Comedians should establish boundaries


In the world of comedy, it seems that the topics that comedians choose to talk about are discussed more so than anything else. Political correctness has defined the conversation about comedians in the recent years, particularly comedians whose content focuses on rather touchy subjects. The subjects at hand are most often related (but not limited) to gender, race, religion or sexuality.

The increase in resistance to offensive comedy comes with the increase in communication through the internet. Websites like Twitter harbor countless conversations about the right of comedians to overstep boundaries in order to make a laugh. Often, it is not the people who go to the comedy shows and hear a joke firsthand that make a commotion about a joke, it’s people on the internet, waiting for something to argue about.

This is where I believe one of two issues of offensive comedy lie; in the audience itself. A joke is meant to get a laugh out of people who want to hear a joke. Comedians create jokes because it is their job to do so. In this respect, audiences need to have a better understanding of what they are getting themselves into. If you don’t want to hear a certain type of joke, then don’t. Comedy is largely at the discretion of the audience, for that is who it was created for. Do research before watching a show on TV or going to a show to see what you are getting into. If you don’t wish to hear an offensive, tasteless joke, then don’t put yourself in a situation where that is going to happen.

The second issue of offensive comedy lies with the comedian. Comedians, as performers, seek to get reactions from their audiences, which can sometimes come in the form of offensive jokes or comments. Jokes like these attempt to elicit a reaction from the audience, although some lines may be crossed in order to get that reaction. But where should those lines be drawn? As everybody has the right to free speech and expression in the U.S., there seems to be no effective way to enforce law in the comedic realm, other than the moral boundaries of comedians themselves.

Comedians, however, should be aware of these boundaries or have strong enough moral principles to reject these jokes. Jokes about religion, race and sexuality are very touchy, but depending on the severity of the joke and the perspective of the audience, are not necessarily inappropriate. Some jokes may seem inappropriate from one perspective, but not another. To eliminate the offensiveness of a joke, comedians should draw a boundary for themselves, a way to keep their material in check, if they are worried about the impact their jokes have on their audiences.

In the end, the notion that “political correctness” is ruining comedy is neither false or true. Comedy is for an audience, and what that audience perceives as offensive on an individual basis determines the categorization of a certain comedian or type of comedy as offensive. Instead of making a sweeping generalization about how offensiveness is ruining all comedy, become aware that the jokes are only offensive if you want them to be, because very few comedians are making jokes for the purpose of harm. In the end, comedy is intended to be humorous, not causing problems. When there is more harm than good being done, that is when the line needs to be drawn.