You can’t say anything these days

Hi,

It also seems I haven’t quite understood how to publish a post on the right date. How embarrassing 🙂

This week I happened to stumble upon an article about two comedians. One American, one British, both very well off, and both known for anti trans ‘jokes’. I thought I’d put that last word in quotes, just in case there’s any confusion. I mean, a joke is supposed to make you laugh, right? Sometimes, all I hear is hate and ignorance slithered out with the thin veneer of irony or “just sayin'”.

The funny thing about humour – if you pardon the clumsy language there – is humour is both very personal and it changes. The knowing look and modern phrase of ‘too soon’ highlights this. See also ‘comedy is tragedy plus timing’.

As a teen – not that long ago, as at least, Pangaea had at least separated 😉 – comedy in the early 80s, like music before, was being shook up by the punk approach: give it a go and see what happens. That and the next wave of comics were not happy with intolerant society in Britain.

Indeed, it seemed such a massive shift in approach, style, and indeed audience, that the old guard where left high and dry. The old routines in which certain comics would make jokes about women, the disabled, people of colour, and/or gay people, changed in popular culture. It was, if you will, a slow realisation for the mainstream, that really, giving someone a verbal kicking when they’re at a disadvantage or because that’s just who they are, well, it ain’t funny. It’s just cruel.

For the old guard who did not rely on such material, they survived. Yes, their spotlight dimmed as the new wave of alternative comedy took the stage, but they didn’t disappear. The Allen’s, Monkhouses, Ronnies, and Eric & Ernie’s of the world are still much loved and recognised as the talents they were. Indeed as the alternative became part of the mainstream, comedy broadened and those who wouldn’t have had a voice before, now graced our screens. Wood, Clary, Izzard, Henry, French, Saunders, Wax, et al.

But there are others, comics who did not update their act to keep pace with the change in society, who did not fair as well. Those that continued to do material that was sexist, racist, ableist, or homophobic. They’re not remembered well, but in hushed or sad tones, that they couldn’t keep up or were lazy.

So it is that I feel that the modern phrase you can’t say anything these days! is not wholly accurate. A large swathe of performers where sidelined as society moved on, and they did not. Maybe some would say those old guard had been cancelled. Or is it more that not enough folk wanted to pay money to listen to bigotry?

I feel we are here again. A point in history in which certain performers think it’s okay to have a go at a minority: the trans community. I wonder, how long before we as a society look at the 2022 performances, and frown or wince at the wrongness, just as we do with stuff fun the 70s and 80s?

Update your act, folks. Hate ain’t edgy. It just makes you look like a dick.

L x

2 Comments

  1. I think a good rule of thumb is don’t make fun of an oppressed group that you’re not a member of. And even if you are, consider whether you’re telling a joke, or just reinforcing hurtful stereotypes.

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