The Importance of Comedians


Photo Credit: Eva Rinaldi on Wikimedia Commons

Kevin Hart, Ride Along Red Carpet Premiere, Sydney Australia

Thomas Leahy, Writer

At the 2020 Golden Globes Awards, comedian Ricky Gervais, the host of the show, openly criticized and made several off-color jokes at the expense of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Gervais, who has hosted the awards show five times before, stated that he “didn’t care anymore” and proceeded to make several jokes intended to get a rise out of celebrities who already think too highly of themselves. Gervais touched on topics that typically are kept quiet by members of the movie industry including jokes about the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal and the College Cheating Scheme perpetrated by some of the industry’s most notable names in 2019. Gervais has since refused to apologize for his remarks since they were after all “just jokes”.

Comedy is a subjective art, and what different groups of people find funny depends on their culture and the context of the jokes being told. As society has become more progressive and the idea of “political correctness” has become such an important message for public figures to push, many comedians have been edged out of the spotlight simply due to their jokes being deemed too mean-spirited or too edgy by mainstream media. Comedians such as Dave Chapelle, Bill Burr, and Ricky Gervais have always been known to push the envelope as far as the subject matters of their jokes and often express their apathy for the new rules of “political correctness”.  Chapelle and Burr have both tackled “Cancel Culture”: a phenomenon that has overtaken social media apps such as Twitter in which actors, athletes, or social media Influencers can have their entire careers ended due to a minor mistake or an offensive statement from the past. Often times when a celebrity is “canceled”, an ensuing #ThisPersonIsOverParty begins trending. This creates a piling on effect and most people join in on bashing the individual without knowing the full story. For instance, comedian Kevin Hart was forced to step down as the host of the Oscars in 2018 due to homophobic tweets from 2009. Hart promptly apologized for his former remarks. Many of Hart’s peers, as well as other comedians, came to his defense saying that Hart should not be judged in 2018 for a series of jokes he made in 2009. It was clear that Hart had changed his viewpoints and the tweets did not reflect his character.

Both Chapelle and Burr targeted “Cancel Culture” in their recent comedy specials: Sticks and Stones and Paper Tiger respectively. Chapelle intentionally made controversial topics the center of his jokes in order to get a rise out of sensitive critics whom he was critiquing. With jokes about topics ranging from transgender people to Michael Jackson and R. Kelly, Chapelle succeeded in his goal. His special received a 35% from Rotten Tomatoes staff yet a 99% from audience members. The negative reviews of industry critics only proved Chapelle’s point that people are too sensitive and will refuse to see the humor in something if it offends them. Similarly, Burr held nothing back in his special. He made jokes about subjects such as Michelle Obama’s book tour, male feminists, and transgender people in his typical disgruntled manner. The title of his special, Paper Tiger, is a commentary on how people today see people’s words as a frightening thing but in reality, they are just words that cannot do that much harm in the long run.  Comedians play an important role in society. Comedy helps the world heal and if comedians cannot make jokes about touchy topics, then there will be no opportunity to move on. It is another way for people to express their opinion and comedians should not be silenced just because their views differ from the status quo.

This article is an opinion piece, and the views expressed within are those of the author and not necessarily those of Cistercian or The Cistercian Informer.