June 26, 2015

HOW TWITTER UPENDED THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN COMEDIANS AND AUDIENCES. “Twitter’s outrage mobs have always reminded me a bit of puritanical scolds: They sniff out heresies and denounce the heterodox, rejecting the defense that artists must have license to transgress the sensibilities of those claiming offense,” Sonny Bunch writes at the Washington Post

“If it doesn’t get laughs, you’re not gonna get work, and you’re not gonna be a comedian,” Seinfeld replies. “So the audience ultimately decides. It’s a very democratic system.”

Seinfeld’s point is an interesting one in this context. The scolds will often claim that their censoriousness is simply an artifact of the marketplace at work. But this is misdirection. The aggrieved don’t leverage their power by unfollowing an offensive person or refusing to watch their routine. When Metzger defended a fellow comic whose routine was reviled by the social justice set, his newfound foes did not say they’d skip his stand-up act and force clubs to choose between a guy who could fill a room and a guy who can’t. Rather, they combed through his Facebook history before calling for him to be fired from “Inside Amy Schumer.”

As Metzger tells Maron, Schumer and Comedy Central ignored such pleas. Similarly, Comedy Central and Jon Stewart dismissed the denunciations of Trevor Noah when it was revealed he made a few questionable jokes about Jews and girls with tattoos. And here’s where we can see how to balance the rights of comedians to crack jokes with the rights of the perpetually outraged to vent their anger. You are allowed to participate with a comedian and his employer on Twitter in ways that you aren’t allowed to at the Improv. But the employers of these comedians are, similarly, allowed to ignore you.

Speaking as a fan of comedy? I hope they do.

But CEOs and bakery owners will always be fair game for the “burn the heretic” outrage mobs.