What can you say and what can't you say anymore? That is the question of the day. Is political correctness the immortal enemy of comedy and freedom of speech? Or do we still have more to learn? I will begin this by saying that I am a Comedian; and not the cutesy likeable kind. I often battle with the balance of what I can say, who I can say it to and how I can say it. Finesse, as I like to call it. Keeping a wide variety of paying clients and audience members laughing and inevitably happy is what my job demands. Do I always get this right? No. Am I often misinterpreted and does irony get lost? Absolutely.
Irony is defined as an instance when the literal meaning of the word is in actuality the opposite or there is a discrepancy between something's appearance and it's reality. For example at the MTV Movie Awards it appears that Amy Schumer is making a sweeping and flippant generalisation about the temperament of Latinas OR is she in reality not being serious at all and making fun of someone who would be silly enough to hold that sentiment? Or was she making an easy joke using a stereotype that we generally hold true? The awkward part about that whole situation was that she said this to a group that was largely non Hispanic and J-Lo had a camera filming her reaction.
Amy Schumer isn't the only Comedian who has recently come under fire for what was deemed inappropriate. Jerry Seinfeld, Trevor Noah and Stewart Lee are amongst of multitude of Comedians that have had objections raised by the Twitterazzi in reaction to their material recently. The real question is, "Who gets to draw the line?" Surely if Comedians expect to exercise freedom of speech we can't complain when an audience does the same.
We are living in a time where we have to consider the feelings of all people because of an increase in diversity in our communities. We now must consider women, ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community and people from other faiths. It may come as a shock to some that in Britain today some people still refer to a corner shop as the ,"Paki's" or Chinese restaurant as, "The Chinkie's". More shocking is that people say these things in innocence and without slight. What takes priority? A person's intention or the feelings of someone who is being slandered? Can we really write off EVERY audience member who is offended? Or is it possible that sometimes a white, heterosexual, middle class, male (the most common demographic in Comedy) may have a few blind spots when it comes to diversity and othering.
Othering is defined as "any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody's mind as "not one of us". Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it's sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are" It is also an effective tool in subordination and in my opinion lazy comedy unless you are making a larger point. An excellent way to isolate audience members who are likely accustomed to being discriminated against anyway. If you can't beat them join them. That was sarcasm.
The other difference is many of us began this career before people could snap back on social media. Has censorship gone mad? I would argue that if anything censorship has relaxed. Now a days you hear more profanity and see a lot more sex and violence in the media. Which modern Comedian has been fined, jailed or fired for jokes made on stage? The truth is many of us FEAR a dialogue and are downright unwilling to engage in one. I think a bigger question to ask is, "Why is there such a lack of diversity in our audiences?" Why is there a black AND a white comedy circuit?
There is nothing I enjoy more than a diverse audience but I understand that in order to keep one happy I will have to consider the feelings of all people and ultimately be willing to defend and be accountable for my words. The truth is I would hate to have someone leave one of my shows feeling like shit for reasons beyond their control. I now have to choose my words carefully and it's not always easy. The kitchen is hotter than it has ever been before and if you can't take the heat...CRY and claim that you are being censored.
Dana Alexander's new Edinburgh Fringe Show is August 7-15 for more info click the link below-