Jerry Seinfeld unofficially kicked off comedy’s woke counterpunch all the way back in 2015.
The “Seinfeld” alum declared at the time why he no longer performs for college students. They get offended by jokes told by one of the culture’s cleanest, least incendiary, minds.
Seinfeld struck a nerve. Still, most comedians either silently applauded the sitcom superstar or hoped the subject would just go away. Many didn’t want to get their hands dirty in the fight.
That’s no longer an option. A recent string of high-profile comments brought “Cancel Culture” to the fore. Stand-up routines by Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr and Sebastian Maniscalo forced the subject back into the limelight.
“No Safe Spaces,” a documentary about the Left’s serial attacks on free expression, debuts this weekend at the near-perfect time. Comedian Adam Carolla and syndicated radio star Dennis Prager unite to explore how universities are clamping down on healthy debate, and why that woke sentiment is leaking into society at large.
“Joker” director Todd Phillips, who previously helmed the “Hangover” series, amplified the cause. He told Vanity Fair he created “Joker” because making comedies is no longer fun.
“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture,” he says. “There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore—I’ll tell you why, because all the f***ing funny guys are like, ‘F*** this s***, because I don’t want to offend you.’
Given the cresting wave of pro-free speech sentiment, you’d think even more comedians would be lining up to defend their right to free expression.
And you’d be wrong.
For every comic ready to lash out against woke rules, another is happy to abide by them.
Take comic actor Nick Kroll, the former star of FX’s “The League.” Kroll’s Netflix series “Big Mouth” got attacked by woke scolds for “incorrectly” telling jokes tied to bisexuals and the trans community.
Kroll meekly apologized, and then he doubled down.
“I’m of the opinion, personally, we have this ability to listen and communicate with the audience and hear what they have to say. And sometimes, I’m like, ‘I don’t agree with you.’ And other times I’m like ‘Yeah, I hear you. We didn’t get that exactly right. We’ll do better….’”
“I think that you can still talk about anything and be crazy and not feel too censored,” he said. “It’s a trickier time, but also we have a show where a boy sends a d*** pic to his cousin that he made out with. You can still do and say some pretty crazy, wild s***.”
Marc Maron, the overrated comic and host of the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast, also thinks woke culture is just fine, thank you. Maron played the ludicrous “punching down” card to explain why.
“Really, the only thing that’s off the table, culturally, at this juncture — and not even entirely — is shamelessly punching down for the sheer joy of hurting people,” he continued. “For the sheer excitement and laughter that some people get from causing people pain, from making people uncomfortable, from making people feel excluded. Ya know, that excitement.”
YouTube star turned late-late night host Lilly Singh is also on Team Woke.
Singh, who possesses 1/24th of the career of the “Hangover” director, blasted Phillips for “whining” about woke culture on her new show “A Little Late.”
Singh pointed to popular comedy projects made during the woke era, like “Fleabag” and “Bridesmaids,” as if that’s a rational argument.
Hey, we didn’t burn ALL the books, amirite?
Singh next played the gender card.
“And get this. Women play characters that aren’t strippers or nagging wives or super hot chicks that sleep with Ed Helms even though Bradley Cooper is right there.”
She then mocked Phillips for writing the 2006 dud “School for Scoundrels,” saying, “turns you couldn’t write comedy in the pre-woke era, either.”
Yes, Singh ignored Phillips’ work on the massively successful “Hangover” trilogy, the beloved “Old School” and “Road Trip.” Oh, Phillips also boasts a story credit on “Borat.”
Then again, Singh crushes it on YouTube.
You can read these woke defenders’ comments in two ways. That’s how they really feel about the issue … or they’re trying to stay a few steps ahead of the Woke Police. Look at Kroll’s previous white-dude-bro-comedy “The League,” a show that might get hammered by social justice scolds had it debuted in 2019.
Five white friends, and one long-suffering spouse, flex their privilege each Sunday? The mind reels…
Some comedians who previously backed woke culture have had a change of heart – for pragmatic reasons. Sarah Silverman is a prime example. She once threw her arms around our woke age.
“I think it’s a sign of being old if you’re put off by that … you have to listen to the college-aged because they lead the revolution,” she told Vanity Fair in 2015.
Earlier this year, she revealed how she lost a juicy film role because she dressed in blackface a decade earlier. It didn’t matter that she repeatedly apologized or that the show’s message wasn’t racist at all.
Now, she’s not a woke fan, calling Cancel Culture “righteousness porn.”
Will Kroll, Maron and Singh see the light on those woke handcuffs? Or will it take getting pulled over by the PC Police before that happens?