There has been a lot of talk the past few years about comedians not wanting to perform on college campuses because they feel that their audiences are way too sensitive about political correctness.
In an interview last year, Jerry Seinfeld said: “A lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges, they’re so PC.”
Responding to criticisms about the lack of diversity on his show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” he said: “This really makes me angry. People think it’s the census or something; it’s gotta represent the actual pie chart of America. I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that. To me, it’s anti-comedy. It’s more about PC nonsense, than are you making us laugh or not.”
In an interview in New York Magazine, Chris Rock said he stopped playing colleges because they are too conservative in their social views and “their willingness not to offend anybody.”
Universities and colleges across the country have been at this for years. Speakers with the“incorrect” point of view are shouted down or “uninvited” from engagements.
Importantly, the PC controversy is not about language; it’s about content.
Gilbert Gottfried noted: “Imagine if the most brilliant comedians in history were working today. They’d never stop apologizing. Charlie Chaplin would have to apologize to all the homeless people because of his Little Tramp character. W.C. Fields would have to apologize to alcoholics. The Marx brothers would have to apologize to mutes.”
It’s the responsibility of comedians to make fun of things; to engage in sacred cow tipping. By being politically correct,you’re closing your mind to a different point of view. I hate to think that someday laughter and harmless fun will be as prohibited as dancing was in that town in “Footloose.”
Two very funny and talented friends of mine performed for students at a prestigious liberal arts college last year and each of them told me how unresponsive the audience was to much of their material regarding topics such as religion,politics and sex, because it was considered to be politically incorrect.
How attitudes have changed! The comic anarchy of Marx Brothers’ films enjoyed a resurgence on college campuses thanks to film retrospectives in the late 1960s. At a time of student unrest and campus protests, it’s easy to see why their irreverent humor, attacking authority figures, would connect with that age group. Duck Soup satirized nationalism. In Horse Feathers, Groucho is the president of a university who displays a cavalier attitude toward education.
In a Salon interview last year, Patton Oswalt said it bothered him that “the liberal progressives have now become the scolds. We were the Grouchos!…and we’re turning into the Margaret Dumonts on a lot of levels. That lets the misogynists and homophobes and racists seem like the rebels.”
And, as he put it, “Comedians have always been the best conduit to the forgotten, to the outsiders, to the inarticulate. We speak for the underdogs, for the most part. That’s what most comedians do.”
I think political correctness has been sorely misused over the years. People who want great literature such as Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird banned from schools and libraries because of racial slurs are missing the point of the stories.
Carlin was the master of “sociological” comedy; shining a spotlight on the hypocrisies in human behavior. He warned about the greater threat to free speech: “Years ago, we all got to expect that censorship would come from the right wing, but to expect it from the left wing — from the politically correct people on the campuses — that caught me by surprise.”
Entertainers have been battling political correctness for many years. The Motion Picture Production Code, (known as the Hays Code) started enforcing a set of rules governing American filmmaking in 1934 , stifling American cinema for over three decades. Citing that that no picture should ever”lower the moral standards of those who see it” Among many prohibitions, it stated that seduction is never the proper subject for comedy.
It prohibited interracial romance, revenge plots, and the showing of a crime method clearly enough that it might be imitated. Under those limitations,most everything that Shakespeare wrote would have been banned.
For some paradoxical reason, jokes tailored for certain groups often don’t get laughs from these assemblages even though they are more likely to “get” the jokes.
For example,religious jokes don’t go over well in certain church groups. People who could actually understand a punchline that involves Deuteronomy immediately express horror, shock, and ire at the mere mention in a comic set-up of God, Jesus, Catholics, the Pope, Original Sin, Gosh Darn, Jeezum Crow, or “what’s the deal with the communion wafers?”
My comedy routines are clean. There is more bad language in the average confessional than in my act, but I have encountered opposition with some of my topics.
I performed at an institution of higher learning earlier this year and, although most of my set was very well-received, when I went into a routine that involved religion,it was like the air was suddenly sucked out of the room.
People want to replace “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays,” but think nothing of shopping for a month or more in “celebration” of their respective holy day. After all, nothing says “Happy Birthday,Jesus” like a gift from Victoria’s Secret.
With the Christmas shopping season already upon us, should the stores caution their Santas to say “Ha, Ha, Ha” instead of Ho, Ho, Ho? Perhaps “Don we now our jolly apparel?”
In the 1977 movie Oh, God!, George Burns, portraying God, delivered an apt quote from the French satirist Voltaire: “God is a comedian playing to an audience that’s afraid to laugh.”