Comedy Is (Not Actually) Dying


Written by James Augspurger

You know what I like to do? I like to laugh, surprisingly enough. It’s kind of my thing. If you ever see me laughing, you can take that as a sign that I’m having a good time about something. Either that, or I’m extremely nervous or uncomfortable and my social anxieties, awkwardness, and my general need to please those around me make it so that I don’t know what to do but laugh because I don’t want to be rude. Either one. Now, I’m sure there are others like me, who like laughing, but it just seems there’s been this trend of people dictating what is and isn’t funny. What we should find funny versus what we do find funny. These people, they’re just a bunch of, for lack of a better annoyingly overused term, snowflakes. You know who I’m talking about: comedians. They’re so sensitive these days!

Their complaints have been going on for a few years now, and the talking points haven’t really evolved much. “Comedy should push boundaries! Nobody had a problem with these types of jokes in the past! PC culture has gone too far! SJW’s are cancelling all the funny! George Carlin!” You’ve heard the screams and you’ve probably heard people agree with them. Maybe you do, too. Well, I don’t. So, I (not a comedian) am writing this to let you know how right I (not a comedian) think I am, and I’m sure you’ll be wholly convinced by the end. Because it’s 2019, and that’s how debates work now.

“Comedy should be pushing boundaries!” 

This is true. Not arguing that. Humor can’t always be safe and clean. It needs to get dirty every once and a while. Take Shane Gillis, for example. He pushed some boundaries with his humor! “An Asian trying to learn English bothers me more than someone listening to, like, Lil Uzi Vert while I’m trying to eat my fucking dinner.” Actually, no. That’s not what pushing a boundary is. That’s just blurting out what your racist brain is thinking! There was no setup or punchline. That’s not comedy, that’s just talking. Dave Chappelle (more on him later) pushed racism boundaries with The Chappelle Show. He was satirizing current and past cultural race and class issues. He wasn’t just talking. There were punchlines that were clever and inciteful. Pushing boundaries isn’t simply mouthing word noises so you can shock people. You’re just being a dick, Shane.

“Nobody had a problem with these types of jokes in the past!”

You want to know the whole thing about “the past?” It was so long ago. There’s this concept called "time" that people like to nauseatingly point out that it’s completely made up, then pat themselves on the back for being ultra-philosophical. You know what else is made up? Freaking inches! And it’s the same concept! It’s a measurement to and from the relevance of here and now. And in a certain measurement of time, it was perfectly fine to yell the “n-word” at real life people you owned. But things change, and now the only time it’s ok to hear that, is in a Tarantino movie, apparently.

Jokes from before don’t always work today. In 2012, The Three Stooges was released. I can’t confidently say that I know somebody who at least knows someone else who watched that movie or has anything good to say about it. That humor doesn’t work anymore. You know what used to be a funny show? The Honeymooners! That show had a running joke where the character Ralph Kramden would threaten to be the shit out of his wife, Alice Kramden! HILARIOUS! If you miss the good ole days where shock comedy was all the rage, you need to realize that it had its time. We heard it all by now, and now it’s boring to just yell some obscenity while barely having a set up. That humor doesn’t work anymore.

“PC culture has gone too far!”

No. No, it hasn’t. Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr, and so many other comedians talk about how they aren’t allowed to say certain things even when they’re saying those exact things while getting paid for it by streaming giants! Observational humor is all about jokes that are funny because they’re true. When you say you’ve observed a thing, and your conclusion is wildly inaccurate, your joke doesn’t work. Your observational comedy sucks at observing. What’s worse is all the comedians telling that same “joke.” That used to be considered joke stealing. During The Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin, “funny” man Adam Carolla went on a rant about all the PC babies who would find the roast offensive. Literally no one was interrupting the Roast, so he was just making up imaginary people just to call them pussies. Todd Philips was complaining about the problems with “woke culture” and how he might leave comedy because of it. I honestly thought he left comedy when The Hangover II was released. Being afraid of wokeness sounds like he’s afraid he’s going to find out people don’t think he’s funny. He even put his complaints into Joker, a movie where the titular villain murdered a guy about it.

