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The largest complaints in the world of comedy over the last few years has been surrounding woke culture. Now wokeness was supposed to be the phenomenon of seeing the world for what it is. The oligarchical nature of government and how we are constantly divided as the Middle and Lower Class based on our identities, from skin color to genitals to voter registrations. It’s like taking the Red Pill in the Matrix. Except you don’t wake up in the pod covered in goo, you usually wind up crying in the shower when you realize your favorite history teacher has been lying to you this whole time!
“WHY MRS JOHNSON WHY! I TRUSTED YOU!”
But in reality, wokeness has become a phenomena of smugness and know-it-allisms to ensure that those exhibiting problematic behaviors are isolated and shunned. It’s self-righteousness. And the problem with self-righteousness is the SELF! It’s believing you are the arbiter of what is and isn’t right for the world. Our egos are connected directly to our beliefs and identities and blinds us from understanding something that is different than us.
It’d be like waking up in the pod and asking if the goo was vegan. And when you find out that it isn’t you try to cancel your cold-heartless robot overlord with a tweet! But they control the Twitterverse! And really when a master race of robots are syphoning your body for energy from a pod, is the problem REALLY the vegan nature of the goo?
Before we go on let me preface with this. Comedy is a subjective artform. There’s several different types and genres of comedy, just like music. Just because I’m not particularly a fan of a certain comedian doesn’t mean I want them stricken from the pages of Comedy History. It just means I have a personal preference to not enjoy your work and criticize it with reason and rationale for the sake of discourse.
The problem most people have with woke culture is what these folks take offense to. Take the case of Nimesh Patel from 2018. He was kicked off the stage from Columbia University for a fairly non-controversial joke. He addresses that being gay is not a choice and he knows that because there are gay black dudes. His rationale in the joke is that being black in America is hard enough and no-one looks in the mirror and says “This black thing is too easy, let me add something else to it!”
The joke in and of itself is a good joke. I’m not a huge fan of Nimesh Patel but I do like this joke. It makes a pretty valid point and acknowledges the struggles of 2 different minority groups who have been marginalized across the world. The organizers of the event cut the show early and claimed he had made disrespectful and offensive statements. And when he was given a chance to make closing statements his mic was cut off.
This is a situation where people missed the context of the joke. The premise of the joke is a leftist ideology that being gay is not a choice, and the rest of the joke is providing context for it. Context is very important. If you’re just paying attention to buzzwords then you’ll miss the larger and more nuanced point of the joke and only live your life looking for offenses, while you are constantly living on the defense.
But therein lies one of the greater reasons why people get so offended at jokes like that one. Nuanced view points don’t get the inflated attention like extreme reactions, behaviors and actions do. [SC 3] Black and White thinking is easy and gets far more attention than ideas that need discussion, thought, empathy and understanding. And with corporate media pushing these extreme thoughts, they don’t have time for nuance. They have to cram in the division and then sell some chocolates that’ll give us 3 new types of diabetes or new age organic tampons that donates your menstrual blood for research or some kind of new 11 blade razor that’ll trim your ball hairs from a mile and a half away using a sniper scope developed by Raytheon.
Because of the attention we get from polarized thoughts and reactions, we go more and more to the extremes. So in terms of Comedy, if we have deemed that your jokes are not approved our by the self righteous compass of wokeness, then there’s an effort to ensure you’re cancelled from the world of comedy. It’s the Internet’s version of “You’ll never work in this town again, kid!”
Cancel Culture goes against the virtues of critical thought. If a joke, song, idea, etc, is offensive or disrespectful to a group of people, it is important to know and understand why it is offensive and disrespectful. This is evident in the case of Shane Gillis. Gillis was fired from Saturday Night Live after podcasts of him using racial slurs against Asian people resurfaced.
The problem with Gillis’ jokes are, not only were they reinforcing age old stereotypes about Asian people, but also were crude, unoriginal and more importantly not funny. Gillis made fun of the way Asian folk talk, which has been a stereotype since the British decided to use China as an opium den. He also remarked that Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang was a “Jew Chink”, which is half an ethicity and half a slur, so in that circumstance I guess he’s only half a bigot.
