Whether they like it or not, comedians are on the front lines of the culture wars. Gone are the days when rebels like George Carlin and Richard Pryor pushed stand-up in bold new directions.
Today, comedians who tell the “wrong” jokes or pick the “wrong” targets face immediate cancellation. Just ask Shane Gillis, Kevin Hart, and Dave Chappelle – three stars who found out the hard way. It’s why comedians from different political backgrounds – think Adam Carolla (libertarian), Dennis Miller (conservative) and Ricky Gervais (liberal) – unite over free speech principles.
For them, Cancel Culture is an existential threat to their livelihoods.
A select group of comics, though, see things differently. They see their peers being punished and essentially shrug. A subset even say they had it coming, while others pretend Cancel Culture doesn’t actually exist.
Let’s meet these comedy traitors, the artists who undo the work left behind by Lenny Bruce, Carlin, and more.
“The Daily Show” alum has always been on the Left, but he’d occasionally use his Comedy Central perch to also tweak progressives. That’s no longer the case with his low-rated Apple TV+ showcase, “The Problem with Jon Stewart.”
He recently shocked longtime fans with an episode entitled, “The Problem With White People,” showcasing his embrace of his new woke agenda. That’s sad to see – even for his right-leaning admirers – but Stewart also pretends that Cancel Culture doesn’t exist, according to his interview with The Daily Beast:
“Like, there’s more speech now than ever before. It’s not ‘you can’t say it,’ it’s that when you say it—look, the internet has democratized criticism. What do we do for a living—we talk s***, we criticize, we postulate, we opine, we make jokes, and now other people are having their say. And that’s not cancel culture, that’s relentlessness. We live in a relentless culture. And the system of the internet and all those other things are incentivized to find the pressure points of that and exacerbate it.”
Ironically, a few weeks later Stewart rushed to Chappelle’s defense after the Cancel Culture movement came for him in connection with his Netflix special, “The Closer.”
The “WTF with Marc Maron” podcaster is one of many stand-ups who could be canceled if his old material suddenly “resurfaced.” He even admitted it during an episode released Nov. 11. Maron claims he’s grown since those times, and that he wouldn’t tell those jokes today.
In doing so, he essentially championed Cancel Culture and its impact on comedy. “Free speech is an American right. You can say whatever the f*** you want…You just have to shoulder what comes back at you, what you reap after you’ve slung your garbage.”
Is he trying to protect himself from woke scolds digging through his old material? Perhaps. Or, is he just part of the comedy minority who think stand-ups should follow a certain set of rules – or face the consequences? Either way, he’s happy to attack fellow comics like Ricky Gervais for blazing their own trails, rules be darned.
Colbert once took time away from his GOP taunts to chortle over Dr. Seuss’s cancellation. Yes, the host of CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” finds it a real knee-slapper when a beloved children’s author gets targeted by the woke mob.
Colbert himself was nearly canceled earlier in his career for a comedy sketch some Asian viewers found insensitive. Since then, he’s faithfully towed the progressive line in his work, partially insulating himself from any future cancellations.
Crooked Media pressed Colbert on the topic last year, and the professional Trump hater took all sides of the issue before suggesting Cancel Culture is a net plus. Consider:
“I wanna be able to say anything I want about anything, and I think that you should have the ability to say anything you want about anything … that doesn’t mean you get the response you want … there are consequences.”
“I never hide behind, ‘it’s just a joke,’” … It’s a joke, and those are hard. Try to do them thoughtfully.”
“I have come to believe that saying to historically marginalized people … ‘y’all gotta take a joke,’ is a little Olympian … you can say it, but I think it might be … a little solipsistic to think your intention is more important than the effect of your work.”
The scratchy-voiced comic is better known for his sly directorial efforts these days, think “World’s Greatest Dad” (2009) and “Willow Creek” (2013). He’s still a stand-up comic, though, and the progressive Goldthwait told The Guardian, flat out “There is no Cancel Culture.”
“People love to say, ‘George Carlin couldn’t do his act today! What would he say about all this?’” Goldthwait says. “You know what he’d say? I know exactly what he’d say. He’d say something hilarious and cutting about your f***ing bulls***. There is no cancel culture. It only exists if you’re a whistleblower or a victim.”
When “Saturday Night Live” alum Garrett Morris gave an elegant defense of free speech to the far-Left Hollywood Reporter, you’d think other members of the original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” would also be willing to fight the good fight for free speech.
As Morris told the Reporter, “Relax, everybody, this is comedy. Everybody can be the butt of a joke. And why should it be that if we joke about you, it’s sacrilege? You sit in the audience and laugh at jokes about everybody else. If we make a joke about trans [people] or gays, suddenly it’s sacrilege…and if you can’t understand that this is comedy coming at you, then don’t live in a society that’s multicultural.”
Not “Doctor Detroit” himself.
Aykroyd, ignoring how much of his past work could be canceled today, told The Hollywood Reporter he’s happy with the new rules that limit modern comedy.
“There is enough range in humor where you don’t have to go scatological and you don’t have to go pulling any divisive cards to get a laugh. There is so much in the world to comment on that is outside the realm of offensiveness. As a writer, you can go to other areas and have successful creative endeavors. Scatological humor is fun. It’s easy laughs. But there is more intelligent writing that can happen if you stay away from the offensive material that should be rightly canceled for its hurtfulness.”
The “Carmichael Show” alum calls Cancel Culture the “Boogeyman,” meaning it doesn’t actually exist. He expounded on that theme during a comedy roundtable chat with The Hollywood Reporter.
“Like, if you do something wrong in your personal life, you should go to jail. Like, actual jail. And then everything else is like, “What are we talking about?” If you make art and it causes some contention or it causes some whatever, I mean, that’s part of it, but the cancellation thing, I think that’s just to give boring people something interesting to talk about, like a ghost villain.”
Tell that to Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais, Roseanne Barr and countless lesser known stars who fear their next edgy joke might be their last.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.