Opinion

Cracking jokes while walking on eggshells: 'wokeness' is killing comedy

Let's try to remember we like comedians because they make us laugh, not because they provide deep, sensitive analysis

21 January 2018 - 00:00
Comedian Richard Pryor gets eaten by a shark in a 1975 episode of Saturday Night Live.
Comedian Richard Pryor gets eaten by a shark in a 1975 episode of Saturday Night Live.
Image: Gallo/Getty

Zeitgeist is a funny thing. It is a bit like chlamydia: it is generally harmless, most people end up getting it and often they don't even know they are infected. Wokeness, in some form or another, is the dominant theme of our current cultural milieu and as such everyone is expected to be "woke" to everything, including comedians for some reason.

In days of yore, an offensive comedian was as noteworthy as a Ford Figo. Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy built their careers on being offensive. The general wisdom at the time was that, if you didn't like the jokes, you didn't have to listen. Obviously this was not a green light to say whatever you liked. If you were a white comic and hopped on stage to do a 20-minute bit about K-words, someone was definitely going to beat the AWB out of you afterwards. For the most part, however, you could poke fun at people's sensitive spots and expect a giggle.

Nowadays it seems that our comedians are also required to be "woke". To tread a path made of eggs without cracking a shell, and to be fair, there are some who do it well. Trevor Noah and Hasan Minaj come to mind.

The problem though is that we expect it of all of them. Dave Chappelle, the same person who shot to fame doing skits about the racial draft and a happy black guy in the KKK, now gets into trouble for picking on transgender people and others.

There is a list longer than a 1994 election queue of comedians who routinely catch heat for making a joke about some or other group and it just leaves one wondering, "When in the name of Satan's left butt cheek did comedians become our moral standard bearers?"

Are we really going to a Katt Williams show expecting meaningful social consciousness? I mean if you do get it, that's great, but if I want some kind of responsible commentary on the issues facing the global community, Hannibal Buress doesn't seem like a great place to get it from.

Maybe we should just let comedians make jokes and if they're not funny, don't laugh or don't go to the show. Whatever you do, don't flare up in a fit of self-righteous indignation and spoil it for those of us who like the odd joke about how relations with white women are the quickest way to catch a rape charge*.

* This is about the idea that white women are a threat to the health and safety of black men around the world.