I detest memes, but like all other rules, there are exceptions. Sometimes, only a meme will do.
Of the many warpings and distortions of a healthy culture we have seen emanating from the ideologically extreme, one of the more insidious is the antagonism towards humor. This episode speaks for itself.
The UNICEF on Campus chapter at the University of London sent five local comedians a request to perform at a club sponsored event. However, the requirements to be hired led all five to turn down the job.
Fisayo Eniolorunda, the club’s event organizer, wrote in an email, “Attached is a short behavioural agreement form that we will ask for you to sign on the day to avoid problems.”
Problems like actually being funny, apparently.
The “behavioral agreement” states,
“This comedy night… aims to provide a safe space for everyone to share and listen to Comedy. This contract has been written to ensure an environment where joy, love, and acceptance are reciprocated by all. By signing this contract, you are agreeing to our no tolerance policy with regards to racism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia or anti-religion or anti-atheism. All topics must be presented in a way that is respectful and kind. It does not mean that these topics can not be discussed. But, it must be done in a respectful and non-abusive way.”
Respectful of whom and not abusive in what way? Oh, never mind. The agreement is a joke itself. What does “love and acceptance” have to do with humor? Does Fisayo Eniolorunda know what “Comedy” is? Of course comedy doesn’t have to be cruel or mean, but then an audience that would lay out such rigid standards can’t be trusted to judge what cruel, mean, respectful, non-abusive, safe—lordy, especially “safe”–or funny is. These are subjective standards being judged by people who are so besotted with ideological mania, virtue-signaling addiction and political correctness that they can’t be trusted.
Is this an ethical issue? It is, because a sense of humor, and society’s acceptance, enjoyment and tolerance of humor, is an essential balm that keeps human existence from being grim, adversarial, miserable and dominated by self pity and fear. Unfortunately, a growing movement within democratic societies has seen the advantages of keeping the public grim, adversarial, and miserable, so they are trying to abolish humor itself. By the looks of it, they are succeeding.
In addition to the British “behavioral agreement,” back across the pond students at Columbia University interrupted the comedy routine of Nimesh Patel, the former “Saturday Night Live” writer and comic they had invited to perform, after deeming his jokes too offensive. Who will dare to perform comedy in this kind of atmosphere? Eventually, not very many. Jerry Seinfeld is on record saying that he finds it impossible to play to college audiences now. Pretty soon those will be the mainstream audiences. Do you think they will learn to laugh in their forties?
Who and what is responsible for this “revoltin’ development,” as the great Jimmy Durante used to say? That’s a topic for a book, but my top cultural laughter thieves would be political correctness, of course; the power we have gradually given to those who are “offended;” the Left’s increasing efforts to restrict speech and expression in order to embed its tenets and values in the culture;”multiculturalism” and the accompanying requirement that all humor must be inoffensive to everyone (meaning virtually no acceptable humor at all); TV comics, who have created the misconception that the only acceptable jokes are those that insult evil people—you know, Republicans, conservatives, and the President, and one more group that I don’t have the guts to name, but that has been an impediment to humor for centuries at least. Maybe you know the group I am referring to; I’m sure they don’t, because …well, that’s all I’m going to say.
It is funny—no, not funny, nostalgic—to try to think about what jokes would pass the University of London requirements. I just searched my files and found an old one called “One-liners.” It was created for source material when I was recreating the 1936 Broadway comedy hit “Hellzapoppin” for the American Century Theater. As it happened, I didn’t use any of them, but here’s the complete list of 20:
- Is Marx’s tomb a communist plot?
- Birthdays are good for you – the more you have the longer you live.
- I saw a woman wearing a sweat shirt with “Guess” on it. So I said “Implants?”
- I like my women like I like my coffee. Cold and bitter.
- Contrary to popular belief, red meat is not bad for you. Fuzzy green meat is bad for you.
- Xerox and Wurlitzer are merging…they’re going to market reproductive organs!
- I support bacteria – they’re the only culture some people have.
- If a man with no arms has a gun, is he armed?
- When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?
- Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. Stalking is.
- If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, are drycleaners depressed?
- I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman where the Self Help section was, she said if she told me it would defeat the purpose.
- If a parsley farmer is sued do they garnish his wages?
- The meek shall inherit the earth – after we’re through with it.
- I like to borrow money from pessimists – they don’t expect it back.
- If you choke a member of the Blue Man Group, what color does he turn?
- Radioactive cats have 18 half-lives.
- Did you know that corduroy pillows are making headlines?
- Women spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men spend thinking.
- There are 3 kinds of people: those who can count and those who can’t.
I rate 13 of these potentially unacceptable by the University of London standards. How many do you count?
The momentum against comedy is accelerating. According to Variety, the Oscars are considering going without a host for one of the few times in its history after famously kinder, gentler and non-political comic Kevin Hart was forced to quit almost immediately after being chosen because some of his old tweets were homophobic. At the Federalist, Ellie Bufkin lists top comedians who are probably taboo due to their previous jokes or skits, which were offensive to somebody,at least now under the new rules.
My view is that society, and American society especially, cannot survive without humor. Those trying to make comedy impossible are allowing fear, hatred and division to thrive with no way to defuse them.
It’s no laughing matter.
And for perspective’s sake, here is a movie scene that got the biggest laugh—you should recognize which line, and if you can’t, you’re infected— I have ever heard in a movie theater at a trailer. The multi-racial, college audience of several decades ago was chuckling right into the feature film. Go ahead, tell me that culture wasn’t healthier than what we have now.
Oh..I had to check several versions on line to find one that wasn’t cut and censored to avoid being offensive.
Of course I did.