Comedy has become a hot topic in the past years for something I find to be negative to the community: political correctness.
“PC culture” often feels like an ex that won’t go away. At first it seems to mean well, but over time you realize it’s main goal is to destroy your life.
I’m not sure why on a societal level so many have embraced PC. Perhaps people have too much time on their hands these days, but there is a level of oversensitivity that leads to just about anyone getting offended over the slightest thing.
I can recall a time I was discussing a certain comic on the New York City comedy scene with a friend that is not a comedian. We were discussing his comedy style and the topics he discussed. My friend began speaking poorly about the comic, saying he “shouldn’t say those things on stage. It’s wrong.”
The comic in question discussed topics such as culture, race, religion, terrorism, and so forth. From personal experience, he is someone I like and respect as a comic and this conversation made me slightly annoyed. But hey, I find it better to pick your battles as this friend is already too hardheaded and oversensitive to comprehend.
As a comedian, I understand that everything is subjective and what is believed to be funny changes from one person to the next. Nothing this particular comic has said was ever said out of malice. He’s just doing his job.
But the fact that people are so ready to dismiss someone’s comedic viewpoint without actually listening was very concerning to me because it shows how close minded we still are as a whole.
What has become even more distressing is that some in the comedy scene have made it a point to force their political correctness on other comics and cultivate a PC style of comedy. Now that’s pretty comical.
Call me old fashioned, but I thought comics were supposed to make people laugh?
One thing is for certain. Regardless of the times and social pressures to be careful with what you say, funny will always prevail. Here’s why.
People want to laugh
As comics, it’s your job to make people laugh. Plain and simple.
If you go up on stage trying to put anything else higher in importance like changing someone’s mind on a hot topic, the probability of you winning over the audience becomes much less because they have this uncanny ability to sense when you have an agenda other than making them laugh.
From what I have learned, people who attend comedy shows tend to be looking for a escape, either from the social climate or even their own life troubles. Any topic can be discussed on stage, but it’s what the comic does with it to make it funny that really matters and at the end of the day. Even if you have a completely outlandish viewpoint or are being brutally honest, people will believe in the funny behind the ridiculousness and laugh with you. The audience wants your jokes, not your philosophy on how things should be; something well thought out and bold will likely get a laugh over something that feels like you are being too careful and trying too hard to not offend.
There’s an obvious difference between discussing a viewpoint and malice intent
Discussing a viewpoint takes practice and it can often come off negatively when the comic isn’t confident in discussing their view to make it engaging, especially if it’s edgy.
Yes, there are obvious instances where a comic is up on stage and they are outright racist, sexist, or homophobic, and they are met with the appropriate response. Silence.
Silence is a powerful thing to comedians because it’s an indicator that something didn’t work.
However, there are some viewpoints where if you truly listen and connect to the emotion in the bit, you can further see the intent and this is where the fine line is met.
Certain big name comics really understand that fine line and Bill Burr is a prime example. Burr has stamped out a career in comedy off of being politically incorrect and has really harnessed the “loud guy in the bar with uninformed logic” persona on stage. He is INCREDIBLY risque, but if you really listen to what he says, it’s actually very smart and makes you think.
Even his “gay” jokes haven’t offended me in any way, but it’s because as a comic, you better understand the comedy perspective.
Other “politically incorrect” comics include Daniel Tosh, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, and Bill Maher.
The general rule at hand is until you have really listened to what a comic has to say on a touchy subject, then can you decide for yourself.
Safe comedy is BORING
The great thing about a viewpoint is if it’s edgy and polarizing, it’ll get people talking about you. Being polarizing is an effective marketing strategy for comics in general.
Yes, you might go through the struggle of having people, whoever that may be, disagree with you, but seriously...who cares? That’s business in general and it’s much better to have people react to what you say than feeling indifferent or underwhelmed.
If you leave them with an underwhelming feeling because you were trying to be safe and not ruffle any feathers, then you’re wasting your time as a comic.
At the end of the day, remember the goal for a comic is to be memorable and being careful isn’t going to get you anywhere. Speak your honest truth regardless of what others might think and you’ll see the difference.
Got any thoughts or something to add? Comment below and tell us what you think!