Comedy is always changing - and that’s a good thing
When used correctly, comedy is a powerful tool.
By Chad Faust
Comedy can be a powerful tool for both change and hate in the world today, and it is not always easy to spot. While some humor provides insight or useful social commentary, there is just as much humor that is used to hurt and put others down. Comedy is generally designed to lift people up, not bring them down, so why do we see so much of that in both our past and our present? It’s crucial that we keep this in mind when we are exposed to it, and it’s important that we hold our comedy writers and comedians to a higher standard today.
There’s an ongoing debate that has captured pop-culture society over the past few years about political correctness, particularly with comedians or funny movies that toe the line between what is and isn’t okay. Oftentimes in the comedic industry, offensive comedy is labeled as “edgy” or “raunchy,” which is an easy way to say that not everyone will be laughing. When people are laughing, it's more likely than not that it will be at the expense of others. Some people will argue that offensive jokes are just jokes, and that you can’t think of them as much more than that. However, there is data that shows that some humor can be really damaging to the confidence and wellbeing of individuals.
Comedies are highly dependent on the time period they’re made in. Humor that made us laugh 10 years ago may not make us laugh now. From cult classics like “Ace Ventura” or “Superbad” to stand-up specials from comedians like Ricky Gervais and Daniel Tosh, comedy does not always hold up. If we say it does, we often overlook things that are uncomfortable or inappropriate by saying that “it was funny back then”. This is often difficult coming to terms with because of the emotional attachments that come with experiences that make us laugh. If that’s the price to pay for a culture and society more capable of using humor that doesn’t denigrate, it’s worth it.
When it comes to entertainment in general, we should be thinking about what makes everyone laugh compared to what makes only some people laugh. In today’s society, it is becoming more and more understood that sexism, racism, and homophobia, to name a few social issues, are not as accepted in comedy as they once were. Films that we grew up with, that are considered classics and comic gold, are laced with offensive ideas and derogatory behavior. It creates a certain discomfort when re-watching some of these cinematic masterpieces we held in awe years ago. How did we think this was funny? Why did we think this was okay?
The reality is that it’s important to create commentaries like this on humor that we idolize. If we don’t expose comedy for its flaws, society will cease to grow, and comedy will fall into the same pattern of mistakes. Comedy writers and comedians should be mindful of the best way to create politically correct humor. The best talent will find ways to create content that can make anyone laugh, while producing comedies that can stand the test of time.
Comedy is always changing - and that is a good thing. For comedy to be successful it needs to evolve with society and move with culture. Complacency in joke-telling and comedy writing will only result in reinforcing stereotypes and harming others, setting us backward. We need to hold our comedy to a higher standard in the world we live in today, so that years from now we can look back and be content with the humor of our time. Our society is growing everyday, and it’s crucial that our comedy grows with it.