Being sensitive is a great human trait when used as a deterrent from injustices. However like most things in life, too much of anything is never a good thing. Without a balance, good intentions can be overwhelming and/or detrimental to harmony. As is the case with today’s political correctness.
Political correctness has its place, but not in stand-up comedy. It never has and never will. And yet it (political correctness) has been like a virus slowly infected free thinking and creativity of the stand up community lately. This is unfortunate because there are no, nor should there be any protected species in stand-up comedy. Everyone and everything should be open for discussion and the option to poke fun at anything should always be available. This is how comedians have historically played a big part helping to maintain balance in society. Nothing gets past the observations of comedians. We inspire reflection, spark debate and when things are at there worst, laughter takes the edge off most situations. We are necessary.
Unfortunately we’ve reached a point where our prep for comedy shows sometimes consist of venue owners, promoters, and/or bookers identifying what you can say and what topics to steer clear of. Really? People are so afraid of someone being offended that they allow the personal preferences of others to bully them into actions or non-actions that they wouldn’t normally do.
At an comedy club two weeks ago a comedian of indian decent during his heading set shared his thoughts on the Black Lives Movement matter in the affirmative. He was simply being empathetic to victims of police brutality in front of a mostly white crowd. All was well until an audience member yelled out “Sand Nigger!” Which started the domino effect of booing. When the comedian reached his car there was a death threat on his windshield. A similar situation happened when a Lesbian comedian was heckled without mercy for having the audacity to poke fun at the LGBTQ community at a Gay pride show. I myself have been approached after a show by a couple of avid dog lovers about my “Why You Still Mad at Mike Vick” joke. Of course I ignored them and did the same joke the next night ,but the pattern of sensitive people feeling as if they have a voice at comedy shows is alarming.
No matter the special interest group or topic ,we comedians must be vigilant and not allow society to water our messages down. Our job is to shine a flashlight on the absurdities we observe around us. We must not contribute or participate in the further pussyfication of America. We human beings have become so caught up in our emotions that we have stop realizing that we do have options to turn off, not listen to and/or remove ourselves from anything that annoys or angers us. As gate keepers of freedom of speech, we comedians must respect the legacy of Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor….etc. We have to stand firm in our truth in spite of political correctness.
BY MARVIN HUNTER