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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 8:27am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

We're certainly in a weird time when the manifestly anodyne Jerry Seinfeld would rather not perform than risk an internet philippic.

•••

And thank you, Michael, for adding two new words to my vocabulary!

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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 9:43am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Saying people can't take a joke anymore is overly simplistic, I think. More often than not it's been people in a position of power making jokes at the expense of others and expecting the butt of the joke to just take it.

Tangential to Seinfeld, in the most recent season of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, Larry David had several running jokes about touchy subjects like sexual harassment, #MeToo, and the size of a trans man's dick. Despite claims that "you can't go there anymore", he went there with pretty much no controversy. And I think that comes down to Larry being really good at making sure that ultimately he's the butt of the joke. That his character is the asshole.

Comedians like George Lopez, Russell Peters, and Jo Koy rely on a lot of racial and ethnic stereotypes in their routines. It works because they are comedians from within their respective groups crafting jokes to audiences who are laughing because they understand that while those stereotypes have some basis in truth, they are still stereotypes. Those jokes would ring differently coming from white comedians.

Along those lines, Chris Rock used to have a monologue called "N-Word" vs Black People. He stopped performing it because he became concerned that he was giving racists a license to use the N-word. Similarly, Dave Chappelle, a comedian who doesn't shy away from controversy, walked away from his show at the height of its popularity and millions of dollars because a white crew member laughed at the wrong part of a skit during a performance. Chappelle had a crisis over whether his show was poking fun at stereotypes or helping promote them.

Even going all the way back to ALL IN THE FAMILY, as much as the intent was to laugh AT Archie's bigotry, the show's universal popularity has been ascribed to a portion of the audience laughing WITH Archie.

It's not enough to say "I'm being satirical" or make claims about your intent. Humor still has a real-world impact.

I do think comedy clubs and performances should be a safe space for being offensive and being offended. But smartphones have taken away the ability to keep offensive jokes strictly in the club. And there are still way too many comedians who are lazy and punch down.
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Sergio Saavedra
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 9:45am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

After several months of taking my own break I see this. Oh, my.
I used to like this forum a lot. 
I'm looking forward to it being what it was again.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 9:51am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

How has it changed?
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Tim O Neill
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 11:31am | IP Logged | 5 post reply


I'm a big fan of comedy in general, and everything Michael Roberts notes
above rings true to me.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 11:44am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

I do think comedy clubs and performances should be a safe space for being offensive and being offended. But smartphones have taken away the ability to keep offensive jokes strictly in the club.

•••

Word of mouth never having had that effect?

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Tim O Neill
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 1:46pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply



While word of mouth can make the news, as when Louis CK started to revive his career, nothing can compare to the power of video.

Michael Richards may have used the n-word in the past to an all white audience or an audience with few POC, but while people may have been put off by it, I doubt it would have made the news. When someone captured him using the word in a video, it impacted his career. POC made their collective voices heard reaction to the video. The video made it more visceral.

Anyone looking for anti-PC humor can find it easily. Joe Rogan is giving regular oxygen to an aggrieved white perspective, and its a huge audience. Adam Carolla is still going with a big audience as well - I used to like him, but I can't stand him now because of his simplistic take on politics.

I think progressive TV comedy has never been better. Jon Stewart kicked off a smart take on the news, and Trevor Noah and John Oliver have picked up the mantle and are doing excellent work. I think Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and SNL are also a progressive perspective that exposes the hypocrisy of our current republicans.


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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 3:47pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I'm reminded of Ted Danson's disastrous Friars Club roast of Whoopi Goldberg in blackface. Even by the 1993 standards of "Are we becoming too PC?" handwringing, the press quickly condemned the routine as racist. Danson was able to weather it out because Whoopi stood by him and took the credit/blame for the jokes, laying low until the news cycle moved on. Although there are photos of Danson in blackface and a summary of his routine, there's still this layer of abstraction and emotional distance from all of it. Even now, whenever a new blackface scandal pops up, there's an inevitable "Remember when Ted Danson wore blackface" article that pops up, and it largely doesn't impact his career.

If smartphones and social media had existed back then, I don't think Danson would have been able to wait things out. There's a difference between hearing that Danson did blackface and seeing a video of him in blackface dropping the n-word. It's something that would live on the internet forever.
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Joel Tesch
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 7:29pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

We're certainly in a weird time when the manifestly anodyne Jerry Seinfeld would rather not perform than risk an internet philippic.

***

Except that's not at all true. Seinfeld had a full North American tour in 2019 and dates scheduled for 2020 before COVID derailed it. 

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Rodrigo castellanos
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Posted: 14 September 2021 at 7:33pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I think progressive TV comedy has never been better.

On a Norm MacDonald binge right now and I stumbled upon this quote of his:

"Bad comedians say things to make people clap, not laugh."



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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 September 2021 at 6:54am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

"Bad comedians say things to make people clap, not laugh."

••

How about BOTH?

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 15 September 2021 at 7:49am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, for example, have for many years talked about skipping colleges as tour stops, which used to be for decades on end prime stand-up territory. 

Chris Rock, from 2015, as reported in the Chicago Tribune: 

<<
Chris Rock has stopped performing on college campuses, he said in a recent interview, because college audiences are getting "way too conservative." "Not like they're voting Republican," he said in the interview with Frank Rich published in Vulture, "but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody." 

Rock detects a new uptightness in today's campus audiences. He blames a social culture that has taken hypersensitivity overboard as we try to protect kids from insults and other painful realities of life — like race relations.

The youngsters are "raised on a culture of 'We're not going to keep score in the game because we don't want anybody to lose,' " Rock said. "Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can't say 'the black kid over there.' No, it's 'the guy with the red shoes.' You can't even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive."
>>

That's what I was referring to, Joel, just to be clear.
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