The Politically Correct Police or…The Death of Comedy?
by Leesa Dean
I originally posted this last week, was really busy, and realized today…it didn’t post. So here it is:
As a writer, I’m pretty politically incorrect. It’s all about the jokes. The comedy. And yeah, the narrative. My biggest comedic influences are Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Patrice O’Neal, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Joan Rivers and even Howard Stern (though, at times, his politics and attitude drive me nuts/piss me off).
All of them are outrageous. All of them broke rules and shifted boundaries. And, at times, all of them were taken to task for it.
But these days, the politically correct police is out in force on the internet (and, in the press) and it’s not pretty. The internet has the ability to spread things like wildfire and any person who has a gripe can chime in making it all seem like a vigilante force.
Some people wrongly associate people who are aggressively P.C. with liberals. I’m a card-carrying liberal/progressive but still am attracted to being irreverent. I also firmly believe in free speech. I think that a lot of the reason so much stuff you see on TV is not funny is cause it’s been sanitized, had the life beaten out of it and re-formed to cater to the widest audience possible (mostly to appease advertisers). Which tends to make things suck. And what I’ve been seeing just this past week is just horrible.
Comedians like Chris Rock, Michael Che, Hannibal Burress, Artie Lange and more being criticized, actually banned from certain TV networks because of internet outrage that caught fire. For telling jokes. Yeah, they might be jokes that some people found offensive. But they’re JOKES.
Am I a fan of every comedian who’s been taken to task? No. And yeah, I even find some of what some of them say offensive (and I have a pretty thick skin in that area so it’s fairly hard to offend me). But I totally support their right to say it. Cause they were telling JOKES.
So now, I’ve noticed on my social media timelines that comedians are starting to come together a bit and react to all this. Michael Che (who was dragged through the mud and made headlines for telling a joke about the catcalling video) posted a classic bit by Richard Pryor on his Facebook timeline saying, “They’d never air this today.” And it’s sad. Cause some of that humor is ground-breaking and hilarious.
A few nights ago, as part of the NY Comedy Festival, Sherrod Small, who hosts the podcast Race Wars with Kurt Metzger, got Michael Che, Wil Sylvince (who’s one of the stars of my series, Chilltown), Artie Lange (who had just been “banned for life from ESPN”), Hannibal Burress (who got taken to task for dissing Bill Cosby in his standup) and more to do a special broadcast from NYC’s Comedy Cellar. They were included partly cause they’re really funny guys. But part of it was a sort of banding together. They included Artie Lange who just that day had been banned for life from ESPN and banned from Comedy Central. It made a statement.
Here’s the link.