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A Note to Comedians Worried That 'PC Culture' Means They 'Can't Say Anything Anymore'

21/06/2016 14:21 | Updated 21 June 2016

I'm getting kind of bored of cry-baby comedians lamenting the fact that certain topics are "off-limits" these days. When I say "comedians", I'm, of course, largely referring to "cisgender, white, male comedians", who are learning that, as people are becoming more and more aware of societal issues like racism, sexism, and prejudice against LGBT and disabled people, the things that used to get laughs just aren't cutting the mustard anymore.

In a way, I understand where they're coming from. It's a bit like giving someone a box of crayons, and coming along halfway through their colouring-in session and confiscating half of them, because it turns out those particular colours were made by children in a sweatshop.

I get it, it's frustrating. You had big plans for those crayons, and now someone's taken them away from you. But you still have half a box left. And why would you want to use crayons that were made by children in a sweatshop, anyway?

The latest comedian shaking his fist at the sky is Stephen Merchant, who's told the Telegraph he's fed up of the "liberal agenda... dictating what can and cannot be joked about."

He explains:

"People are being leapt on because they happened to use the wrong terminology about Bruce Jenner, or Caitlyn Jenner, or whatever his name is now, or her name: there I am making mistakes. I'll probably get in trouble for that.

"This idea that we have to police ourselves, that we might say the wrong thing and upset someone or something. It's not fun. It's just not fun."

OK, let's talk.

First of all, Caitlyn Jenner has been famous for around 40 years now, and in that time, she's had two names. She hasn't had 150 Tolkien-esque names, each one harder to memorise and pronounce than the last. She was Bruce, and now she's Caitlyn. There's no "whatever his name is now, or her name", there's just Caitlyn. You literally said it two seconds ago. If you can't be bothered to do a five-second Google search and double-check, then you really have no business commenting on the issue in the first place.

The more pressing question I have is: what kind of line would you want to include in your routine that you're too scared would offend people? And, indeed, why would you want to include a line in your routine that might offend an entire community of people who already have a tougher time of it than most?

I'm sorry if this leaves you exasperated, Stephen Merchant. I'm sorry if having to think before you speak gets on your nerves or, as you put it, is "just not fun" for you.

But do you know what else is "just not fun"? Switching on the telly at the end of a long day of grafting, and seeing some stranger on the telly making fun of you. Not you precisely, of course, but someone who looks a bit like you. Someone who reminds your friends of you. Someone who you look to for a bit of inspiration that things can be different.

And let me just clarify, this isn't just about Stephen Merchant. This is about all comedians I see moaning about the "PC brigade", slagging off the "perpetually-offended" on social media, complaining you just "can't say anything anymore".

If your comedy is so weak that you need to rely on slurs, derisions and out-dated tropes to get a laugh out of the lowest common denominator, then I don't know what to tell you, other than you clearly need to buck your ideas up.

Comedians shouldn't be shooting their mouths off about areas of comedy being off-limits now, they should see that as a challenge. They should see it as a way of improving. A way of making themselves, and their craft, better. A way of really earning our laughs.

We're at a time now when a slurry of fresh, new talent is totally killing it in the comedy world without having to rely on a cheap laugh at the expense of trans people - or any other oppressed minority for that matter.

It seems there are two choices for comedians. They can either get with the times, ditch the offensive material, and try and find a way to make people laugh without leaning on attitudes that have no place in 2016. Or they can stay stuck on the wrong side of history, while new talent overtakes them.

Do they want to keep up with the world of comedy as it changes for the better? Or do they want to huff and puff until the only gig they can get is on 'Celebrity Big Brother'? The choice is theirs.

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