It’s hard to make a joke these days without offending at least one or two people. Political correctness in comedy can be pretty important when speaking to an audience consisting largely of people you don’t know. Chris Gethard ponders whether this need to be correct is hindering the creative process for comedians. Do comedians need to take responsibility for everything they say, even when they’re just work-shopping material?
Chris Gethard is an actor, comedian, and writer. He hosts the New York City based talk show The Chris Gethard Show, and the podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, in which he talks to one anonymous caller, every episode, for a full hour and can’t hang up first. Gethard also stars in HBO’s Chris Gethard: Career Suicide, a show that combines the sensitive subjects of depression and suicide with comedy. Gethard has acted on Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer, Parks & Recreation and more. He is the author of the comedic memoir A Bad Idea I’m About to Do.
As a well-established comedian, Gethard knows that comedy can be a delicate genre. People often have extremely different opinions on what’s funny, and what’s offensive. He speaks out about the difficult nature of testing new material with the idea of political correctness looming overhead. In his Big Think video “Political Correctness in Comedy: Is It Making Us Too Afraid to Be Funny?” Gethard suggests finding a middle ground between comedic experimentation and accepting viewer disapproval.
There’s Two Sides to Every Story
Gethard tries to examine the issue from both his own perspective as a comedian and the viewer’s standpoint.
“People do actively say that political correctness is killing comedy, especially on college campuses. And it’s very, very interesting because I think a part of it is true,” says Gethard. “Comics tend to have this knee-jerk reaction of ‘Well, we’re creative people and our work builds by doing it on stage again and again. We should be allowed to say and do whatever we want.’ And I think there’s a lot of truth to that.”
“But I think [on] the other side of the coin… people are allowed to get as offended as they’re going to get,” continues Gethard. “They’re allowed to and we don’t have to like it. They don’t have to like us and that’s totally fine.”
Gethard understands that people’s reactions are as valid as a comedian’s right to create. He discusses finding a middle ground between a comedian’s need for experimentation and viewer’s rights to express discontent in his talk.
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