Why we need to Make Comedy Offensive Again
Are we going backwards and censoring comedians?
Nowadays people are worried about looking for the evil of everything instead of looking for the best that exists, in addition, the distinction between comedy and real life begins to become smaller and smaller … it’s getting hard to find room for comedy in a time when we have “Trigger Words”, “Social Justice Warriors”, “Believe ALL Women”… the list is getting bigger and more and more preposterous. The groups that were oppressed are the ones wanting to be the oppressor and seem unwilling to forgive. We are becoming more tribal and more prone to exclusion while being less aware of it as we go.
- Three examples of modern censorship -
Mike Ward, Canadian comedian; made a joke about a young disabled boy who was also a singer. He became a big celebrity in Canada after he was flown out to sing for the pope. After the young boy went to meet the pope, appeared in numerous magazines and wrote a book, Mike said that he had stolen a wish because he didn’t die, he used that joke in a special, never on TV. Years after the joke was originally told, the boy’s mother filled a complaint against Mike, and he found himself in front of a human rights tribunal. Mike was fined $42,000 in total, $25,000 in moral damages and $10,000 in punitive damages to the young boy, and $5,000 in moral damages and $2,000 in punitive damages to the mother after the tribunal sided with them.
The former Saturday Night Live writer Nimesh Patel was kicked off stage at Columbia University for having a ‘inappropriate’ standup set; Patel quipped that being gay cannot be a choice because “no one looks in the mirror and thinks, “This black thing is too easy; let me just add another thing to it.’” Members of Columbia’s Asian American Alliance then interrupted the performance and denounced his material about racial identities and sexual orientation. The group gave him a few moments for closing remarks, but Patel pushed back, saying none of his jokes were offensive. He purportedly claimed that he was simply exposing the audience to ideas that would be found “in the real world.” Patel’s microphone was cut from offstage and he exited.
Before his downfall related to sexual misconduct allegations, Louis CK was everyone’s dearest comedian, adored by the left and admired by the right; CK has apologized both personally and publicly to the accusers, and slowly tried to get back on his feet, working at clubs as he used to. One of his sets got leaked, an unfinished set; In the set, C.K. talks about how he was excited to be in his fifties and be belligerent toward younger kids in their twenties and their ideas, only to be shocked by the extent of their progressivism; “You’re young, you should be crazy, you should be unhinged, not in a suit… you’re not interesting. Because you went to a high school where kids got shot? Why does that mean I have to listen to you?… You didn’t got shot, you pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I’ve gotta listen to you talking?”; These and other jokes were completely taken out of context and not interpreted as jokes… Also, if you listen to the clip you’ll hear the audience’s laughter and people, correctly understanding that they are being confronted by jokes, not personal beliefs.
Louis CK is now being called by some a right-wing comedian.
Transgressive comedy is a social good (take the examples of George Carlin, Richard Prior, Lenny Bruce…) It violates barriers and taboos, it’s beneficial for society because it wakens us to our own excesses and hypocrisy and it relieves us from all the tension and social pressure.
Should there be limits to comedy?
I don’t think so.
What we need is common sense and the notion that comedy can be as eclectic as cooking in the world, it is cultural and it is personal, each person will have their taste, their preference and their opinion; Is there a right and a wrong here?
Instead of trying to create binary answers about right and wrong, black and white, male or female, we should understand that reasonable people can sense the difference between a joke and someone getting angry or really calling to action, this should be the limit, try to be funny.
What is funny for me might not be funny for you, but if the ultimate goal is to make you laugh, we should acknowledge that it is a joke, not an offense;
Nowadays anything can be considered offensive, even the hand gesture for “Okay” is now related to the White Power movement (interesting that this arose from an online hoax).
We have to comprehend the following: In comedy, either is all within limits, or nothing is. Comedy is a reaction of what happens in society and should never be censored.
A lot of comedians are being censored, sometimes even by themselves.
We should be able to distinguish jokes from real life.
Comedians are like jesters in a king’s court. “The jester was the only person who could tell the truth because he was beneath contempt….” Trickster figures emerge in times of crisis, and they point out what no one wants to see, and they say things that no one will say, daring us to think.
Censoring comedians is a really dangerous thing.
Comedy is comedy.
We need to Make Comedy Offensive Again.