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.