Now this did cause a bit of schism in the Comedy community at large. Some comedians like Bill Burr called the woke left that dug up the podcasts a bunch of “rats”. That’s a bit much. Its Comedy not an epic Scorsese film about gangsters in Middle America running an underground comedy club where the most racist of comedians find a safe space to be discriminatory against minorities against all odds. But other comedians like Dana Gould looked at this call-out as an opportunity to make Gillis’s writing stronger.
I agree with the latter. When I’ve been critiqued on my Stand Up by an audience member or another comedian, I usually have a discussion with them and if it makes sense I apply that to my comedy. I’ve changed and made pieces stronger because of that. Sometimes it doesn’t help, but more often than not, adding a perspective I didn’t before strengthened my material. It makes Comedy a less lonely profession and shows me that people are paying attention and actually care!
Gillis did respond to the controversy after his firing from Saturday Night Live. “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss. If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you’re going to find a lot of bad misses. I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
Prior to this he did tweet out stating that nobody could take away the fact that he was talented enough to get on SNL, yet he negates that by saying his decade long comedy career is mostly full of duds. What an odd juxtaposition of self deprecation and overconfidence. Is this what white privilege actually looks like? A juxtaposition of martyrdom and aggressive, stand your ground confidence? That sounds mentally exhausting to live in.
Gillis also talks about taking risks. But I’ve seen his Stand Up and it’s not taking any risks in my opinion. His comedy seems to be soft ball ideas and at times being contrarian to be edgy only to back down from it. It stays on the side of the Status Quo and that’s not risky. And overusing racial slurs is most definitely not risky!
Gillis isn’t wrong when he says that Comedy should push boundaries and take risks. But what he’s doing is neither of those things. For that matter, neither is Saturday Night Live. In fact SNL has some of the same failings that Gillis does. They portray anti-establishment candidates like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard as stereotypes.
Bernie is portrayed as a stereotypical jewish grandfather looking for the next deal, because SNL doesn’t understand what Democratic Socialism actually is. Tulsi is portrayed as a Disney villain looking to drown puppies, because she’s challenges the Democratic Establishment and has a white streak in her hair. The white streak which serves as a reminder for her time in active duty as a medic in the Military.
This is not risky or pushing boundaries. It’s living within the approved boundaries and rules set by the corporate oligarchy. It’s using comedy to reinforce propagandistic views on minority candidates. It sets the example of how we should treat people on the fringes with a different set of beliefs than we do. If you want to really push boundaries, challenge the Status Quo. If you really want to take a risk, punch up on the Empire.
As comedy legend, George Carlin points out in an interview with Larry King, Comedy has always challenged those is power. Lenny Bruce paved the way for every one of us to go against the status quo of society and what can and can’t be talked about in a public space. Comedians like Richard Pryor and Dick Gregory opened the real conversations about race in America and the institutions behind them at a time when that wasn’t a common place.
People against the woke culture of comedy always use Carlin, Pryor or Bruce as a touchstone for free speech and challenging the status quo. What they fail to understand that is that these comedians didn’t fight for free speech rights for some white kid to use the N-Word or say disparaging things about minorities. Rather they fought for the rights of the people to criticize the illogical set up of our society and the fawning of the elites. The truest way of Punching Up.
But there’s always going to be people that identify with comedians and artists like Shane Gillis or any of the other comedians that punches down to be funny. In the same interview with Larry King, Carlin talks about why people find Dice Clay funny. That’s the fragility of that ego. The same kind of ego that encourages wokeness exists in the anti-woke crowd.
Comedy plays into a group’s insecurities and either props them up or tears them down. This notion plays into the division sown into our communities by the intelligence agencies and the Deep State. The ruling elites of our society’s oligarchy don’t really want us to come together and realize the reason why there’s all this angst and anger in our society is caused by their greed, controlled by their egos.
