The state of comedy in 2019 

By Opinion & Editorial Editor James Mellen

The current culture surrounding comedy is one that has been highly fluctuating in recent years. This is evidenced by multiple responses from famous, renowned comedians, such as Jerry Seinfeld, noting a change in their audiences. While there is a disagreement between audience and performer over what flies as a joke and what plummets as an offense, it’s important to remember one crucial detail; Jeff Dunham is not funny in any sense. 

A large amount of comedians have made it a portion of their comedy to comment on the current political culture. “I don’t play colleges,” Seinfeld explained, “I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’” He is not alone in that synopsis. Dave Chappelle, a comedy staple in anybody’s diet, has made mention of this concept several times in his specials. His most recent special, Sticks and Stones, makes a point of upping the controversy. 

These comedians, and several others, have directed these complaints towards the growing PC culture, or political correctness. Comedians hiss this word like the plague as it reduces their best bits to rubble. ‘PC Culture’ is what Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry the Cable Guy, and other large names try to avoid in their audiences. In areas that are more PC, such as college campuses, these comedians are finding less positive reception to taboo subjects. 

Some of the no-fly jokes being canceled are long overdue. Jokes about incredibly taboo subjects have also taken a nosedive in popularity. This is different from controversial topics, as gun control conversations and views on the morality of childbirth are in full swing. However, the line between what’s okay and what’s not is clouded to a lot of comedians who firmly believe this PC shift is dangerous. 

Dave Chappelle returned from a decade-long hiatus, and released some much awaited specials. However, many audiences were disappointed by the tone of his performances. He included jokes about transsexuals, Michael Jackson, and the cancel culture in his newest release, “Sticks and Stones.” The jokes did not land, to say the least. Audiences referred to the jokes as “tasteless.”  

But who’s responsible for fixing this mistranslation? It’s too neat to cleave the blame in one direction over the other; in some instances, political correctness is an alarm bell rung before the offense is made. Comedy has had an important job since the invention of the jester, which was to provide hilarity to grim realities. “Humour is a rubber sword—it allows you to make a point without drawing blood,” is Mary Hisch’s take on the subject. 

Comedic takes on tragedies soften the inflammation of the memory, and is usually part of the comic’s own healing process. Comedy can be as simple as somebody finding a unique humor in melancholy, one that can be shared. In this way, comedy can be a social salve that introduces an uncomfortable concept that deserves to be discussed. 

Comedy is far too nuanced to declare what makes a joke funny or unfunny, which makes it tricky to police. However, it doesn’t take much police work to spot a joke designed to shock and be abrasive; AKA, a really crappy joke. Jeff Dunham, puppet comedian, specializes in this type of joke. 

However, the intent behind political correctness serves to make comedy more serviceable and more widely enjoyable. Alienating audiences should never be a byproduct of good comedy. If a joke serves to fail the previous rule, it’s fair to consider that it’s not actually appropriate. 

This does not refer to every comedian. In fact, there are a litany of comedians in every category that are capable of being funny without insulting everybody. If comedy needs to come at somebody’s expense, maybe it’s high time for that comedy to retire. If comedy needs to denigrate a group to raise laughter from another, maybe that comedy didn’t have the chops in the first place. And most importantly, if comedy relies on cliché stereotypes and puppet work to make somebody laugh, maybe that comedy should’ve never been popular in the first place. 

I really, really hate Jeff Dunham. 

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