Some joyless censor over at the Daily Beast is scolding comedian Ricky Gervais over the kinds of jokes he tells. Samantha Allen, who sounds like a concern troll sucking a lemon, is so triggered she is actually trying to manufacture boundaries around satire through the use of emotional blackmail in the form of advice about how certain jokes can affect a comedian’s legacy, his place in history.
Comedians, she argues, “must at once capture a moment, delivering timely jokes on the hot topics of today, but years from now, they will also be the way we remember and revisit the best work of our favorite comic minds.”
Getting more specific, Allen singled out Gervais with this sorry piece of Well-I-Never pearl grasping: “Which only makes it all the more baffling that so many of today’s most successful comedians — most recently British Office creator Ricky Gervais in his Netflix special Humanity — are wasting so much of their precious time on tired jokes about Caitlyn Jenner and other transgender people.”
Let me back up 40 years…
Universal Studios is putting the final touches on a little movie it does not expect much from called Animal House. The executives are worried about a specific scene that could be construed as racist — the now famous scene where a bunch of white college kids arrive at an all-black roadhouse. The scene is not racist, but does exaggerate stereotypes (black and white) that are based in part on truth, and the scene is hilariously funny and memorable.
The filmmakers want to keep the scene. The suits want it gone. So a young, black comedian named Richard Pryor is brought in to break the tie.
“Keep the scene,” he says.
You see, that was Pryor’s standard. That is every classic comedian’s standard: is it funny? The brilliance of that standard comes from its simplicity. Bigotry, lies, and mean-spiritedness, are not funny. The laugh comes from truth, or the exaggeration of truth. Laughs are truth detectors. Laughs tell you if you have hit a vein. No one finds a bigot funny.
Sorry Samantha, but you need to put down the lemon and smell the America. There is a way to joke about Caitlyn Jenner that is mean-spirited and unfunny, and a way to joke about Caitlyn Jenner that is hilarious and true.
Oh, and I should add that your efforts to censor jokes about transgenders only make those jokes all the more joyous because some of the best comedy openly rebels against pompous prudes like yourself.
Transgenders should not be immune from criticism or satire. The same is true of every group, be it blacks, Jews, whites, Christians, atheists, Muslims, one-eyed lesbian evangelicals with harelips, or even journalists.
From my experience, though, since the untimely death of George Carlin, stand-up comedy is dead. Carlin did what the best comedians do, went where he was not supposed to. Nothing and no one was sacred. This is why he was not a bigot. Comedians satirize everyone. Bigots like Samantha Allen pick and choose.
Other than last-man-standing-Carlin who, like the equally dead Don Rickles, was grandfathered in, comedy died in 1989 when comedian Andrew Dice Clay was boycotted by MTV and a Saturday Night Live castmember over his “insensitive” nursery rhymes. Comedy died when legendary comedian Sam Kinison was bullied by the left into censoring his own jokes about homosexuals and famine in Africa.
This was not just awful news for comedy, it was bad news for freedom. For it is not only the comedian’s job to tell the truth, but to be the canary in the coal mine of free speech, to push the envelope against the censorious establishment.
In Lenny Bruce’s day, the establishment was made up of moral scolds who did not want to hear the word “cocksucker.” As a result, Bruce was jailed and hounded until the day of his premature death.
Today the establishment is made up of the Left-Wing Sensitivity Police, those like Samantha Allen who believe the world should adjust to whatever their particular neurosis or soft spot is. Rather than work on hardening that spot, toughening up a bit for their own good and out of respect for free speech, they grab their scarlet letters, mob up with other small-minded people, and make us socially unacceptable over the crime of offending them. As a result, comedy today is mostly about sex, virtue signaling, and mocking conservatives. In other words, it is equal parts dirty, bigoted, and unfunny.
Well, I have some good news…
After being imprisoned in this PC prison for nearly 30 years, like a blast of fresh air, like the ghost of Carlin somehow rose and inhabited Ricky Gervais, his new Netflix special Humanity is 70 minutes of hilariously belligerent pushback against fascist harpies like Samantha Allen.
My headline ” Ricky Gervais: Yes, Hitler was Evil, But…” is something of a Rorschach test.
Yes, Gervais actually says that, but context matters, and if you are not laughing at what comes next, you are probably sucking a lemon. So before shifting into outrage mode, hear the man out.
Humanity also had me laughing at myself, at me and mine, which is healthy, which actually feels good, and is easy to do when you are in the company of a legitimate satirist as opposed to a left-wing bigot.