Comedians take a lot of heat. We take risks constantly and perform in all sorts of environments- hostile and friendly.
But what we risk more than anything is often being honest. Which can translate to “being edgy.” But I’m not talking about edgy in the overplayed “let me cuss a lot and offend everyone here possible” way. I’m talking about in the way that we say something that people really want to laugh at because it rings so true to them, but they don’t want to laugh out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings.
Let me start with saying I’m not a fan of any comedy that hurts feelings. I am, to a fault, a comedy person who likes to bring people along and not hurt feelings. I say “to a fault” because it sometimes means I won’t be the most memorable comic of the night. I won’t be the person who pissed you off or who shocked you. I’m learning how to make my style of stand up comedy really sharp so I can be that… but it’s a process. And I refuse to become something I’m not just for the sake of being “memorable.”
But I digress. What I was saying was that sometimes, people say things that ring true to them that bring out some issue or problem that they can’t address directly. And oftentimes, they cloak it in a joke.
Now, I could get into a deep philosophical discussion about comedy as a means to an end and as a constant and necessary way of human expression. I would start there and delve further into the nature of political comedy and why comedians, no matter what their intention or actual political leanings, tend to get viewed as more liberal. I could even delve further from there into my own journey with comedy- with my roots and interest in politics and how and why it changed throughout the years.
But I ain’t got time for any of that right now. So I’ll get to the point.
And my point is this: If you don’t like the type of humor somebody spouts, don’t support stuff they do. But don’t demonize them into something or someone they’re not. They’re a person with an opinion. And odds are, they’re testing to see if material will even work and people will be receptive to them. And as long as they’re getting audiences to listen to their opinion, they’re going to keep saying and exploring it further. If they don’t have an audience, they would eventually stop saying it. But as long as they can find support, they’re going to continue saying whatever they want.
And they’re allowed to. A comedians job is to find their voice and to connect with audiences. It’s also part of the description to be an exaggeration of who you really are and what you really believe. The exaggeration is where comedy comes in. It’s the difference between the seasoned pro who spends his set yelling while making the audience scream with laughter and the terrifying amateur who scares everybody in the room and comes across as a crazy person. They’re job is to hone in that persona and that exaggeration. Their job is to sell a style. And your responsibility is to support it or ignore it. They’ll become louder or eventually shut up depending on what you decide.
But it’s not your job to get mad at them for saying things. It’s not your job- or anyone’s- to demand apologies for having opinions. All people have opinions. Just because comedians cultivate an audience to listen to them doesn’t mean they have any more or less responsibility to agree with you. They only have a responsibility to their own voice and to their art. If you don’t like what they say, stop listening. But don’t demand us to stop having opinions.
It’s especially difficult for comedians in a world where everything can be taken out of context and twisted. Context for comedy is everything. And if you take time to pause and think about what was said, why it was said, and how it was said… you’ll be able to have a more honest understanding of the situation.
I think sometimes when something controversial is said or brought up that hits a nerve in society, we should examine why we are bothered by that nerve rather than get upset that we have nerves. It’s an opportunity to define who we are and what we are, not an opportunity to shame someone for expressing themselves.
So don’t hate the playa’s baby. In face, don’t hate anyone or anything at all. Hate is harmful. Love is power. Love them playas and know why they playin’ the game so you, too, can love dat game doe.