Ethics Hero: Dave Chappelle

I know: just a week ago, I began the last section of the  day’s warm-up with “He’s not exactly an Ethics Hero, but…Dave Chappelle’s new concert video, now streaming on Netflix, is thought-provoking, brave, and full of ethical insights and analysis. I could do a two hour ethics seminar using just his material.” Several things have changed since then, however…

  • I am desperate for ethics heroes. We all are. If the Democrat candidates debate proved anything, it was that.
  • Chappelle is being attacked, hard, by the very same cancellation culture and political correctness dictators he has been willing to  challenge.
  • There is an organized effort to try to discourage the public from watching his Netflix special “Sticks and Stones,” not because it won’t be funny to anyone still capable of finding things funny, but because it will inspire people to think. Can’t have that…
  • Only one reader, the usually intrepid and culturally aware Humble Talent, commented on the issue last week. Sometimes I think that including a topic in the warm-up rather than devoting a whole post to it causes some Ethics Alarms readers to gloss over the issues involved, or maybe miss the item itself, as if each warm-up topic  is only 20% of a serious ethics topic because there are typically five in a post. The benefit to me of this format is that it saves time (you would not believe how long it takes to set up an individual post after the text is written) and helps me avoid an ethics backlog, but sometimes whether a particular issue is covered in a warm-up item or in a full post is arbitrary, a matter of timing, what else has occurred and my mood at the time.
  • Upon further reflection, I have concluded that Chappelle is an Ethics Hero.

Continue reading

Cellphone Videos Of Stand-Up Comedy Routines Are Unethical: Ban Them

no cell phonesVulture features an interview with Chris Rock, on which he waxes forth on many topics.I don’t especially care what Chris Rock has to say about Ferguson, but I care a lot about his views on stand-up comedy, where he qualifies as an expert, and the disastrous effect unauthorized videos are having on his art.

Rock has walked off the stage in appearances when he couldn’t stop audience members from filming him, and for very good reasons. He doesn’t want untested, half-baked material to get out to the public via YouTube:

“There are a few guys good enough to write a perfect act and get onstage, but everybody else workshops it and workshops it, and it can get real messy. It can get downright offensive. Before everyone had a recording device and was wired like Sammy the Bull, you’d say something that went too far, and you’d go, ‘Oh, I went too far,’ and you would just brush it off. But if you think you don’t have room to make mistakes, it’s going to lead to safer, gooier stand-up. You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.”

On Elahe Izadi’s Syle Blog in the Washington Post site, other comics voiced similar concerns. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Jerry Seinfeld

One wonderful thing about extreme success combined with middle age is that you can, if you have the integrity, speak unpopular truths without caring who objects. Thus it was the Jerry Seinfeld correctly dismissed as irrelevant and misguided the suggestion that seeking racial and gender balance should be an objective in his comedy shows. In response to a question challenging his Web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee“as too white and male, the comedian said:

“People think it’s the census or something, it’s gotta represent the actual pie chart of America. Who cares? Funny is the world that I live in. You’re funny, I’m interested. You’re not funny, I’m not interested. I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that, but everyone else is, kind of with their little calculating, “Is this the exact right mix?” To me, it’s anti-comedy.  It’s more about PC nonsense than ‘are you making us laugh or not’.”

Exactly. Not that the race and gender bean counters will let Seinfeld escape with an explanation of such obvious common sense. Here’s Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher playing his full hand of gender, race, guilt and quota cards: Continue reading

The Evolving Ethics of Joke Theft

Kal Raustiala, a Professor at UCLA Law School and the UCLA International Institute, and Chris Sprigman, a Professor at the University of Virginia Law School, are counterfeiting and intellectual property experts who hang out at the Freakonomics blog, and their latest post discusses how the world of stand-up comedy deals with joke theft. Some of the commentary will remind you of the Monty Python sketch in which a professor dryly lectures (with demonstrations) on the art of slapstick, but their observation is important: professional comics have developed a series of standards, enforced informally by such methods as shunning, shaming, and confrontation (and the occasional punch in the face) to discourage theft of a form of intellectual property that cannot be efficiently protested by copyright or trademark law. Continue reading