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May 14, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: I Stand Corrected

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I stand corrected

I have been a comedian for over 30 years. Long enough to be able to tell you that political correctness is NOT destroying comedy. It’s made it better. I get tired of reading articles that feature old blokes who can’t tell their racist, sexist jokes anymore complaining that the world is too politically correct for their genius.

The reason people don’t laugh at ‘politically incorrect’ jokes, isn’t because the world has gone mad, it’s because those jokes aren’t funny anymore. They weren’t actually funny in the first place. They were mean. If you haven’t been the target of that sort of material, which many of the tellers haven’t, they don’t know what it feels like to be on the other side.

I have sat, side-of-stage waiting to go on while men have told jokes about fucking their girlfriend in the arse, or how ugly and fat some chick was that they picked up in a bar. I have heard jokes about poofta bashing. And I’ve heard a lot of shit jokes about Asian drivers.

I was performing at the Comedy Store in Sydney many years ago when a comic who I won’t name, did some horrendous gag about how great it is when Asian drivers are killed. The audience thought it was hysterical. The comic was a complete moron. Later that night when I was in the carpark I spied him walking towards his car and I thought wouldn’t it be ironic if I accidentally ran him over? If I was Asian I would have probably done it, not because of any racial profile, because in comedy terms, that would have been a pretty neat call back.

When you stand in front of people with a microphone you have a responsibility, not just how you make them laugh, but how you make them think. I don’t like the term political correctness. This is a term coined by the alt-right to diminish the right that marginalised groups have to not be ridiculed and patronised for the amusement of dominant culture: those who believe they have claim on that territory called ‘normal’ or ‘universal’. They define difference as anyone who is not them. Meaning generally, anyone not a white, straight, Anglo man. Anyone who is not ‘them’ is a target for ridicule. And if you don’t find it funny, then apparently you don’t have a sense of humour.

Politically correct is a loaded term. It carries inherent negativity. When people say ‘politically correct’ the words are infused with a judgement which dictates that not bullying people different to us, is somehow a blow to our basic freedoms. When people talk about political correctness they talk about it as if it’s a bad thing. Like it’s ruined the party. IT hasn’t. But it has ruined a good old fashioned comic lynching. It has taken away our basic freedoms to oppress, humiliate and re-inforce ideas or beliefs that reduce another person or group to a stereotype so we can laugh at how stupid, or useless or ugly or fat or dumb they are. I mean when you’re feeling a bit low, how fun is it to find other groups of people to feel better than! It’s exhilarating. Particularly if you yourself are particularly useless and dumb to start with.

I would like to re-brand ‘politically correct’ to ‘respectful’ or ‘educated and aware’ or maybe just ‘clever’. Yep, clever. When you’re not punching down, you have to punch up, which means you can’t kick the clappers out of cliched targets. You can’t line up some minority group and let rip, you have to find a way to find the funny in other ways. Most of the comics I know seem to have no problem creating material that is funny and interesting and isn’t offensive. It’s still edgy. It’s still pushing boundaries. In my opinion, it’s more powerful than it’s ever been. And I’ve seen a LOT of comedy. It can still be outrageous. It just has to BELONG to you. No one does better comedy about being Indigenous than an Indigenous comic. Same goes for gay comics. And Women. And Muslims. Et Al. It has made it a challenging time for straight white male comics because they’ve had to get really really good – or go home.

What’s the point of oppressing people if the people you’ve oppressed end up with all the good jokes? Here’s an idea, support a matriarchy, and we’ll oppress you for a few generations – then creative freedom is yours! But, I should warn you, you will be paid less, and they’ll only ever book one bloke per show because you can’t have ‘too many’ blokes on the bill – that would be bad for business.

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  1. I was kicked out of a uni bar for harrasment for no more than saying hello. Later I tried a subject just saying back what I had been taught and scored the only 7 of all my studies. That was the end of my studies. PC was once about reading a book or three and contemplating the argument, usually pretty good arguments, niceness basically though with a whole host of historical evidence: Greer, Wolfe I remember. Now it’s 50 pars or 25 words and regulation to boot.

  2. Oppression? Women have created the ideals for 40 years. And viva la difference is disappearing. Not that I ever understood it. So I stand corrected. The hope of an intellectual equal is no more plausible than asexuality. Which is what the pundits want, their own moon.

  3. There is so much BS above that it’s hard to comment on the good stuff but I’ll have a go…

    There is a difference between politically correct and respectful, educated, aware, polite and so on. The key difference being one that is dictated by a some crony (man or women, black or white, old or young) telling you that you “cannot” say something because of offense or upset versus simple civility. Being nice because it’s a good way to operate in a community, make friends, recognise people strengths and simply reduce the amount of flack you get back is a good idea – and I totally support you on this. There is a HUGE difference though and you are brushing that aside.

    Secondly, your focus on men as antagonists in your articles (most of them nowadays) is doing exactly what you say you want to avoid. You are abusive and revel in the stardom of controversy – similar to journos like Clementine Ford who at their heart have personal ambition (with a chip) and a vendetta against some image of men (or whatever target fits the bill) that is too personal to be professional.

    Thirdly, and correct me if I’m wrong here because I don’t have a reference, only vague memories – that you are known to stand on stage and be crude and rude about individuals and groups and even your own children to get a laugh. And that’s different?

    You try to project the virtues of some straight-talking, honest, Aussie icon who says it like is really is – and you are not. You are very clever and funny and just like the rest of us, full of it.

  4. Charles Chaplin made fun of his own invention, a character as did Woody Allen, a character of his invention. Neither were correct nor incorrect because at the heart of the humour, the humourists could be seen to be laughing at themselves, which is something anyone with heart can sympathise with, our little foibles and idiocyncrasies we hope noone else notices. No. PC means political whether it’s correct or not, an attempt to change the political landscape. At that point the humourists become just more politicians vying for a laugh from the vantage point of a soapbox. Some are good at it, for a while, til the lines run dry and it all becomes the latest campaign. Allen and Chaplin could be political, as with Tatu as well, but it was never without circumspect, the writer’s own knowledge of frailty.

  5. Thanks Mandy – I’ve heard many people reject the “that’s pc and it’s wrong” sympathies. Pc is also a real indicator that the speaker is unwilling or unable to think through the various aspects concerning the issue under discussion. It’s become a convenient way of dismissing a human concern.
    Look forward to more of your analysis Mandy.o

  6. Good on you Mandy. A friend told me she’d received a phone-call
    from a chap who – knowing she was a lesbian – decided to tell her
    a ‘joke’ about how a man could fix her preference. Her reply that
    his ‘pathetic intrusion would not be tolerated’, ended the call.
    Now the chap’s wife is sending abusive texts. Her husband’s just
    a joker – a good man. What’s the fuss about! Her ‘other half’ is
    too upset to go to work. I reckon the git is a politically incorrect
    weakling & the wife… leave that to the imagination.

  7. I dont think a comedian has a responsability to make people think. They have one to make you laugh though.If you can combine the two youve done well

  8. Ha ha ha… check out the gender bias in the responses…
    Go Mandy!! I love a comedian who makes me think and doesn’t have to bad mouth ANYONE to get a laugh! Bring on the Matriarchy. (Just for a few generations – just for balances sake 😉

  9. Not sure whether you’re correct….not politically. But I did note that something like 75% of respondents to an R Gervais twitter poll voted “the tubby little ginger c*!t” joke THE best quip in his latest Netflix series. I thought so too but its probably not “politically correct” either.

    I think the best defence for your occupation is, as Gervais puts it…..”if you step into MY church play by my rules”……….


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