Dame Maureen Lipman has warned that comedy is under threat of being “wiped out,” as comedians fear being ‘canceled’ for jokes some consider inappropriate. That’s after a poll found more than half of Brits now censor themselves.
Speaking to the BBC, the veteran British actress and comedian warned that “a revolution” was taking place in the cultural world, making those in the industry question “whether we will ever be funny again.”
“Cancel culture, this canceling, this punishment – it’s everywhere. Punishment. An eye for an eye. ‘You said that, therefore you must never work again.’ Sooner or later, the cancelers will win,” Lipman said.
She warned that comedy risked being “wiped out” if comedians are forced to tone down their material to avoid offending anyone, with performers afraid that, if they cause offence, it could end their career.
The actress’s comments were elicited in response to a YouGov poll that found 57% of respondents had censored themselves. When discussing issues such as immigration and transgender rights, people admitted to being wary of what they said for fear of being deemed politically incorrect.
Speaking to 1,677 people last month, the polling company assessed public concerns about the rise of what’s become known as ‘cancel culture.’ While only a third of those surveyed actually knew what the phenomenon was, significantly more said they felt they’d been canceled in the past or that their views had been deemed controversial and then silenced.
Respondents were most likely to self-censor their views when meeting new people and at work, with 49% and 40%, respectively, choosing to hide what they really thought in those settings.
There have been concerns about the impact of ‘cancel culture’ on the arts and entertainment industry in the UK following a decision by the Old Vic not to stage a new production of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Into The Woods’ over the involvement of a director whose views were considered controversial.
The musical had been set to be co-directed by ‘Monty Python’ actor Terry Gilliam, until staff at the theater protested at remarks previously made by Gilliam on Twitter. These included calling the #MeToo movement a “witch hunt” that was causing “decent people” to get “hammered.” It will now be staged at the Theatre Royal Bath.