Is Political Correctness Ruining Comedy?

Not really.

Oh, you wanted a more detailed answer than that?  You probably want to know why someone who pays his bills with comedy would say something so silly.  Well, ok.  I will try to explain why I believe political correctness (PC) isn’t entirely to blame for the downfall of comedy (that was a tad heavy, but you understand).

PC came about as a result of groups of people getting fed up with being ostracized by the society in which they found themselves.  For instance:  The term “Native American” came about because natives didn’t want to be called Indian.  Why?  Because it was geographically wrong and it was used as a derogatory term.  The same goes for midget, colored, nigger, negro, retarded, lame, gay and I am pretty sure about 70 others I missed.  And not just words, but policies and actions taken to take your rights away.  Like higher interest rates for non whites, or not being allowed to rent an apartment.  This was used to downgrade another’s humanity to make them less then human.  So these groups took charge and decided this is what they wanted.  Then a problem arose.

The problem is that there are just people that don’t care what you want to be called, or how you feel about your 22% interest on that car loan. They want to call you what they feel like for many reasons.  They are lazy.  They are stubborn.  Or they may actually just hate that group of people and want to degrade them every which way.  See, political correctness is a bigger problem if you are ignorant.  If you don’t understand why someone with Down Syndrome doesn’t want to be called retarded then you are ignorant to their plight, or you don’t see why there is a law that forbids you to discriminate against someone because they have one leg, then you don’t understand why this is needed.  This is especially the case with comedians. See, there are comics out there that will use non PC language because it is the easiest route to a joke.  If I just called someone retarded that gets a laugh on two different levels.  One on just the punchline and then because of the perceived balls I have for saying retarded in front of people. I have seen white comics do that with the word nigger.  They know that there is a shock factor that will get them a reaction even more so then the punchline.

This sounds like I am all for PC language and culture.  I am.  Until it gets out of hand.  That is why at the start I said not really.  The thing with being PC is that because there are so many groups and things are constantly changing you don’t know if you are up to date on what a group of people want to be called. And you don’t even know if all people in that group want to be called that in the first place.  I don’t want to be called African American. That takes forever to say.  Just call me the black guy or better yet, Harry.  I used to do a joke and I would talk about a midget.  I learned that they wanted to be referred to as “little people”  I started using that.  Until I met a little person at a casino and they were pissed that I said that instead of midget.

Political correctness gets out of hand because of the internet.  I know it seems easy to blame the internet, but hear me out.  The internet makes even the most minute thing bigger than it already is.  Add to the fact that millions of people in a group want to be recognized differently and you have a problem.  There are some groups of feminist that won’t like certain language that shows a male dominated society.  While others are even more strict and will get mad that you would even call them a woman (there is man in there).  So if need be a small group of people can make enough noise on the internet and it makes everything seem crazy in retrospect (I hope this is coming off clear).

This is what you actually came to read.  How does this matter to comedy.  It matters because you have a mix of people in a collective with only one person’s life and view point being expressed.  The same goes for movies and music.  If a movie has a rape scene in it and it is a movie that takes place in a world where this may happen then we have to understand that the artist’s viewpoint, not ours, is what is shaping this.  The same for comedy.  I have seen a guy get in an argument with a lady because he used the word autistic.  He didn’t make fun of autistic people.  That is when PC gets out of control. Everyone from all walks of life come to a show and they all want to be entertained personally because the internet has made it so.  You can go watch an episode of your favorite show on your terms.  You can check out the new viral video while you sit on the toilet.  So when people come to a comedy show they have an expectation (a false one) that their views are the ones that will be the focus.  It is not.  The comedian is the narrator of events.

As comedians, our first job is to make people laugh.  That is your first job.  If you can’t do that then you are just talking…like a politician.  The problem is we are people and we have different fears and thoughts and beliefs and they might not always jive with the gathered collective.  It might not be up to date with the beliefs that out there.  Some comedians might have a different view of what it takes to get that laugh. We still have to remember out job though.  That is to make people laugh.  If you are on stage making everyone uncomfortable while you talk about stealing from a handicapped person then you are not doing your job. So how do you solve this problem?  You have to work with the majority of the audience.  What that means is that if you took a gig at a lesbian retreat they probably don’t want to hear your vagina licking puns all night.  That is why you watch the host to see the temperature of the crowd.  Are they into an edgier show?  Is the show happening at a church?  These things you have to take into account.

I hope there is not a comedian that is reading this and saying, “So, I’m not supposed to be myself?  I thought I was supposed to be able to say what I want?”  No one is saying you can’t.  If you want you can read this.  You are allowed to say whatever it is you want.  Just don’t expect people to accept it anymore. People act as though this is a entirely new thing.  It isn’t.  It’s just that now people have the power to talk about it to a vast number of people.  In the 80s you could say messed up things about handicapped people because they probably couldn’t get in the club if it were down some stairs.  Now, people have access to you and your shitty jokes and they don’t want that.  On the flip side, we are are suppose to pick at the scabs that cover society.  Those awkward social barriers that keep people separated.  We are supposed to look at that and make light of it.  We are jesters.  We push on issues until the puss comes oozing out.

In a perfect world, those people would just not come out.  If you are afraid that someone is gonna say something you might find insensitive you may want to stay home.  The thing is we live in this world, and people go to comedy shows and for the majority of shows going on, the audience doesn’t really know what the comedian is going to talk about.  The comedian may not have a built in audience and everyone there just wants to laugh. They go up and tell a joke about punching an old person and you don’t like it…well…

I predict that with everyone being able to voice their disapproval of things said on stage that the number of people going to shows will dwindle even further.  Shows will get pushed out of the bars and into the theaters where it seems like the people on the show has been “vetted” by someone.  There will still be an audience for the “edgy” stuff, but it will be really small and the comics that are working in that capacity will be getting crazier with their material. I think PG-13 comedy is going to be the future of comedy because the clubs are not what they used to be (because people don’t want to hear 100 fucks before 11pm) and the real money will be in being able to go anywhere and tell comedy.

What I find sad about this is that Jerry Seinfeld, who has made his career of not cursing and stuff, is saying this is a problem.  If Seinfeld doesn’t want to do a show because he doesn’t want to deal with the PC, then someone like me has no future in comedy.

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