If I had a TV show, I would have beaten Bill Maher to the punch. But, as always, “Guy with TV show” wins. Plus, mine focused more on the art form, Bill’s was “Learn to take a joke. Either way, we’re both right.
Dear “Politically Correct” College student,
I was at a Starbucks when I read your letter. At first, I thought it was hilarious. Especially the part where you explain context to the guy who helped write, develop and produce one of the most successful comedies in television history. Good for you. That must be why “Seinfeld” couldn’t get past 172 episodes. Hopefully, Jerry will take your advice and get it right next time. However, it wasn’t long before I became annoyed. Sure, part of it was the clouds of smoke from a mob of Armenians sucking down annoying cigarettes like there was a prize for the first one who gets black lung. Normally, nothing is more annoying to me than cigarettes. However, your letter was. I’ll explain.
First, I don’t want to tell you how to be a “Politically Correct” College student. That’s something I know nothing about. Writing a letter like that would come off arrogant, pompous, pretentious…. That’s all the big words I have. I didn’t go to college. In fact, I had to spell check those three. Bottom line is this, that’s pretty much what you did. That is annoying. You thought you could sum up the current state of comedy in a neat little letter. Instead, you proved the point Jerry Seinfeld was trying to make. I can only hope that’s why “Huffington Post” printed it in the first place. However, as a working stand-up comedian of 26 years, I do know something about comedy. So, let me talk about something I do know. Let’s start with the definition.
A play, movie, television program, novel, etc., that is meant to make people laugh
: Things that are done and said to make an audience laugh: comic entertainment
: the funny or amusing part of something
All those definitions come down to making people laugh. In a nutshell, that’s comedy brother. Just making people laugh. I think it’s the greatest art form there is. It’s comparable to music because there are so many different styles, formats, and techniques that can be used to make someone laugh; Abbott and Costello, Monty Python, The Wayans Brothers, Rodney Dangerfield, Otto and George, The Three Stooges, Mel Brooks, “Dice” Clay, “Key and Peele”, Chuck Lorre, Rita Rudner, Richard Pryor, Del Close, Sam Kinison, Moms Mabley, Jeff Foxworthy, Mike Toomey, John Belushi, Benny Hill, Lewis Black, Bill Burr, Dave Atell, Bernie Mac, The Amazing Jonathan, The Zucker Brothers, Bengt Washburn, Kathleen Madigan, Laurie Kilmartin, Mick Napier, Jim Norton, Chris Rock, Steve Carell, The Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Garrison Keillor, The Two Ronnies, Dick Gregory, Paul Mooney, Larry the Cable Guy, Dave Chappelle, Carl Labove, Mort Sahl, Penn and Teller, Robin Williams…..I could do this forever, or at least till my hour of wifi runs out.
Some of us use context to make statements about society, some don’t, some do a little of both, and that’s okay. Funny doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the sake of social commentary. However, every joke doesn’t have to have that social commentary. I know Todd Glass. I agree with his statement. However, I pretty sure he didn’t mean you should offend the right people “ALL THE TIME”. Sometimes something’s just funny and that’s where it ends.
Let’s take Amy Schumer for example.
She’s more than a rising comic, she’s there. She’s not just a funny “female” comic, I think she one of the funniest comics working today. “Football Town Lights” (No time for links. I’m running out of wifi) was brilliant, “The Court of Public Opinion: The Trial of Bill Cosby” Bill Cosby on Trial” piece even funnier. I also enjoyed her “I once hooked up with guy who had a big dick” bit. “Does that thing sleep in hay?” I spit up my Jaeger when I heard that line. Is there underlying context that spurs social dialogue about respective issues in that bit? Should society begin to treat guys with big dicks like freaks??? No, I’m pretty sure that’s just a dick joke.
The success or effectiveness of a joke depends on two things; 1) The intent of the comedian 2) The perception of the audience which can be helped (or hurt) by their association with that comedian. We use select words to paint a picture. People hear those words and react depending on what their perceptions of those words are. Sometimes the words are offensive to people. Then, they think, discuss, and sometimes argue about it. That’s the actual definition of “Provocative humor”. You’re definition was “…Provocative humor, such as ones dealing with topics of race and gender politics, can be crass and vulgar, but underlying it must be a context that spurs social dialogue about these respective issues. There needs to be a message, a central truth behind comedy for it to work as humor…” What? Where did you find that definition? I looked everywhere for it and couldn’t find it. . Did you make it up? Is that what they teach you at that college of yours? If you don’t like a definition just make one up? That is pretty annoying. However, you go on to actually suggest that an artist (Mr. Seinfeld) change his style and be more like other artists so he could be accepted by you and your friends. WTF? I don’t even know what to say to that. This was the point where I was less annoyed with the cigarettes than your letter.
Let me tell you something, Seinfeld (and every other comedian that has voiced in on this subject) is right. College students ARE too politically correct. As a comedy professional, it sucks. But, I think I know why. The generations before us you and I were so sexist and racist that it’s understandable that following generations will shoot far to the opposite. It’s kind of a rubber band theory. It is how change has been made in this country for decades. One generation believes one thing, the following rebels hard against those beliefs. Don’t believe me? Walk in to any retirement home and say “There’s nothing wrong with same-sex marriage” and watch the dentures fly.
Look, I don’t want to keep you. I know you have that “Open Letter to Taylor Swift” to finish, telling her show her boobs and shake her ass more so she could be more like other female artists her age and therefore accepted by you and your friends. So, I’ll leave you with this…
You’re not going to like everything in the world. That’s just the way it is. It’s actually a good thing. It makes for a more diverse world. Others will like things that you don’t and vice versa, and that’s okay. If you don’t like something, don’t buy it, watch it, listen to it, read it, you have a lot of options here. No one will like you if you are “letter guy.” You know, the guy who writes a letter every time he has a problem “You have too many stairs. My feet hurt” or “Owww, too spicy for my tummy” or “Change it to be more like the other stuff I like so my friends and I will like it more.”
Don’t be that guy.
Don’t be a fag.**
**My “Intent” is for fag to be “perceived” as slang for cigarettes. = Annoying
Signed – a Comedian
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