On Comedy and Political Correctness
Ben Schwartz tackles the issue of comedy and political correctness in a remarkably thoughtful piece that has implications well beyond the world of jokes and yucks. Two sections stand out, though the entire piece is worth a read:
On A.O. Scott’s New York Times piece on the current “humor crisis” and calls for a return to a time when things were clearer, Schwartz says:
No, times weren’t any more clear back then, ever. If the past seems more clear to anyone now, that’s perhaps because large segments of the audience were silenced, or never asked what they thought—be they people of color, women, or LGBT people.
And on what we all should do about it, Schwartz offers the following:
Comedy is more often than not a populist business, so why are we surprised when the response it engenders in its audience is equally populist? What we could use is a better vocabulary to criticize and answer comedians. Is every comment about race, gender, or sexuality we don’t agree with a sure sign the comedian is a racist or bigot whose career needs to end? While watching a comedian in a club, do we really need to shout them down in the middle of a set because we fear that it’s heading somewhere that we won’t like? In short, a little patience, a little of the tolerance we insist that our comedians demonstrate, would be welcome from the audience, too.
This last part in particular is sage advice for all of us whether we are talking about comedy or anything else that can quickly flare up.