Comedian and actor Chris Rock is the latest to come out swinging against cancel culture.
Appearing on The Breakfast Club Radio Show recently, Rock said cancel culture is making everyone scared and even humor is becoming boring.
Rock said that comedians are forced to play it safe and use bland content out of fear of being targeted by those who wish to cancel anyone who says anything deemed offensive.
“What happens is everybody gets safe, and nobody tries anything. Things get boring,” Rock said. “I see a lot of unfunny comedians, unfunny TV shows, unfunny movies because people are scared to make a move, and that’s not a good place to be. We should have the right to fail because failure is a part of art.”
Until cancel culture, we had the right to offend.
Back in my day (cue the “Ashokan Farewell” fiddle theme from Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary and play it while reading the next few lines, and imagine reading this in Shelby Foote’s mint julep voice) we college kids would go hang out in each other’s dorm rooms, cue up a comedian on Comedy Central, and watch. Comedy Central played more stand-up acts in those days. Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee wouldn’t have stood a chance back then.
We’d pick a random comedian. We’d watch that comedian tell jokes. The comedian would probably say a hundred offensive things in a half hour.
Do you know what we did?
We laughed! Even if we, ourselves, were offended. And I can tell you, as a young conservative Christian, a lot of the jokes were offensive in some way. But we laughed anyway. Because the material wasn’t anything more than a joke. It was funny.
Can you imagine that now? People actually laughing at jokes that were funny but probably also targeted to offend somebody somewhere. That’s what we did, when the world was all sepia tones and jokes were actually meant just to be funny for their own sake.
Why, one time I went to a live comedy show in Austin. Every single comic said something offensive.
And no one picketed. No one tried to end any of the comedians’ careers. We laughed. We left. That was it.
(You can stop playing the Ken Burns music now if you want. Keep Shelby Foote’s voice going, though. That guy could make the phone book sound epic.)
Here’s something else cancel culture has canceled: the ability to appreciate artists even while disagreeing with some of what they say. Everybody Hates Chris was Rock’s semi-autobiographical sitcom. There isn’t a single episode of that show that doesn’t give up at least one laugh out loud. It gave us Terry Crews as Rock’s hardworking dad. It was great TV.
Rock says all kinds of things I disagree with, whether he’s telling jokes or talking politics or whatever. You know what?
That’s fine. He’s still a great comedian.
Sometimes, being offended means being challenged. That’s a bad thing?
Comics may have more to lose from cancel culture than just about anyone in any other profession. Comedy is a tightrope with no net. Famously clean comic Jerry Seinfeld announced years ago that he was done playing college campuses because they’re so woke they’re hostile to humor.
“I hear that all the time,” Seinfeld said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd. “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’”
Seinfeld says teens and college-aged kids don’t understand what it means to throw around certain politically-correct terms. “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudice,’” he said. “They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
Imagine being young today, but instead of having fun you’re busy being so uptight that you’re just looking for things to offend you all the time, everywhere, to the point that even Jerry Seinfeld might be offensive.
That world has united Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and also Donald Glover recently.
And I can’t remember the last time I saw a funny comic on Comedy Central. Dave Chappelle is over on Netflix.