Do you know what’s really funny? I mean, laugh-out-loud with a snort, Tena Lady-worthy funny? A man videotaping himself pretending to have sex with women in public. And without those women knowing that he’s doing it.
Oh, no, sorry, that’s not actually funny, is it? Written down that sounds spectacularly gross, but watching it on YouTube is even worse.
But who would create such a disgusting video, I hear you cry? A chap named Rémi Gaillard, a French “comedian” who is known for his slapstick and gross-out humour. He found fame on the Internet after losing his job at a shoe shop, and then began playing pranks on the public. It’s through these skits, which have included racing unsuspecting drivers while he’s dressed up as Mario, to emulate a real-life Mario Kart, as well as numerous provocative interactions with police, that have given him his notoriety.
While his other jokes may have been genuinely funny, including fooling the then president of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac that he was a professional footballer, this time he’s overstepped the mark on what’s acceptable. It’s something that’s poking fun at unsuspecting women, while being incredibly creepy with it.
Why is it hilarious for women to be totally unaware that some strange bloke is pretending to have sex with them from behind, or making it look they’re giving him a blow job? They didn’t ask him to do that. These women have no choice over whether they want to be featured and used to appear as living sex dolls in his video, they have it 'done' to them, without their knowledge. Ultimately it's making fun of non-consensual sex.
And if you are wondering how the women feel when it slowly dawns on them they are unwittingly the recipients of a 'hilarious' simulated sketch prank, just look at their faces.
There's a fine line when it comes to men joking about sex, or rather non-consensual sex, which under no circumstances is ever funny, as plenty of male comedians have discovered. More worryingly, the comments on the video - viewed by over 4 million people - overwhelmingly encourage the behaviour and comment on how amusing they find him. Only few are calling him out to be the misogynist he quite clearly is.
Done the right way, pranking can be funny. Slapstick and hilarious gross-out humour, championed by the likes of Johnny Knoxville et al on Jackass was a show that regularly made me laugh. I even spent actual money I had earned going to see the first film at the cinema. Over in the UK, Dom Joly with his show Trigger Happy TV also dressed up to fool people in various spots all over London.
So what's the difference with Gaillard's behaviour? This is laughing at the expense of others rather than at the person doing the pranking. And more to the point he's making fun of the idea of 'surprising' a woman with his sexual acts and normalising this idea by making it digestible for the YouTube watcher.
We like our humour risqué and provocative but not only is this not funny it's also deeply unsettling and needs to be called out.
We've included the video of the prank below, revoltingly titled Free Sex. Tell us what you think in the comments below.
(Image: Rex Features)
(Words: Elinor Block)