July 29, 2016


In an interview with free speech advocacy group FIRE, George Carlin’s daughter Kelly Carlin, Richard Pryor’s daughter Rain, and Lenny Bruce’s daughter Kitty confirm their dads would have a few choice words on today’s “thought police.”

Kitty Bruce brings up campus censorship: She’s found no comic willing to open the Lenny Bruce archives at Brandeis. Those she’s asked tell her, “Kitty, they want our comedy to be beige.” Lenny Bruce, like him or not, was anything but beige, and his bestselling album recorded live at UC Berkeley.

And according to Ms. Pryor, political correctness holds us back from a collective healing: “We’re afraid to laugh at what is painful. Do you know what I mean? We’re afraid to go to that line and cross it and then, if we do cross it, we’re not crossing it for the sake of enlightenment, right?”

“Enlightenment” may be a bit of a stretch. The legacy of the three funny men led to the erasure of the lines they, sometimes brilliantly, crossed. They made their livings and won their fame offending and amusing the cultural sensitivities they helped to push our culture past. And yet new lines, too many to keep in order, have replaced these. Kelly Carlin cites identity politics’ requirement everyone honor everyone else’s self-image, leaving little room for laughs.

As with John Cleese in 2011 having second thoughts about the current state of England after Monty Python spent years on the (state-owned) BBC going to war against its former postwar version, all of the (admittedly brilliant) comedic fathers referenced above worked very hard in the 1960s and ‘70s to coarsen American culture. Curiously, as their daughters belatedly discovered, their efforts to advance the left didn’t result in a liberated free-speech nirvana. If only someone could have predicted that.



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