Opinion: Comedy isn’t dead; it’s just evolving

Claims that “woke culture” is destroying comedy are factually incorrect and culturally insensitive.



Dave Chappelle performs at the Radio City Music Hall on Aug. 24, 2017 in New York City.

Peyton Downing, Columnist

The release of Joker has prompted a lot of discussion on a variety of topics, most of it centering around the possibility of inspiring violence for whatever reason. But one discussion that is going under the radar comes not from the movie in and of itself, but rather comments from director Todd Phillips.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Phillips said it’s too difficult to do comedy now. He claimed that most people are too sensitive and that the entire genre of comedy is practically dead. But he’s simply wrong.

Phillips has said comedy is nearly impossible to do nowadays because of “woke culture,” yet, there is no evidence to support Phillips’ claim of comedy being dead. It’s still very much alive with a multitude of comedies available online, irreverent or not.

This isn’t just a problem in Joker. On Netflix, there is Dave Chappelle joking about child molestation, Louis CK insulting Parkland shooting survivors, and Kevin Hart, who said he would prevent his son from being gay if he had the power.

You’re not barred from touching on these subjects at all. There are plenty of ways in which it’s possible to talk about these communities in ways that aren’t derogatory.

If the old guard of comedy is being removed by woke culture, it wouldn’t be as well-preserved in Netflix as it is.

That is not to say anything of comedies that don’t attract controversy. Despite what some may wish to believe, it is possible to tackle edgier, gritty topics without being policed by woke culture. One upcoming film that highlights this is JoJo Rabbit, a movie about a young boy in Nazi Germany whose mentor is literally Hitler. Believe it or not, there has been no notable disparagement or criticism of the film for its setting.

If cracking jokes about Nazis at a time when white-supremacist violence is on the rise isn’t edgy and provocative, I don’t know what is. The real secret as to why Jojo Rabbit has not received criticism while others have is that the former has a sense of understanding. It’s not punching down on marginalized communities.

When Louis CK insults nonbinary minors by saying “F*** you. You’re a child” — it’s just bad.

There’s nothing clever about it. There is no good word play. It’s just the same stuff that’s been happening throughout all of history. You don’t have to look any further than minstrel shows, when people dressed up in blackface and made complete idiots of themselves depicting racist stereotypes. It’s the exact same thing happening today, just with different targets.

Stand-up comedian Marc Maron also puts it incredibly well on his podcastWTF with Marc Maron.

“If you’re too intimidated to try and do comedy that is deep or provocative — or even a little controversial — without hurting people, then I mean, you’re not good at what you do,” Maron said. “Or maybe you’re just insensitive.”

There will always be edgy humor. Woke culture will never erase rude comedy. Just because the market is changing does not mean that the traditions and culture of comedy will disappear.

As more groups enter the societal spotlight, trends will inevitably change. Instead of dismissing this as people simply being offended, it is time these voices are heard.