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PC is reviving comedy, not killing it

  • 16 May 2018


There has been a resurgence in the 'political correctness is killing comedy' dialogue that pops up every few years or so. Some of the newest proponents are Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson, Rodney Rude and Austen Tayshus in the Daily Telegraph, whose views can be summed up in the quote: 'The soft new generation of PC-wary comedians need to grow some balls.'

There seems to be a sense from some that comedy nowadays isn't funny unless it's deliberately trying to be offensive. But it's more than possible to create comedy that avoids this. One example is the the American TV show Brooklyn Nine Nine. What's refreshing about the show is that even though it has a diverse cast, the characters aren't used as stereotypes or the butts of the joke.

That's not to say that the writers don't use the context of the characters' identities for humour. When talking about marriage, Andre Braugher's character Holt says he got married to his husband as soon as it was legalised in New York, because 'we didn't know when it was going to be struck down, so speed was of the essence'. Flashback to a wedding ceremony that consists of a few rushed I do's and a triumphant 'we're married'.

Partly the joke works on Braugher's delivery, but it also hinges on Holt's identity as a gay man. His sexual orientation is part of the joke, but it isn't the joke.

Of course, not all comedy is as lighthearted as Brooklyn Nine Nine. Comedy should be able to take on uncomfortable topics and be transgressive. Addressing the topic of PC comedy on The Project, Peter Helliar says that while he's a fan of inclusion, he thinks 'the left have maybe over the last decade or so become too sensitive'.

This is a fair cop in regards to the fact that many people who want to be progressive often aren't sure what is and isn't okay to laugh at. We're still negotiating that territory. But it's not accurate to say 'the outrage machine' is always the province of the left. Commentators on both sides of the political aisle had strong reactions to Michelle Wolf's set at the White House Correspondents Dinner, though others have commented she was merely doing her job.

And while anti-PCers seem to focus on the right to make jokes about minorities, comics like Benjamin Law get pulled in by conservative media for making a joke about 'hate-fucking' anti marriage equality