Anything that brings about a strong reaction can be said to provoke. You can provoke that lion if you want. But if he responds by attacking, don't come running to me.
Let's consider some people who have been known to provoke. Lenny Bruce, was more than just a comedian. He was a "provocateur" who used humor to deliver his controversial diatribes. Humor was his way to provoke people to think. Madonna made her name not only by producing a memorable catalogue of great pop songs, she proved herself to be a master at provoking people through her outrageous attire and lyrics. The moral of this story? It's possible to provoke both positive and negative responses.