Opinion: On a Long Enough Timeline, Every Comedian is Problematic

In the world of comedy, there are things you can joke about and there are areas that are off-limits. For up-and-coming comedians, this is often seen as a challenge, with lots of new stand-ups hoping that their shocking material can make up for the fact that they aren’t really that funny. However, for older and more established comics, this balancing act can become crippling, with tricky concepts like ‘Cancel Culture’ and ‘Potentially getting slapped’ always sitting in the back of your mind. Today, we are going to look at the timeline of various comedians and whether this is encouraging to you or not, help unveil that on a long enough timeline, everyone is problematic.

Let’s start with someone most people know and love, Gilbert Gottfried. When ol’ GG was doing stand-up back in the day, there wasn’t anyone who came close to touching him. He would tell the most horrifying jokes, but his delivery and voice were so over-the-top, you felt like you had to laugh along with him. Now, in 2021, Gottfried is still telling jokes and doing weird voices, but will the future look kindly on his older material? Probably not.

You see, in a world where the only constant is change, it’s almost impossible to see over the horizon to what comes next. Instead, you are flying blind toward an unknown feature where anything is possible. It is due to this lack of vision that it’s impossible for anyone to remain completely pure and spotless. Let’s take a look at another example.

Remember Jo Biggs? Jo was a huge Detroit stand-up in the 80s that almost no one remembers due to the fact that their stand-up has not aged well at all. This is not to rag on Jo Biggs, she couldn’t have known that Irish people were actually real. But upon that discovery in 1993, all of her work became problematic overnight. Now, Jo lives on her own in the deep frost of Michigan, telling her problematic jokes to her imaginary friends.

Guess who else has done problematic stuff, but hasn’t yet faced consequences? Well, Bill Murray for one, but that’s not the point. The point is that things change and while some things are excepted at one point in time, that doesn’t mean they will be accepted in the future.

But what do we do with this information? If you’re someone like Joe Rogan, you will take that as a reason to be as problematic as possible, because if everyone gets cancelled, what’s the point? Others, such as the lovely Colin Mochre, will see this for what it is – comedy evolving. Our job is to do our best to be better than the times we live in, even if the future looks back on us with shame.

There have always been people who have been better than their times rather than a product of them. It’s up to you to figure out what that means for you.

For those who still need a hint – punch up. If you find yourself making fun of women, people in the LGTBQ+ community, immigrants, or any other marginalized group, you might realize that your tight 15 doesn’t work for these times, much less the future. Especially when people in power are soooo easy to make fun of.

TLDR? Do better.


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