Censor the Stand-Up?
In almost every society stand-up comedy has been known to ridicule the powerful and relieve the rest of us. But today’s climate of social change acts as a divide between comics, audiences and social norms, begging the question: should stand-up comedy be politically correct?
In today’s society some believe comedy shouldn’t offend, while many comics insist being offensive is the heart of comedy. The debate was once how many racist, homophobic and/or sexist jokes were too many. The question now is whether they should be attempted at all.
Recent cultural shifts society has made to become more inclusive has made audiences easily agitated and placed many careers on ice. The days of Andrew Dice Clay-esque humor seem to be over, being quickly replaced by Kumbaya comedy. Whereas sharp wit and piercing vulgarity kept audiences in stitches in the past, show-goers are now less comfortable with that type of rhetoric,” she says.
“People are also far more aware of trans issues now too, and certain jokes which may have got laughs even last year, would now be viewed very differently.”
Now, the politically correct argument has moved on to whether comedians should address all genders at the expense of brevity, give audiences trigger warnings and avoid any controversial topics, despite coming at them from a liberal angle.
Audiences aren’t the same
Jen Lavery, spokesperson for comedy club The Stand, says she has seen a rise in audience complaints over the past few years. Some of these, she says, are “knee-jerk reactions” to a specific word or phrase without paying attention to the context. One one occassion someone complained of a joke about epilepsy, “despite the comic stating that he was also epileptic.”
Many of today’s seasoned comics say audiences no longer pick up on the nuances of jokes: “They can’t tell the difference between a racist joke and a liberal joke that comments on racism” a top comic recently told TSF.com.
During a recent stop at the Birmingham Stardome, British comedian Gina Yashere shared, “everybody is getting offended about everything and social media amplifies it ten-fold. In the past when people were offended they walked out, told their friends and that was the end of it. Now, everybody has an opinion and everybody has to let everybody else know what this opinion is and then they want to do something about it.”
The danger is growing. Though major artists still have carte blanche to say what they feel, we’ve seen more and more young comics censor themselves. “Comics who make controversial decisions in their writing tend not to make the transition to television” a spokesperson for a top comedy agency shared. “And comedy clubs are less likely to rebook acts they deem divisive.”
What can a Stand-up comic do?
So, for those taking score, it seems those on the side of being ‘less offensive’ are winning. Audiences seem to prefer it, comedy clubs prefer it, and the chances of landing a tv or movie gig almost depends on it. So what reason does a comic have to craft any jokes that may be deemed blue? “For the love of comedy” Sinbad told us. “I don’t do it, but comedy needs variety” he added.
Most comics we spoke to regarding this issue all closed with the same advice, “Be funny. Funny isn’t offensive.” Almost every comic we contacted agreed, being funny silences the critics, haters and politically correct watchdogs.
We tend to agree. Without variety and an occasional offensive joke, the world would never evolve. Offensive comics raise awareness of social issues without starting a war. I’d much rather hear Corey Holcomb tell me I’m a skeezer, than John Doe on the street. John Doe he might get his ass whooped, Corey might make me change my ways.
In the words of the great poet Talent, IT’S JUST COMEDY!!! So relax folks.