The joke is on you.
The College of Communication and Information concluded its annual Diversity and Inclusion Week with a panel on diversity and humor featuring local comedians.
Panel moderator and Associate Dean for the College of Communication and Information Catherine Luther questioned the role of stereotyping in comedy.
Frank Murphy, member of Knoxville comedy improv troupe Einstein Simplified, weighed in first, explaining that stereotypes are necessary for comedy.
"Comedy is about timing," Murphy said. "And to get to the punch line in the right amount of time, sometimes you have to take a short cut, and the stereotype is the short cut."
Terry White, an Oak Ridge National Lab employee and part-time comedian, said that stereotypes aren't necessary but can serve a purpose.
"You can do without them," White said. "I don't think you absolutely need it but sometimes it gets a good message across. Sometimes joking about a stereotype can point out how stupid stereotypes are."
Massage therapist by day and comedian by night, Kristine Kinsey, agreed and said she uses stereotypes as a way to undermine them.
"Well for me personally, I'm usually trying to buck the stereotypes," she said. "I'm stereotyped before I even open my mouth on stage ... They're going to look at me and see a middle-aged mom ... So if I'm going to do a political joke, I have to frame it in the perspective of the disgruntled housewife."
Kinsey also said that playing up a stereotype can foster a connection between the comedian and their audience.
"We're very uncomfortable with people that are different than us," Kinsey said. "So if you have a predominately white crowd and you're a black comic, it kind of helps to play into your stereotypes a bit, it breaks the ice."
Nate Cate, Knoxville native and comedian, stressed the importance of comically addressing different issues in society.
"We've sort of grown up in a more politically correct society," Cate said. "And everybody's so edgy about differences, and we're bringing light to these differences and sometimes we don't know how to approach them, because we know they're there. But I think ... (comedy is) a very good learning tool as well.
"It's very important to learn about what those differences are and how to deal with them and how to realize that sometimes it can be fun."
In Kinsey's opinion, people use stereotypes to make sense of the people around them.
"I think that we're more comfortable labeling people and dealing with their differences that way than actually looking at the real person sometimes," she said. "It's not just a short cut, it's lazy humanity."
When asked why comedians should stop referencing stereotypes, Kinsey cited the comedian's ego.
"Doing a joke with a stereotype, it's easy. It's an easy laugh," Kinsey said. "Getting a laugh with something that's a little bit smarter...is a lot more satisfying to a comic than an easy, tacky laugh."