Maybe it’s the comedy, and not the audience, that needs to improve
By Katie Czenczek, Staff Writer
Political correctness has not killed stand-up comedy.
I might be stereotyping a little, but maybe there’s a reason that the majority of people making these statements are straight, old, white men and not those belonging to marginalized groups. After all, it is Jerry Seinfeld, Mel Brooks, “Larry the Cable Guy,” Bill Maher, and Chris Rock who have made these statements publicly. Seinfeld and Rock went as far to say that they will no longer perform at colleges and universities because they’re PC cesspools.
Okay, they didn’t say cesspools, but they did mention that political correctness is the reason why.
However, is it really PC culture that’s causing their lack of popularity with younger audiences, or are they just out of touch?
Using “politically correct” college students as scapegoats for why a joke didn’t land is like asking a girl out on a date and then calling her a whore for saying no—you can try and get rejected, but you can’t throw a tantrum about it afterwards if it fails. It’s not the audiences’ fault that they didn’t find an insulting joke funny. Rather, it’s on the comedians for not knowing their audiences.
What was acceptable as a joke 50 years ago is not going to be acceptable today, and I think that’s a good thing. It highlights a more tolerant and aware society, where harmful stereotypes are no longer sources for acceptable forms of humour. Anyone remember that stand-up routine where Michael Richards—better known as Kramer from Seinfeld—said the n-word about 50 times? Even in the early 2000s that wasn’t okay, well before modern “PC culture” was making headlines.
In fact, if people are looking for something to blame, then they can look no further than social media. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have made it that much easier to drag someone publicly, which can explain why these comedians have noticed more critiques of their content.
Yes, comedians need to be able to flirt with the line between funny and offensive, and it is okay to mess up every once in a while. However, with social media giving the everyday person a voice to call out things they didn’t like about a show, comedians need to be less offended by people calling their jokes offensive. Do I think that PC culture can go too far at times? Yes, I’ll admit that there are times when people use it as censorship for what a person can and cannot say. However, as it is that person’s right to say something offensive, it is also another person’s right to respond back and say it’s not okay.
Good comedy, in my opinion, doesn’t come from a person in a position of power demeaning a marginalized group of people, it’s instead intelligent and often provides a glimpse into the lives of the comics themselves. Acts such as Eddy Murphy during the ’80s highlighted some of the experiences of Black people living in America in a funny—yet informative—way. No comedian has ever broken new ground by telling a Holocaust joke or any variation on the old trope, “a woman, gay man, and Asian guy walk into a bar…” Not only are these jokes inappropriate, but they’ve also all been done before.
Overall, being a comedian is a tough gig. It must be frustrating having multiple people criticize the material you’ve worked hard to create. However, there is a difference between PC culture killing comedy and being washed up, so maybe it’s time for comics to check if what they’re saying is funny rather than pointing fingers at younger generations.