I don’t watch a lot of television or movies, so when I turn on a comedy special, I am expecting original jokes and something that I’ll remember. The other day, I was watching another stand-up comedy special when I realized how much of the material could be taken out of context.
In current times, the boundaries of comedy have descended, while the limit of what someone can joke about has become more restricting, and less forgiving.
There’s a simple answer to why the material in comedy — whether that be stand-up, a special on Netflix, or a simple clip online — requires freedom and flexibility.
Undoubtedly, not every joke or line of a comedy special will be universally funny, but many comedians have been receiving scrutiny over statements they have made during a set in the past.
A stand-up that was too serious actually happened fairly recently at the Golden Globes, when Ricky Geravis hosted.
Gervais made fun of everything about Hollywood, and based on many of the celebrities’ reactions, both in real time and after the ceremony, they didn’t seem too pleased with Gervais and his humor.
Gervais is a very outspoken celebrity, he is never shy from sharing his opinion and is often making fun of something.
NPR ended up conducting an interview with Gervais after his monologue sparked controversy. Gervais stated, “I’ve seen people say, ‘Ricky Gervais made this terrible joke’…but they’ve got it slightly wrong. Or they’ve misunderstood it…you didn’t get the joke.”
Gervais goes on to affirm to the audience listening to NPR “you’re allowed not to like my jokes. But to criticize it, I think they should understand it [first].”
A comedian has two jobs: telling fantastic jokes and filling the audience with joy. If someone must worry about every little detail of a joke they make or reference, they will fail to produce their best quality content.
One of the best parts of stand-up is its improvisation, and the beauty of improv gets taken away if people feel they have to prepare a joke before it is said.
Cancel culture is this idea that anything someone might not agree with or might be the slightest offended at will get canceled and cast out of a community. In many instances, it has been celebrities who have been targets of cancel culture, as often the things they say or do are highly publicized.
If the actions are something a large enough group has deemed as problematic, they will be cast out of society.
After his performance at the Golden Globes in 2020, Geravis had a close call almost getting canceled. Once something is online, it’s there permanently; so although his speech was aired on television, it can be viewed over and over on social media platforms.
When it comes to cancel culture, it only takes one share on the internet before the behavior everyone deems as problematic is aired everywhere.
Context is, understandably, the key to telling a good joke. While I am opposed to the world of comedy being a victim to cancel culture, comedians need to know when to draw the line on the subjects of topics they are joking about, before going overboard.
If a comedian is a person of immoral beliefs or lacking values, in that case I think they’ve earned the right to be canceled by many others. The problem a lot of times is the distinction between someone joking versus someone saying something problematic is blurred in comedy.
Gervais, of course, refused and chose to let them ‘cancel’ him. It had no effect at all considering Gervais is constantly producing, acting, or filming some type of media.
Comedy has always been known as a quick escape. With depression and other mental health problems rising in the world, people need to continue to allow humor into their lives. If cancel culture keeps going at the rate it is, there will be nothing to joke about.