comedian,” she says.
Just like a good cook in the kitchen, it’s about knowing how to use physical humor to best effect.
“If it’s used sparingly and within limits, then it can be the right spice to get laughs and entertain,” she said.