Often, comedians attempt to shock and subdue viewers into laughter, and while this works most of the time, there are some jokes that go just a bit too far. For decades, societies have been trying to decide when to draw the line, how to define political correctness, and how to define “bad taste.” But as the world’s population remains divided on many key issues, it follows that comedy remains a grey area.
So, comedians make films and TV episodes that push the boundaries and as a result, people will either laugh and accept them, or go nuts and organize protests. Here are 10 of the most offensive moments in comedy history that have sparked controversies that won’t soon be forgotten.
10. The Interview (2014)
Assassination of a real world leader is apparently a theme that might be met with some aggression. The movie will follow two journalists (Seth Rogen and James Franco), as they set off to North Korea, where they intend to interview Kim Jong-Un himself. They are subsequently approached by government officials who seize the opportunity to have the two men assassinate the dictator.
This turned out to be a hot button for Kim Jong-Un. Upon finding out about this upcoming film, he was quoted by The Guardian, as demanding the film be pulled from production, stating that he will consider the film an “act of war.” The film’s release date has since been pushed back from October to December.
9. Seinfeld “Puerto Rican Day” (1998)
As the series’ long run came to an end, the 20th episode made sure it was going out with a bang. With 38.8 million viewers, it is the show’s second highest rated episode, just behind the series finale (which followed only weeks behind). During the episode which takes place on the day of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Kramer accidentally sets a Puerto Rican flag on fire, and then stomps on it to put it out.
The scene outraged Puerto Rican activists who also argued that the episode also depicted negative stereotypes. NBC formally apologized for the scene and banned it from airing again.
8. Team America (2004)
After years of stirring controversy on their animated series South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to kick it up a notch with a feature film. Team America is now considered a brilliant and hilarious piece of satire, but before it was released, it had everyone’s nerves completely rattled.
It was accused of mocking the war on terror and WWII, and even a Bush administration official condemned the film. The movie was released, despite the outrage in October of 2004, syncing up nicely with the November elections. Its portrayal of Kim Jong-il as the main antagonist was also met with frustration from North Korea.
7. The Simpsons “Blame it on Lisa” (2002)
What’s a good way to offend an entire country? Portray it with blatant stereotypes and negative cliches, of course. In this episode, Lisa convinces the family to head to Brazil to track down her pen-pal after she discovers he has gone missing from his orphanage. The episode became controversial in Brazil when it was noted that the country’s depiction was offensive, as was the inaccurate inclusion of Latin American culture.
Riotur planned a lawsuit against Fox for damaging the image of Rio de Janeiro, prompting the show’s creator, James L. Brooks to issue an official apology.
6. Some Like it Hot (1959)
This 1959 Billy Wider picture is widely regarded as the best American film of all time. It’s witty, fun and most importantly, risky. The film follows two musicians who flee the state after witnessing a mob hit. To keep undercover, they disguise themselves as women and join an all female band. Enter the iconic Marilyn Monroe…
Aside from the apparently hellish attitude of Monroe during production, the film had one other obstacle – it was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church for being “indecent”. Despite the menacing “C” rating, the film has still gone on to achieve immense critical acclaim.
5. South Park “200” and “201” (2010)
It’s true that almost everything Trey Parker and Matt Stone do is offensive to someone, but for the 200th episode, the duo pulled out all the stops aiming to offend everyone. In it, all of the celebrities that have been made fun of by South Park over the years, come together to file a class action lawsuit against the town. Eventually, Tom Cruise agrees to put off the lawsuit if the town can arrange a meeting between him and the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The episode’s depiction of Muhammad quickly sparked a controversy.
Parker and Stone received threats from Revolution Muslim, a terrorist organization based in New York. As a result, the episode’s second part “201” was heavily censored. The episodes have been altogether banned in some countries.
4. Borat (2006)
Sacha Baron Cohen has no qualms when it comes to putting it all out there. That was especially apparent in his 2006 feature film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The film had the title character, a journalist, travel to America for the first time and have inappropriate real-life interactions with various people.
People who had been duped by Borat, later became very public about the detrimental effects the hoax had on their lives, including a radio host who lost her job for booking him in unknowingly. Some legal action was taken as well. Moreover, the government of Kazakhstan denounced the film.
3. Family Guy “Terms of Endearment” (2010)
Abortion? Yup. The season finale of Family Guy‘s eighth season was banned from TV in the United States and has only ever aired in the UK. In the episode, Lois decides to become a surrogate mother and undergoes in vitro fertilization. When the couple is killed in a car accident, Lois decides to get an abortion, despite Peter’s lack of support who has been swayed by pro-life activists.
The episode has since been released on DVD and is officially the second Family Guy episode to be banned. The first was “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein” in season 3, which dealt with Jewish stereotypes and Peter’s own ignorance about the religion.
2. Dogma (1999)
Religion and Kevin Smith — he simply can’t resist. Controversy abounded when this film, questioning everything about the Catholic faith, was released. It follows two fallen angels who consider using an alleged loophole in Catholic Dogma to get back into Heaven. However, the implications could be dire when they realize it will mean proving God is wrong, and thus, proving the fallibility of God. This would cause the undoing of all creation.
As it turns out, Catholics do not like their religion to be questioned, mocked, or dissected in such a way. Organized protests began all over the world. Kevin Smith even received death threats, which proved to be not enough to silence him. In 2011, he took on the topic of religious fundamentalism with the horror, Red State. Protests were launched against it as well.
1. Tiny Toon Adventures “Elephant Issues” (1991)
Despite the fact that this episode was produced explicitly to warn its young viewers of the dangers of alcohol, the WB pulled it from the air after only one run in 1991. Apparently, it was instantly clear that its dark subject matter was a bit much for children. In it, the three Toons indulge in a beer, which leads them to steal a police car, and drive off a cliff, plummeting to an unexpected and fiery death.
Sounds morbid, right? Well, the episode has since been released on DVD for those who like to indulge in their morbid curiosities.