How to Write a Good Article About Free Speech and Comedy

22/02/2016 23:41 GMT | Updated 22/02/2017 10:12 GMT

So, it's been pretty rough lately, huh? The times seem to be changing fast and they're heading in a direction that you do not like one bit. Students and other young people seem to be becoming the wagging fingers at the end of our punchlines, the chain of protesters outside our shows, the sea of Tweets and Facebook comments on our promotional pages. You're at your breaking point and now there's only one thing to do and that's write an article about how upset you are about being silenced by oversensitive audiences. You need to get out there and defend your free speech. Here's a handy guide to help you get all those feelings out.

Firstly, and while this is absolutely not a requirement but it's funny how things work out like this, you should probably be a middle-aged white straight male comedian who's either been going a couple of years and nobody's heard of you or you used to be huge between ten and thirty years ago but seem to have stopped getting the bookings. It's understandable, you're at the end of your tether and you're frustrated. You used to be with "it" but then they changed what "it" was, now what you're with isn't "it" and what's "it" seems weird and scary to you. Don't internalise it, it's not your fault. The audience are to blame.

To emphasise the seriousness of your point, you might want to start by naming a couple of comedians that everyone has heard of that share the view you're about to express. I'm not going to overtly say that it helps to include one black comedian or a female comedian or even a gay one (but never more than one or any intersection of those identities) in there if you can but it doesn't hurt to throw in a little diversity, make it harder for the PC brigade to utterly dismiss the sentiment. You can't go far wrong here but I would at least suggest you avoid including people like Michael Richards in this list because people getting touchy about indefensible blatant racism is just going to detract from your piece.

Now, what's always helpful at the beginning of an article where you're discussing a very specific context is to throw in a bunch of examples without going into any of the individual contexts. I would suggest, just as a sort of stock list, to throw together Dapper Laughs, Louie CK, Frankie Boyle, Andrew Lawrence and any other comedian that you can think of that regularly enjoy open platforms in various media and at comedy clubs that are often described as "edgy" so you don't have to include any examples of them being censored as that's usually implicit (especially handy when there are no clear examples but it seems like there should be). Maybe if you put your thoughts down eloquently and ragefully enough you'll be included in that line-up the next time the subject is brought up. If you're so inclined be sure to use any of the following terms to describe those criticising the comedians in the examples you provide: liberals or lefties (especially effective if you add "bleeding heart" before them), ____ cabal, PC brigade, Social Justice Warriors (a delectable little buzzword that's gained a lot of traction in the last few years), or any euphemism for crazy, delusional, over-sensitive or stupid people.

Next it's time to stir up some juvenoia. Everyone knows that University students are irrational and knee-jerk but they seem to be even more actively engaged in that behaviour now than they've ever been before. Naturally, don't mention that political activism has been innate within student circles for decades and much of the tactics employed now are much the same as before except with the addition of online resources and platforms that globalise these movements. Don't fear hypocrisy, nobody'll notice anyway and journalistic integrity are secondary to your hurt feelings. If you can, find any "extreme" examples of proposed measures to promote equality or minimise hardship for disadvantaged students then make sure to make it seem like this reflects every student who fights for every cause in every university and every college across the U.K. and U.S.A. but nowhere else because only western issues are important (and if you can't, make it up - nobody's checking anyway). Be sure to present students as some benevolent evil as though they inherently have any more power than your average civilians over their own education let alone an entire genre of entertainment.

This bit here should be about the main point of the article. Be sure to stress that this is a free speech issue but never qualify what you mean by free speech or specify in what way it is a free speech issue as it will be made immediately clear that you either don't understand the meaning of free speech or you're purposely presenting it incorrectly or you're genuinely a bit of a paranoid bugger who buys into your own slippery slope fallacy. Censorship is also a good word to misuse as it immediately gets everyone's back up and conjures images of what people who haven't read it imagine what 1984 is about, doubly so if you manage to add the word Orwellian in there.

Here's some basic redefinitions that you should be pushing:

Free Speech: Being able to say whatever you want without ever having to hear criticism or face consequences rather than a social agreement to say whatever you want with certain caveats depending on the context but also acknowledging that you are not free from consequences from non-governmental bodies and individuals (including them using their own free speech to call you an asshole, boycott, remove/rally for the removal of your platform and so on). (Also: Freedom of Expression which isn't the same thing but who knows really?)

Censorship: People telling you that what you've said is dehumanising a marginalised group or groups of people or normalising/trivialising violence and trauma against that marginalised group or groups and as such are vocal about it, further fuelled by you not giving half a shit rather than governmental or media intervention that leaves you as an individual unable to express your views on any platform.

1984: A book about how civilians having free speech and the ability to criticise everything is ruining society rather than a book about a totalitarian government using propaganda and surveillance to suppress individuality.

Okay, so, this is the last paragraph. Are you ready? Now it's time to really hit it home just how dangerous this trend is. Audiences are becoming more socially and politically aware and that, my friend, is bad for your business. Turns out that your casual left is no longer left enough for the left. How can you be a cutting edge alternative comedian when your voice is no longer in demand? We must do everything we can to teach these common people what's really important and that's free speech, or specifically, your free speech and that means that you should be able to use your stage time to say whatever you want free of all criticism and consequences from your audience (that fucking free market). So, wave that banner high, and let those Live at the Apollo watching dimwits know that you are also a good comedian and you'd really like to remain relevant for a bit longer.

Now go submit it to Chortle. I know they've already got a good four or five articles from other straight white men about the same subject saying exactly the same thing but people complaining about the oversaturation of the market with cookie-cutter opinions that claim to be against the grain but actually go exactly with the status quo is exactly the kinda attitudes you want to combat anyway.