Some people believe comedy has to be mean to be funny. Colin Quinn states “I feel like a lot of people now are saying, ‘You know what? Comedy is supposed to be uplifting.’ It’s like, what are you, the new moral majority all of a sudden?” Comedy CAN be uplifting. Comedy CAN show you a new perspective or story and bring light to something you may not have considered before. But you’re going to have to put your insecurities and your ego aside for an evening to see something outside the scope of yourself.
Now this doesn’t mean that I’m for restricting anyone’s speech or banning ideas. That also goes against critical thought. As a society we should have the ability to listen to an idea and even if we don’t like it, be able to make a judgement call and have a discussion about it. We’re evolved, thinking creatures, we should probably start acting like it. As much as I am an advocate for Free Speech, I am very well aware that there’s no consequence free speech!
Even the type of comedy I do, where I address issues, philosophy and topics, not seen in the mainstream has its consequences. Certain comedy clubs won’t bring me through their doors because the material is too controversial. And people don’t like to think while downing Bud Lights and Chicken Tenders. They want to see a puppet say mildly racist & sexist things to forget society’s racism and sexism. Certain comedians don’t think what I do is Comedy because of the subject matter of my act. And I’ve been threatened to be killed at least 3 times and someone threatened to deport me after a show too! See, consequences.
There is a case about free speech from Canada that is proving to be very troublesome to the idea we’ve been discussing in this video. Mike Ward a French Canadian Comedian had to pay Jeremy Gabriel, a disabled singer, $42K CAD for a joke he wrote about him.
Before we delve into the details of this case, regardless of how you feel about the joke, this is a huge problem! This means that if someone or an entity decides that they don’t like you addressing or analyzing them through an art form they can claim it be a Human Rights violation. And remember corporations are people in America, so this is heading us down a really dark path! This means that Raytheon can go after anti-war activists and artists and claim we’re violating it’s human rights while they commit all the TRUE human rights violations!
Now Jeremy Gabriel is a young man with a disability that affects his muscular and skeletal structure. He was part of a program that grants last wishes. In Mike Ward’s joke he talks about this kid’s dream of singing in front of the Pope. The problem is that he’s also deaf, so the song isn’t great. But Jeremy got to do it and years later he lives on. This is where Mike Ward’s joke comes in.
“The little fucker won’t die; I was defending him like an asshole! And he won’t die! If I defend you, you die, that’s the deal we had! That heartless little fucker is un-killable, I saw him at a waterpark last summer, I tried to drown him… nothing. I went on the Internet to find out more about him, what he’s suffering from. You know what he has? He’s ugly!”
Now I understand the context behind the joke. Mike Ward is dark comedian and honestly most of it I find funny. I like dark humor. Everything up to the last line, I find darkly funny. It’s a lazy punchline. And that’s what got him in trouble!
The Human Rights Tribunal fined Mike Ward. Eventually they landed at $42K CAD under discrimination. The problem with this is that the Human Rights Tribunal primarily penalizes people for discrimination in terms of housing, employment and goods & services. Ward’s joke didn’t say Jeremy couldn’t attend his shows because of his disability, it made a subjective remark about his appearance. A ruling like this a slippery slope.
I looked this kid up. He doesn’t look all that bad! This seems like he’s got the same level of self image issues that most teenagers have. Eventually you realize that people making fun of you are also self conscious and would rather just keep punching down. His music is pop garbage, but he’s an average lookin’ fella.
It’s easy to come after the comedians. A lot of us hold a mirror up to society and remind us of it’s darker parts. It’s easy to pick on the comic and hold us to higher moral standards. The mob that Carlin addresses picks on the individuals because it’s easy to tear them down. The Group punches down to the Individual. We’re the messengers and society always kills the messengers first.
Comedy has always been about social justice and punching up, whether you think social justice is about exercising your right to say something dark or empowering a group to gain equality. Depending on how you present these arguments and who the targets of your jokes are is what makes things funny or punching down to continue a cycle of oppressive behaviors.