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Comedy: Standing Up, or Falling Down?

By: Abigail Weintraub

Throughout history, stand-up comedy has been a major aspect of both entertainment and politics. It’s mainly done just for laughs but could also act as a savior when times get dull.

However, it is possible that comedy can turn dark, or even offensive. Despite the growing awareness toward being politically correct, stand-up comedy should be able to have the right to “offend”, to a certain extent. This is because comedians are granted freedom of speech, have prepared audiences, and are responsible for facing repercussions.

The first amendment of the United States Constitution grants freedom of speech to all U.S. citizens. This privilege shouldn’t be abused, and often isn’t. However, stand-up comedy is one of the few events that takes this freedom slightly further, already making it a content warning in itself. “If you’re comfortable, we’re not doing our jobs,” one comedian said in an interview for Right To Offend, a documentary series that investigates the history of Black comedians. There aren’t many places where someone can aggressively poke fun at the different races and sexualties without being stared at or straight-up kicked out. Comedy bars are an exception.

Furthermore, audiences of stand-up comedy know what they’re getting into. If someone dislikes the content that is present in a comedian’s act, they can simply exit the room or quit viewing. After leaving the club when a comedian made a remark regarding Jesus and sexuality, audience member Chonda Pierce said that she respected “his ability and his right [to make the joke], but I don’t have to listen to it.” People shouldn’t expose themselves to explicit content if they know they can’t handle it. This allows comedians to go “above and beyond” with their jokes, making exaggerated and sometimes disturbing remarks, because their audiences are prepared for it.

Finally, all comedians are responsible for facing repercussions if their acts offend their audience. A comedian can very possibly be kicked off the stage if their act gets out of hand. Also, if offensive jokes are made on private platforms such as social media, although it isn’t exactly stand-up comedy, the poster should expect to possibly get blocked or banned.

“Everyone is afraid to be offended or to offend anyone else,” said actress and comedian Lyric Lewis. To many, comedy is a recourse for breaking limits; as a comedian, there’s no being afraid of going above and beyond. There is an extent to which the offensive factor of comedy should be taken to. Comedy can be exposing, but also must remain legal. With that said, not a lot of activities in life touch on serious topics like this. In many cases, comedy is simply meant to entertain, simply for laughs. However, it can also inflict emotion.

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