Comedy has had a well-understood purpose: to entertain, to push boundaries and to keep us honest. Historically, the court jester was the one person allowed to publicly mock the all-powerful king perched upon the golden throne. It is for this reason that when a storyteller wants to illustrate a ruler’s descent into madness, we see him begin to turn his ire towards the lowly jester:
It is worrying then that the ever more powerful social media guns of the Social Justice Left are being aimed squarely at comedians. In December, American comedian Nimesh Patel was pulled off stage by students for doing woke (and funny) jokes about race. A few days later, I made headlines when I refused to sign a “behavioral agreement” to perform at a student comedy gig which insisted that I not joke about religion, atheism and 10 other “isms,” as well as demanding that my jokes be “respectful and kind.”
Given the public ridicule of the students and widespread support for the comedians in these cases, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the social justice ideologues would use the holiday season to reflect and reconsider. Think again.
On the very first day of this brave new year, news broke of a leaked audio recording of Louis CK joking about gender pronouns and Parkland shooting survivors. As is now standard with these cases, it was claimed he was “attacking” the subjects of his jokes while his actual words were usually left unreported and no link included to the leaked audio. As usual, we were forced to rely on the opinions of woke “journalists”—often expressed on Twitter—rather than looking at what the comedian actually said or how the audience responded.
Of course, on closer examination Louis CK’s jokes were not particularly offensive and, what’s more, they were funny. Rather than attacking Parkland survivors, he joked that “being at a school where people got shot doesn’t make you interesting”—an observation about the huge media platform some of the survivors have been given, which was clearly recognized as accurate by his audience who promptly roared with laughter. He also poked fun at millennials being worried about offense and safety, contrasting their attitude with his generation’s youthful drug-taking and wild exploits. Millennials duly took offense and claimed he was making them feel unsafe.
On the same day, Netflix pulled an episode of “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” for the following joke about the killing of Saudi Arabian writer Jamal Khashoggi: “They went through so many explanations, the only one they didn’t say was that Khashoggi died in a free solo rock climbing accident.”
It is easy to see how this joke would be “problematic,” given the need to protect the rights of marginalized groups like the