The aggressive criticism of offensive humor and why it will never change comedy

Performing in the visiting show ‘Set List’ at Chicagos Lincoln Lodge, as part of the 2012 Just For Laughs Festival.

The pressure to be politically correct is overwhelming and ineffective, especially in comedy. 

Everyone can criticize what they think of as poor comedy. However, the way people express their opinions is creating toxic outcry on social media targeting comedians with an edgy style, and resulting in no change. 

When I think about the jokes my friends and I have made, a lot of them have the potential to start an uproar on Twitter. Yet, that would have little to no impact on what we find funny. Shaming people into censoring their jokes does not work because what is deemed problematic humor is subjective. 

As much as people enjoy feeling victorious after going to social media to write a long paragraph with buzzwords depicting a comedian as evil incarnate, it has very little impact on fans. Although being forceful and claiming a comedian does not deserve a career because of their jokes is not illegal, it is counterproductive. It provokes anger in their fans causing them to be hostile and refusing to recognize why certain jokes may be offensive. 

Before a very public breakup with Ariana Grande, comedian Pete Davidson joked about a touchy subject for the popstar. According to CNN, People reported that during a stand-up performance Davidson said, “Britney Spears didn’t have a terrorist attack at her concert.” This is in reference to a bombing at one of Ariana Grande’s concerts in 2017. Many people took offense to this and rightfully so. However, across social media people encouraged everyone to boycott the comedian and used other examples of his dark humor in hopes of convincing the public that he is a terrible comedian. 

Pete Davidson did not joke about the bombing again, most likely recognizing that it was crossing a line. Yet, people still went on social media in hopes of ending his career. After Grande and he broke up, many joked about his career being dead and him finally getting what he deserves. The reality is he still has a job on SNL, he is consistently selling out stand-up shows and once The Angry Birds Movie 2 (a children’s film) is released, he will have been featured in two movies in 2019. 

Davidson is doing more than fine careerwise. The idea that his taste for dark humor could end his career completely ignores all of his fans with the same taste. SNL surely does not care and neither do other sources of entertainment. 

In comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s 2015 Netflix special Thoughts and Prayers, he discusses his tendency to joke about tragedies right after they occur. “The day of the Aurora Colorado Batman movie theatre shooting…I went on twitter and I tweeted, ‘other than that how was the movie.’” This year, he had another Netflix special. 

Often people say something along the lines of, if you have to make offensive jokes then you are probably not a good comedian. Comedian Hannah Gadsby shared a similar sentiment with The Washington Post, “if political correctness can kill comedy, comedy needs to harden the hell up.” The idea that PC culture can kill comedy is just a trivial as the idea that art is dying.

However, comedy owes us nothing. 


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