In a Sept. 30 New York Times interview, comedian and political commentator Bill Maher said his comedy serves to bridge the gap posed by the question: “Why can’t I talk on TV the way I talk at home or with my friends?”
This brings up the question: How exactly does he talk to his friends and family? Does Maher – and other comedians who share the same views – feel concerned about the public discovering their personal conversations? If they were to be released, would they cause a widespread uproar?
In the comedy scene today, comedians consider themselves tightrope walkers who try to balance the fine line between satirical acts and “political correctness.”
As we remove racist and sexist language from our vocabulary, comedians – and others – who proudly proclaim they refuse to succumb to some politically correct cultural hegemony become more controversial and shunned.
Or even worse, these comedians’ appeal and fan bases may increase because they’re seen as the new underdogs against a new political climate and are even more worthy of praise.
Now that people can’t make politically incorrect jokes with impunity as often, they throw temper tantrums when rightfully called out on their bigotry.
Younger millennials and Gen Z members who are part of marginalized groups and merely point out the discrimination they face are called whiny and entitled.
Our generation, according to people like Maher, is too weak, too sheltered – even though we face the brunt of the consequences of the thoughtless actions of generations past.
Our elders fail to recognize the immense change our world has been through in the past 50 years, including social revolutions, environmental destruction, and immense political upheaval.
We have known nothing except endless war, having mostly grown up in a post-9/11 world where the looming threat of global nuclear destruction is still imminent.
We live in a nation where we are afraid to go to public places in fear of being victims of mass shootings and ending up as a name and face in Twitter Moments.
We’re part of a generation that is overwhelmingly afflicted with mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and left without adequate, affordable health care to treat them.
So, it’s no doubt we are collectively traumatized by the negligence and condescension from Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, who have effectively shoved at us the problems they caused, but don’t want to deal with anymore.
And the members of these generations who criticize our appropriate and natural responses to this trauma are gaslighting us by saying there is no reason for us to act this way.
Many Gen Z members are told by people like Maher to “suck it up” or get pelted by the “when I was your age” rants, which trivialize their feelings and experiences.
Maher claims millennials who are insulted by his jokes “probably grew up with helicopter parents who afforded them a sense of entitlement.
“They are certainly more fragile than previous generations. Trigger warnings. Safe spaces. Crying rooms. Microaggressions. That crowd feels like anything that upsets their tender sensibilities is completely out of line.”
The thing is: actions and sayings that are now seen as offensive have always been offensive. People just felt like they couldn’t safely say anything.
But that’s changing – and for the better.
People who are staunchly against political correctness fail to see that comedy and free speech can still exist and thrive, even without targeting vulnerable populations that already have targets on their backs because of the deeply pervasive inequality of our society.
If you have to resort to blatant and unapologetic racism and sexism and ableism to entertain people, then maybe consider: you’re just not that funny.