Hahas are slowly turning into waa waas and fading are the days when comedians were making their audiences’ stomach hurt. No, the reason isn’t the decline in the quality of the comedians, but the overly sensitive audiences and the cultural phenomenon known as political correctness.
Comedy has always been one of the biggest platforms for free speech, breaking taboos, escapism, and well, insulting people (in a light-hearted fashion), and you cannot do those without involving some risks. But that no can do anymore. Comedians are being backlashed, called bigoted and subjected to the moral wrath of touchy young audiences. Jokes even remotely associated with minorities are labelled offensive. Jerry Seinfeld weighed in on the subject blaming the politically correct culture of hurting comedy. “I don’t play colleges but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges, they’re so PC,” said Sienfeld in a 2015 radio interview with ESPN. A former member of the legendary Monty Python comedy troupe, John Cleese, too, says “Comedy is about things not being right. It’s all about people being stupid and it’s all about things going wrong and screwing up.” “It (PC) starts off as a halfway decent idea and then it goes completely wrong. It has taken an absurdum” says the British comedian.
Even the Indian comedic scene isn’t all too well. Moral police and conservatives are the enemy in the subcontinent. Indians are already notorious for getting easily offended and the aftermath of the AIB Knockout in 2015 didn’t help their cause. The social backlash that the group faced forced them to take the videos down and all that the group is left with are watered down generic jokes (Tanmay still tries to be edgy, but we remember how the whole Sachin Tendulkar-Lata Mangeshkar fiasco went). In fact, watered down generic jokes or comedians talking about relatable middle-class situations dominate the comedic landscape in the country. Maybe there are a few genuine acts out there, but the volume is pretty low. Maybe we just aren’t ready for stuff like roasts, blue comedy, and dark humour, and with the increase in social justice warriors in the urban population, will we ever be?
Not that I’m pro-bullying or racism, but jokes are often taken out of context and used against the comedians. Free speech isn’t so free anymore and people need to realise that it comes with the right to offend.