OPINION: Comedians deserve better than today’s ‘cancel culture’

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Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" fame rose to prominence as an anti-establishment comedian during the Bush Administration. The Daily Show Commute Map by Aaron Meshon CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Derek Catron

Comedy is always a great referencing tool for the political climate. The two are synergistic.

During the Bush presidency, Jon Stewart rose to superstardom with his comedic resistance to the political establishment. 2008 marked the end of comedy as we knew it, but it certainly wasn’t the end of comedy. As times change, so do jokes.

In the 45th presidential era (I refuse to name an era after him) jokes target relations between different groups. How can they not? The focal point of his insane campaign was sowing distrust between genders, races and religious groups. The result has been ‘cancel culture,’ and comedians are the targets.

The “grab ‘em by the pussy” presidential candidate littered his campaign trail with comedic fodder. No one could resist.

Everyone from Dave Chappelle to Stephen Colbert capitalized on the gold mine of humor. I could list 30 comedians off the top of my head and not even scratch the surface of big names who’ve dedicated significant time to this many of whom have found themselves under attack.

Comedy fans have embraced it for what is. My brother once told me he hoped Donald Trump would win because it would be the funniest presidency. Although he regrets his wish, he wasn’t wrong.

Many of us have never been more anxiety-stricken by the U.S. government. I’ve never felt less at ease in my life and I’m a white dude. I can’t even begin to imagine the anxiety others most affected by his words and policies might be going through. 

It’s tense. People are afraid they’ll be targeted next. Even the lightest jab can be reason for concern, but let’s stop reacting to jabs from comedians. There are plenty of reasons to be mad. Comedy isn’t one of them.

Attacking comedians for telling ever so slightly out-of-bounds jokes isn’t going to put an end to injustice. That’s their job – and a lot of them are doing it impressively well. Of course, some aren’t, but we don’t have to reward those lesser comedians with attention. Be angry at the real causes of our political climate, but laugh at the results when you can. It helps.

Pushing boundaries during an era where comfort zones are shrinking has become a dangerous job and I admire comedians for that.

They test the sociopolitical waters at the risk of their careers and even safety. That takes dedication. All to make you laugh.

Your race, gender, religious background, sexual orientation or identity will have a joke told about it. That’s a guarantee. No one is safe, but that’s what makes comedy so great. Comedy is the purest form of equality that exists in America today because no one is exempt. There is a joke (or thousands) about every group, person or situation.

Not everything is funny, but anything can be made funny by great talent. That means you’re going to be made fun of and there’s nothing you can do about it, so relax. Enjoy it. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, what can we laugh at? Or don’t, but don’t ruin it for everyone with larger comfort zones.

Comedians are here to make troubled times a little easier. Appreciate them. At the very least, be tolerant. In a political climate where boundaries are shrinking, comedy is sure to resist.