Cancel culture. It's real and it's a disturbing trend. We have seen it with books, with movies, with television and the list goes on. It seems there is nothing and no one immune. However, the latest target for this movement may be the only thing that can finally stand its ground against this culture of being offended. Stand up comedy. Let's look at why stand up comedy CANNOT be cancelled.
The very nature of stand up comedy is to make light of society, culture, politics, sex, death and human nature in general. The idea that something that was born to be offensive can be “cancelled” for the very nature of its being is like blaming a lion for hunting an antelope. It is irrational and makes no sense to anyone with logic. Let’s tackle a few issues one by one to prove a point.
Perhaps one of the most sensitive topics of our current times, race has played a role in comedy for decades. The idea of shaming a comedian, regardless of their color, for addressing it in their act is insane. Dick Gregory was a famous comedian who addressed race as early as the 1960’s. Richard Pryor of course came later and is considered by many to be the Godfather of comedy for several comedians, black and white. Dave Chappelle has a special that is nearly all about race. And race can be addressed by comedians who are not people of color. Louis CK (who will show up on this list again) has several bits about being white. Race has been a subject of comedy for decades and trying to demonize comedians for addressing it now is ridiculous.
Sex has had its ups and downs in American society. It seems to come in waves of acceptability and we are still in a time where many find offense in it. Comedians have used sex and the intimate and complicated relationships between men and women as key topics of their bits. And of course, sometimes just more vulgar takes on the act itself to get a laugh. Female comedians such as Lisa Lampanelli, Sarah Silverman, and even the Godmother of female comedy, Joan Rivers have used it as a base for much of their careers. Rarely though, are the female comics the target. And again, please understand we are not advocating for comedians who commit crimes or do other heinous acts outside of their acts. We are defending the comedians’ art which are their bits. Think Andrew Dice Clay would make it in 2020 if he was starting fresh? Doubtful.
There is not another more sensitive topic other than maybe race. Religion has become a standard topic for comedians to draw from and with the current state of global affairs, there is a wide variety of targets to choose. From the lighthearted self-deprecating Catholic humor of Jim Gaffigan to the dark comedy of Anthony Jeselnik, Christianity often finds itself prey. But beyond that, other religions take their turn at also being the butt of jokes. Andrew Schulz who is a bit of a cult comic will tackle any religion (including Jews and Muslims) and making the list again, Louis CK basically has no limits. Perhaps the most perfect example of religion finding its way into comedy is by the late Sam Kinison. A former Pentecostal preacher, Kinison drew from religion for both topic and inspiration.
Comedy is an art of expression. It is a commentary on society, it is a platform to say things you cannot say in “regular life.” If you find some it offensive, good. That is the intent! As a culture, we seem undecided on if we want to take life too seriously or, place no value on it. Whatever your beliefs, whatever your feelings, comedy should not be the target of your rage.