Almost everyone has witnessed the video of the controversial slap that occurred at the 2022 Academy Awards between Will Smith and Chris Rock. This incident sparked controversy all over the nation as people are picking sides between who they think is right. Most defenders of Will Smith are using the argument that Chris Rock shouldn’t have made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s Alopecia, which has caused hair loss. However, Rock fans argue that comedy is not reason enough to get so upset.
Even though this is only the most recent incident where a comedian has faced public backlash, there are many other instances where comics have faced public scrutiny due to certain jokes. Legendary comics such as Eddie Murphy, Bill Burr, Kevin Hart, Dave Chapelle, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer and many others have faced “cancel culture,” due to various insulting jokes they have made during standup comedy. These insults range from jokes regarding AIDS and other health issues, mispronunciation of names, gender and feminism, insensitive words and disrespect of other celebrities.
There are many comedians who argue that political correctness is killing modern comedy. Steve Harvey has also spoken about the issue and made the claim: “If I had tried to continue as a stand-up, there’s no way I could maintain it because political correctness has killed comedy.” Other comedians, such as Jamie Kennedy, Billy Crystal, Donald Glover, David Spade and Seth Rogen, seem to have a similar opinion that political correctness is making comedy difficult to navigate.
This is not to say that society should support individuals who are homophobic, racist, sexist or xenophobic. People should absolutely be held responsible for their actions and be reprimanded for them. However, comedy is an entirely different category that often deals with these types of issues in ironic ways that promote healthy discussion.
Ricky Gervais made a statement in the Wall Street Journal that no jokes should be off-limits, saying, “You can joke about anything, but it depends on what the actual target is. If you use iron and people see that at face value and think you’re saying one thing but you’re actually saying the opposite.”
It is important that people truly understand the context of jokes in comedy. A lot of times, these topics are explored in an ironic way and can actually promote discussion in the real world about serious issues. Comedy can actually help contribute to social change. Because it is entertaining and engaging, comedy draws attention and creates influence for people to pursue specific social issues.
Comedy is also a good way to cope with serious issues in the world. Scott Weems, a neuroscientist and author, believes that “(Dark) humor is a way for people to work through difficult subjects or feelings.” Psychologists at Stanford have even said that comedy surrounding difficult topics increases wellbeing. The phrase “laughter is the best medicine” seems to actually hold some weight.
However, comedy seems to be dying out due to “offense seeking” where people seem to be actively looking for things to get offended about. British Comedian, Gina Yashere, has spoken on this topic, saying, “Now, everybody has an opinion and everybody has to let everybody else know what this opinion is and something has to be done about it.” This has led to many comedy specials being canceled from airing and even resulted in Comedy Central removing episodes from The Office, South Park and Seinfeld.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. However, no one is forcing people to watch this type of comedy. There are also many comics who do not dabble in “insulting” comedy. Some examples of “clean” comics include: Marty Simpson, Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan and Louie Anderson. There are comedy genres for everyone. Laughter is important, so let’s not let comedy die out.
Katie Trott is a junior studying creative writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Katie by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.