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2 Oct, 2019 18:21

Joker filmmaker enrages 'woke culture' proponents by (accurately) blaming the tyranny of outrage for death of comedy

Joker filmmaker enrages 'woke culture' proponents by (accurately) blaming the tyranny of outrage for death of comedy

Filmmaker Todd Phillips triggered more than a few 'woke' critics when he blamed the overly sensitive climate engulfing comedy - in which any controversial material becomes 'problematic' - for killing comedy, but he was right.

What Phillips called "woke culture" - a pathological eagerness to avoid insensitivity that weaponizes the worst excesses of political correctness - has made comedy all but impossible because it has made the cost of failure too high. A single failed joke can cost a comedian their livelihood if it offends the wrong people - and who can create when their hands are tied?

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"It's hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter," Phillips pointed out, "so you just go, 'I'm out.'" He added that he is far from the only "f***ing funny guy" who has done the risk-benefit analysis and found comedy to be not worth the penalty for offending modern audiences, and said he finds it "astounding" how much "the far-left can sound like the far-right when it suits their agenda."

Digging through a comedian's old work to find something offensive, holding it up as a beacon to muster popular outrage against that person, and getting them "cancelled" has become a competitive sport for a small but vocal segment of the Left. This group, which has made a lifestyle out of taking offense, has also declared open season on social media, sifting through decade-old tweets and posts in the hope of unearthing something inflammatory. When they find it, the offending tweets are generally taken out of context and often read as serious when they were originally meant as sarcastic or ironic - as jokes. But most outrage mob victims are so traumatized by the experience of being piled on by the whole of Woke Twitter that they simply beg their tormentors for forgiveness until the bullies get bored and move on.

It was safe to bomb in comedy a decade ago. One could make an "edgy" joke, miss the mark, brush off the boos from the audience, and try again. Now, miss the mark and offend someone when the right person in the audience is filming and your career could be over in 24 hours. Numerous comedians have spoken out about the pressure this puts on their performances. 

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Comedy veteran Mel Brooks called political correctness "the death of comedy" two years ago, pointing out that "comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks." And things have only gotten worse since 2017 regarding "cancel culture," with woke commandos performing deep-dives into old tweets and old routines from Kevin Hart and Sarah Silverman, forcing Hart to resign from an Oscar-hosting gig and getting Silverman fired from a movie project.  In both cases, the "offensive" material was not considered particularly controversial at the time.

Monty Python's John Cleese was one of several comics who were already refusing to perform on college campuses in 2016, thanks to the stifling PC climate, observing that the desire to avoid offense had mutated into "the point where any kind of criticism of any kind of individual or group can be labelled cruel." Now, the suffocating blanket of "wokeness" has escaped the campuses and infiltrated the comedy clubs. Performers walk on eggshells, living in fear of stumbling onto an ever-multiplying snarl of cultural third rails. George Carlin's seven dirty words were nothing - "woke culture" has declared entire books' worth of words off-limits.

Even political comedy has gotten wealthy and complacent. Big-name comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert don't want to risk their seven-figure paychecks by "taking the piss out of the ruling class," progressive political comedian Jimmy Dore has pointed out. Dore has slammed TV comedians for limiting themselves to "low-hanging fruit" like President Donald Trump without touching the system that produced him.

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Saturday Night Live - a show that, in its early years, hosted exciting, edgy talent willing to take risks - has become the Orange Man Bad Show, with its 45th season premiere featuring three whole segments about Trump's impeachment. Not coincidentally, ratings dropped 30 percent for the younger demographic and 15 percent overall compared to the previous year. Even bland mainstream comics like Jerry Seinfeld have said political correctness is hurting comedy and have echoed Cleese's fear of performing at colleges.  If even sitcom hacks are afraid to perform, what does that say about "woke culture?"

Ironically, 'Joker' - the film that has Phillips in the hot seat and the wokesters up in arms - is the story of a failed standup comedian who turns to crime after the comedy world, and the real world, beats the stuffing out of him, literally and metaphorically. Perhaps the woke masses canceling performers left and right should take note - robbing artists of their creative outlet could have unforeseen consequences.

By Helen Buyniski, RT

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.