It really all just feels like comedians are getting upset when someone criticizes their work. Like it’s the audience's fault that their jokes didn’t hit the mark. It really just feels like a lot of comedians are too sensitive and can’t maturely take criticism. Whether or not you like Daniel Tosh, he tells jokes that’ll piss people off, but at least he owns it. He knows certain jokes will make people react negatively and doesn’t blame them for doing so. Meanwhile, Bill Burr, in multiple specials, has said something unsavory and when the audience didn’t laugh, he’d get mad at the audience. “Look how quiet it is in here!” is a line he’s used in multiple specials. But maybe he’s not entitled to immediate praise for every word he says. Maybe sometimes he just misses the mark. Comedy isn’t easy. Is that the fault of the audience?

“SJW’s are cancelling all the funny!”

No! No, they aren’t. Roseanne Barr is making her comeback. Dave Chappelle joked about how proud he’d be to rape a young Macaulay Culkin. James Gunn has a job with 2 rival studios. The late Louis C.K. (I know he’s not dead, I just like to think of him that way) got a standing ovation not a year after he admitted to sexual assault. Mel Gibson has received multiple Oscar nominations. That one racist dude bragged about groping women and then won the popularity contest that made him the actual President of the actual United States of the actual America! Like, in real life! Not as a joke!

You might be tempted to bring up the fact that Shane Gillis was fired from the lukewarm sketch show, SNL. I should remind you that he himself said that most of his jokes in his 10-year career are not good. “A lot of bad misses.” The admittedly not good at comedy person lost a job at the ok tv sketch show for racist comments he said way, way back in September 2018. You then might be tempted to remind me of how Kevin Hart lost his Academy Awards job because he simply talked about how he’d physically assault his son for being gay. To which I’ll remind you that he’s still one of the highest paid comedians today. Nobody has been cancelled. The most that’s happening is that a few rich and famous people are on the receiving end of minor consequences a teensy bit more than usual. That’s all.

“George Carlin!”

People like to bring up George Carlin, one of the funniest, offensive comedians ever. They say that he’d hate today’s audiences because they’re too PC, which is completely untrue. He recorded a comedy special and named it “I Kinda Like It When A Lot of People Die.” This special was recorded on September 9th and 10th of 2001. Then something happened on September 11th of 2001 that made him shelve the whole project. He knew that his bit wouldn’t be funny anymore. He was aware of the consequences and hurt that words can cause. He knew that simply being a jerk isn’t that funny. Oh, the tragedies of 9/11. Carlin would actually completely understand today’s audiences. Here’s a real quote from him about Andrew Dice Clay:
Most comedians, myself included, pick on people who have some power and position and abuse it. But Clay, he picks on foreigners, homosexuals, and women—who are all underdogs in this society. And it makes me wonder what he’s thinking, because he says all these things and his audience responds because he plays to their prejudices. But he’s Jewish and doesn’t he know that these same people who hate gays and foreigners and women have Jews somewhere on their list?
George Carlin would not be on your side, Shane!

Now, some who know me might want to scream at me. They know that I love offensive humor. I laugh at horrible things, so this might come off as hypocritical. But I do love irreverent comedy. Most people do! I applaud Dave Chappelle’s newest special. Most people still enjoy offensive humor. Anthony Jeselnik, Daniel Sloss, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Righteous Gemstones, South Park, Big Mouth, most things on Adult Swim, Quentin Tarantino, Seth Rogen and company, and many more are all proof that dark, offensive, and irreverent is very mainstream. What I find annoying and not funny is that so many comedians continue to talk about how they can’t be offensive anymore. As if they don’t continue to do their jobs the same way they always have.

So, in conclusion (and to all the famous and not so famous comedians in the world who without a doubt read this in its entirety), shut the f*** up about this already you big, dumb, terrified grown babies! Sure, we don’t like bigotry, but we’re more bored than we are offended. Tell a new joke. I look forward to never hearing about this again because I’ve shown you the light and you agree with me. RIP Louis C.K.