Lisa Markwell: What's so funny about cancer? A lot, actually

FreeView from the editors at i

Share
Related Topics

The C word. Not, this time, Christmas or that profanity that
rhymes with the Culture Secretary. The C word I'm talking about is
cancer.

Normally talked about in the special hushed tones reserved for horrible, unspeakable (well, near unspeakable, obv) events, cancer is in danger of losing its terrifying power. And it's thanks to a film that opens tonight in the UK. 50/50 is a comedy from the team behind Superbad, the college gross-out film that made a star of Jonah Hill and featured the eternally funny Seth Rogan as a dumbo policeman.

Now Rogan has co-written a gross-out comedy about cancer with his friend Will Reiser, who had a brush with the big C himself. Rogan stars as the best friend of "Adam", who's given – you've guessed it – a 50/50 chance of surviving the disease.

I expect there will be plenty of people who'll get their pants in a twist about making a joke of such a serious subject but to them I say, no one cares what you think.

It is those who have had cancer who get to choose whether its funny or not. (BTW, please don't ever say "battled" in relation to cancer, it suggests that the ability to "win" is the patient's and if you don't battle hard enough you'll die. Now that's gross.)

Anyhoo, back to the film. Adam breaks the news to his best friend, Kyle, who reacts with shock and horror (so far, so predictable). But after shaving his head with Kyle's body trimmer – eeeew – the men head out to a club. Kyle convinces Adam that "I've got cancer" is an excellent pick-up line. Cue a toe-curlingly funny scene.

You get the idea. This is dark, dark comedy – it subverts the whole Love Story schmaltz and, by the way, hands out a lot of useful info about cancer, its causes and treatment, along with the humour.

This week a New York commentator called for doctors to stop using the C word altogether. I agree. Patients getting a diagnosis stop hearing anything else once "cancer" is out there; like, if it's not too heretical, a dog who hears "blah blah walk blah blah". Clear, unvarnished, uneuphemistic language, please.

And what entitles me to be so judgmental? I've been the baldie discussing the odds with the oncologist. I was desperate for people not to put on a soft, special voice when they spoke to me, or avoid talking about fun stuff, in case it upset me.

On Monday, the brilliant cancer charity Macmillan celebrates its centenary with a gala show at the London Palladium. I hope there are gags aplenty. There's funny and funny, of course. Nobody wants to hear from the tin-earred Jimmy Carr on the subject.

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Assistant Marketing & PR Manager

£16 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
James Foley's murder by Isis has shocked the West  

Today Isis is attacking the Middle East. Tomorrow it’ll be the West

James Bloodworth
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment