As a stand up comedian, I want to preface this commentary with a quote from a comedian friend of mine that represents most of my opinions on the matter: “People often take what I say on stage as the truth. Or even what I think.”
Jokes are jokes. Sometimes the most inappropriate ones are also the funniest. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be bothering with comedy.
That being said, I expect most of you readers are like-minded, given that you’re choosing to read the sass-filled commentary at COTR; either that, or you’re here to hate-read, in which case what I say doesn’t matter to you anyway. So, onward to the actual topic.
That topic is a conversation with comedian Jo Brand on Radio 4, in which she said:
“Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore, and they’re very very easy to hate, and I’m kind of thinking, why would you bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid? And that’s just me, I’m sorry, I’m not going to do it, it’s purely a fantasy. But I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do. Sorry.”
Nigel Farage, right-wing British politician and recent milkshaking victim, characterized the remark as a call to violence and demanded the police get involved. Comedian Lee Hurst argued that it was just a joke, funny or not, and shouldn’t be treated any more seriously than that.
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Despite dating a Brit and living one country over, I really don’t know a ton about how political angst is represented in comedy over in the UK. I do, however, know that their free speech laws are barely deserving of the name, and that comedians like Count Dankula have been arrested and fined for jokes involving his girlfriend’s dog and Nazi salutes. I’m not entirely sure where the line is, but in my opinion if a Nazi-saluting pug is worth arresting a man for, so is a comedic “call to violence,” however dubious that call might have been.
What this reminds me of, more than anything, is Michelle Wolf’s performance last year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Remember how bitter and vitriolic that was? Remember how un-funny Republicans and conservatives found it? Remember how many leftists jumped to her defense, saying she was just joking?
Remember aaaalllllll those same factions calling for Louder with Crowder to be deplatformed for “harassing” Vox’s Carlos Maza?
But here’s the thing, there’s virtually no difference between the content of what Wolf had to say about White House officials and what Crowder had to say about Maza. None. The only difference is who the butt of the joke was.
The standards of what constitutes a joke and what constitutes violence are not being applied evenly. So if offense is going to be taken, I just ask that we be consistent about it. If Maza and pretty much all of the left need a thicker skin, so do Trump and Farage. If Crowder deserves deplatforming for calling a political opponent a “lispy queer,” so does Samantha Bee for calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless c**t.” (Not even going to mention the fact that ONLY ONE OF THOSE QUOTES NEEDED CENSORING that’s fine.)
Either that, or we can all go to jail with Count Dankula’s pug.