Howie Mandel Leads Mini Anti-Woke Comedy Revolt: ‘There Isn’t Anything We Shouldn’t Talk About’

Mandel sees what happens when a stand-up isn’t allowed to broach certain topics for fear of serious repercussions.

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 21: Comedian Howie Mandel performs at The Ice House Comedy Club on February 21, 2024 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images)
Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images

Howie Mandel first grabbed our attention by inflating a rubber glove over his head. Now, he’s making headlines for defending comedy from the woke mob.

The comedian’s physical shtick led to a breakout role in “St. Elsewhere” as the medical drama’s cutup. He’s been gainfully employed ever since.

Mandel isn’t edgy by current standards. His brand of humor is perfectly suited for broadcast TV, witness gigs like “Deal or No Deal” and “America’s Got Talent.”

He hasn’t been “canceled” in any way, shape or form.

PASADENA, CA - APRIL 04: Howie Mandel is seen filming "America's Got Talent" on April 04, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by thecelebrityfinder/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

thecelebrityfinder/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

So why did he attack woke comedy handcuffs on the “Stand-up World” podcast, hosted by Mike Binder? Mandel knows comedy better than many, and he sees what happens when a stand-up isn’t allowed to broach certain topics for fear of serious repercussions.

He compared the woke bylaws to being a painter with a limited palette.

If you think of comedy as an art, they started telling us there are certain colors you can’t use. If you’re a painter you shouldn’t say, ‘you can paint anything you want, but don’t use black, don’t use any yellows and it’s really not right to use blue.’ Art suffers, and there isn’t anything we shouldn’t talk about.

Mandel also discussed an obvious problem with the woke agenda. Comedy can be cruel. It’s inherent to the art form.

All humor comes out of darkness. That’s why the Tragedy and Comedy masks are so close together … if you’re a little kid and you go to the circus you’re laughing at a clown falling down. You’re laughing at the misfortune of somebody you don’t know.

He’s exaggerating, but not by much. Think pies in the face, stepping on rakes and slipping on a well-placed banana peel.

Humor writer Andy Borowitz shared something similar in 2012, years before what Elon Musk dubbed the “woke mind virus” captured the culture.

There’s a strong vein of cruelty running through a lot of comedy.

Why would Mandel’s comments cut through the media noise? He still does stand-up comedy, but he’s better known for being a clean, TV-based entertainer.

His inoffensive style matters in this debate. It’s one thing for a professional firebrand like Ricky Gervais to attack woke critics. His brand is directly threatened by those easily offended (and willing to raise a stink on social media).

When a genial comic like Mandel takes a stand on the subject, it hits home.

Remember how many headlines Jerry Seinfeld inspired in 2015 when he said college students of the era are too easily offended. It’s why some of Seinfeld’s peers stopped playing university gigs. He felt their professional pain.

Seinfeld’s shtick was, and remains, squeaky clean. For a G-rated comic to grasp the larger issue of triggered college crowds means the problem is larger than anyone thought.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld did a surprise set making an unannounced appearance at Gotham Comedy Club on April 23, 2015 in New York, New York. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)

Bobby Bank/WireImage

The creative community has been too silent for too long on the subject of woke restrictions. That is starting to change. 


Tom Hanks lashed out at so-called “sensitivity readers” last year following the release of his first book, “The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece: A Novel.”

In the past few weeks other stars have taken a stand against woke bylaws, putting their brands on the line in the process.

Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett blasted trigger warnings tied to art. The red flags have been attached to older animated films like “Dumbo” as well as comedy classics such as 1974’s “Blazing Saddles.’

She told The Sunday Times why they’re a terrible way to digest art.

We are terrified of tough conversations … but we need the … We talk about radical candor, but when there’s a trigger warning in front of something you are implying that there is a lack of mutual respect or that the subject hasn’t been properly interrogated … It may offend you. It may challenge you. You may laugh uproariously. You just don’t know, but you are going to surrender to what is coming.

Her 2022 film “Tar” embodied that sentiment. The film features a Cancel Culture-style attack on Blanchett’s character, a musical superstar facing a professional crisis. A critical scene in the film finds her character, Lydia Tar, berating a woke music student.

“Don’t be so eager to be offended. The narcissism of small differences leads to the most boring conformity.”

“Will & Grace” alum Eric McCormack spoke to a similar woke constraint – straight actors being questioned for playing gay characters.

“There’s no part I’ve ever played where I wasn’t playing something I’m not. It’s part of the gig. And I’ve always said, if gay actors weren’t allowed to play straight actors, Broadway would be over.”

Would he land that part today given the current cultural climate? He’s hopeful.

“I would like to think in general that the best person for the role, the one that comes in and knocks it out of the park, is the one that gets the part.”

Meritocracy matters. So do prominent artists standing up for free expression and casting a withering eye on the woke movement.

* * *

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Howie Mandel Leads Mini Anti-Woke Comedy Revolt: ‘There Isn’t Anything We Shouldn’t Talk About’