I wrote recently that we seem to be losing the idea of a joke.
Our society appears to be plummeting toward tragic seriousness, as satire becomes unacceptable, lightheartedness becomes intolerable, and jokes are translated as “problematic” statements with dire consequences.
You know when you’re with a close friend and they say something, and a quip comes to mind, and you let it go? It may turn out to not have been funny, but it was only an offhanded remark.
Some may disagree, but to me, that’s the greatest degree of seriousness to which any joke should be taken. That includes things spoken on a stage.
It may be undesirable, it may go unappreciated, it may even be offensive; but a joke, generally, is not supposed to have weight.
Yet, these days, comedians appear to be getting increasingly crushed for anything objectionable to the most serious among us — people with a very different idea of a joke than mine.
A telling moment in this new, woke era came Sunday night at The Emmys.
And it came from someone who knows a thing or two about offending people, who’s likely said things you don’t appreciate, even though you understand they’re jokes: Sarah Silverman.
On the red carpet at television’s trophy ceremony, speaking to E! Entertainment, Sarah provided some stunning commentary:
“They cut us off at the knees. There isn’t even a host anymore at these shows. They don’t want comedians to talk.”
“Do you offer to step in,” the interviewer asked?
“No. Nobody wants to do it, either. I mean, it’s thankless.”
She’s on the right track there — from recent memory, Tracy Morgan was shunned, Kevin Hart lost a major opportunity to host (here and here), Dave Chappelle undertook a dismissal by critics (here and here), Norm Macdonald was ejected from The Tonight Show, and an SNL newbie was canned (here). To be clear, I’m not commenting on the tastefulness of anything they said or did; but not long ago, culture was sufficiently free of feigned outrage and virtue-signaling for them to have continued their trajectory unimpeded.
To borrow from Sarah, as for cutting them off, who’s doing the chopping? Is it the Right?
Twitter had a thing or two to say:
It’s cancel culture Sarah.
From your friends on the left.
— Rocco Santarelli (@satirelli) September 22, 2019
Who is 'they'?
— Pradheep J. Shanker (@Neoavatara) September 22, 2019
She can thank all her crazy buddies for that.
— Liljah (@Lilsisk73) September 23, 2019
Humor not allowed among the woke.
— Desert Girl (@aztraveler1) September 23, 2019
One tweeter referenced 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who I covered here:
The liberals created a Frankenstein monster that's out of control and is attacking everybody, right and left. Oh well, does anyone really need to laugh? Let's all worship Greta Thunberg instead.
Some even blamed Sarah:
Does she have a mirror handy? I appreciate her saying this tho, but she was a part of the problem. Even tho her ‘life gives you AIDS, make lemonaids’ joke is one of my favorites.
— Attack Lizard (@MingusYaDingus) September 22, 2019
She’s one of the biggest contributors to the problem she’s complaining about
— OrangeManBADmKay (@OrangeManBADmK) September 22, 2019
You've been hoisted on your own petard. Love, Bill Shakespeare.
— Jenny 🐼 (@JCEdmund) September 23, 2019
Maynardg referenced Martin Neimöller, the anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor who wrote the famous “First they came…”
When they came for the conservatives, you said nothing…you've been Martin Neimoller'd, babe.
— Maynardg (@maynardg59) September 23, 2019
And some users got pretty creative:
— Mark Roxberry (@roxberry) September 22, 2019
She goes from edgy offensive comedian to a comedy gatekeeper for the Woke Brigade & now she's pissy they turned on her & the rest of the comedians??? pic.twitter.com/igtMAEME5j
— WastelandWanderer (@PsyclonJoker) September 23, 2019
Sarah never expected her own cancel culture baby to turn against her. pic.twitter.com/CcQuUW7fh6
— Danny Borruso (@DannyBorruso) September 23, 2019
One commenter had a wholly different take:
Don’t want to be preached at so I don’t watch anymore
— Lisa (@Dallas_TXGirl) September 23, 2019
We’re living in the age of cancellation, and — so far as I’m concerned — we’re worse for it.
How do we go back? It may take a revolution; it may take more than comedians selling themselves as those who’ll say anything and everything yet seeming to conform to all the same political and social points of view.
Maybe we need, from the stage, what those on the Left side of the aisle have hailed time and again, yet haven’t seemed to much appreciate in ways it actually counts: where thoughts are concerned, diversity.
The world is waiting for it. And so are the laughs.
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