Butt of the joke
Paper Edition | Page: 14
It’s always interesting to see how people respond to a difficult situation; it can bring out the best or worst in them, depending on the situation. It has led to the rise of prank shows, beginning way back with the legendary US show Candid Camera that was spun-off internationally.
For us viewers, while there is the curiosity value and amusement of seeing people lose their cool, there is always that uneasy feeling of thinking how we ourselves would respond if the joke was on us and our verbal meltdowns were captured for all to see.
Prank shows stick to an established formula, starting with the trap which is set for the unwitting subjects. Either trick props — a falling bridge, a drinks machine that cannot be turned off — or an actor in disguise is used to complete the stunt.
An example is MTV Boiling Points, which creates elaborate annoying situations for the subjects to see if they can keep their composure, or let their frustration boil over (check out YouTube for the very young Lady Gaga, then just plain Stefani Germanotta, going ballistic when her salad was tampered with at a New York City restaurant).
Local versions of shows like Boiling Points and Just for Laughs have become popular in Indonesia, inevitably in a society where people like to laugh at their own and other people’s mistakes, and not losing face in public is esteemed.
One of the first prank shows in Indonesia was the long-running Spontan, which began airing on SCTV in 1994, hosted by comedian Komeng. It has been replaced by a new breed of shows, including Super Trap on Trans TV. As the name of the show implies, the subjects are “trapped” in an unexpected situation, from doused with water to being spooked by the appearance of ghostly figures in the mirror of a salon.
A segment of the show includes explaining to viewers the intricate planning for the stunt, with host Ibnu Jamil; and the crew setting up the props and lying in wait. The assurance is that every measure is taken to ensure there is no harm to those who are spoofed, other than a tarnished ego.
Inevitably, accidents do happen, such as during the shooting of Super Trap in Duren Sawit, East Jakarta, on July 6, when a gas canister blew up and injured two people. And sometimes the envelope can be pushed too far, evident from the traumatized reactions of some of the subjects that elicit pity from viewers instead of giggles, or a recent show where a gate-crashing actor at a wedding was punched and had his shirt ripped off him after he went around sampling other guests’ food.
It’s clear that while prank shows can be good for a laugh, they also need to ensure they do not dip into the danger zone of injuring others, either physically or emotionally, through making them the butt of the joke.