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Would The Office be as popular as it was ten years ago, today? Do Eddie Murphy’s stand-up specials have as much praise as they used to? Is Saturday Night Live making fun of the wrong things? Are Kevin Hart’s comments about gay people too much?

If you’ve been drawn to the comedic scene in the past year you’d notice the present controversy regarding what is actually funny and what has been taken too far. A recent instance in which this issue was brought to the public eye had to do with Kevin Hart and his homophobic remarks. During one of his stand-up specials from 2010, Hart told a story about his son’s “first gay moment.” Hart discussed his own heterosexual views and mentioned that if there was a possibility he could stop his son from being gay, he would do what he could. Now, that in itself isn’t a polite or even kind thing to say anybody. Sharing one’s homosexuality is incredibly difficult for an individual period. That being said, it obviously affects people differently. In terms of the audience, if one was to watch the video, there is a plethora of laughter that follows the joke which expresses the fact that many people in the audience found this to be funny.

Now you can watch it yourself to see if you’re one of those individuals: https://youtu.be/ggAjqk2Bc3M.

So, let’s get some backs

Although this special was released in 2010, the aftermath has followed Kevin Hart into 2019. He was invited to host the Oscars but wasn’t able to take the job because of all of the scrutiny he faced regarding his performance almost ten years earlier. Of course, many of Hart’s jokes consist of prejudice remarks but this special is usually brought up when referring to Hart’s type of humor.

Kevin Hart isn’t the only example of a comedian who has faced scrutiny and issues surrounding their stand-up. Eddie Murphy, Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Chris D’Elia, Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Dunham, George Lopez, Martin Lawrence, Steve Harvey, Dave Chapelle, Chelsea Handler, Tracy Morgan, Michael Richards, Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer fall under this category as well and are definitely not the only ones. Comedy is used sometimes to shed light on serious issues but all in all it is meant to be entertaining. By listing all of these comedians, I hope it becomes apparent that although some comedy can be offensive, many comedians do not have that intention.

One of Chris D’Elia’s podcast episodes talks about comedy and the offense that has been brought to his attention by people who watch his stand-up. He actually targets college students in his spiel and says that college students are still in a transitional place in their lives where their identities and beliefs are not solid. He says a lot of the offense taken from his comedy has to do with the fact that almost everything is being taken out of context. And none of his jokes are meant to be taken that way. He even flat out says, “It’s a joke!”

Image via Giphy

You may be thinking, where is Shante going with this but I’ll tell you.

Comedy isn’t always meant to be taken seriously. With such a shift in our social climate, many topics we openly talk about are transitioning into our views on the world. We are seeing humor with a different lens and in turn realizing how problematic some comedians come across when telling their jokes. This is natural and people will ALWAYS be upset when it comes to comedy. The trend we’re seeing however, is that more things are being considered upsetting. Topics that were once joked about are now being made into serious subjects.

Homophobia, transphobia, racism, cultural prejudice and political folly are all seen as controversial issues and that in itself fosters offense to some. Everyone has strong views about certain subjects and it only makes sense that people would laugh at different things due to their different ideals and views. But have we started to generalize comedy in a bad light due to this idea that some topics just aren’t funny anymore?

Eddie Murphy is considered a comedic phenomenon even to this day. However, I doubt many people know how problematic his stand-up was back in the 80’s. He is a mastermind when it comes to comedy and has been noted for a lot of his achievements. He was the only SNL cast-member to host while still being part of the cast, which I think says a lot about his place in the industry! Nonetheless, many of his jokes have targeted homophobia and numerous sensitive subjects.


Image via Medium

This raises the question: Does a bad joke make someone a bad comedian? Michael Richards, someone we may all know as Kramer from the legendary 90’s sitcom Seinfeld, is renowned for his hilarious role on the show. Yet, many people are turned off by something he did in 2006. During a show he performed at the Laugh Factory, he acknowledged a couple African-American audience members who seemed to be having a conversation of their own during his set. He proceeded to call them the N-word in his set and has since lost a majority of his fanbase. Many individuals claimed that this really shed light on his personality, while other comedians just noted that he was probably just having a bad day.

Shows like Saturday Night Live and the now discontinued MADtv were full of skits that were made to entertain. Some consisted of political satire and others of abstract situations that were just freakin’ hilarious. Those instances in which situations are being made fun of through exaggeration have tended to be relatable to many individuals. For example, Saturday Night Live starts many of their skits with political satire, which is nowadays almost always targeted towards President Trump. Some skits have alluded to Trump’s lack of desire to continue his presidency or his lack of understanding as to how to be a good president. Of course, some people may disagree with these ideas and find these skits offensive yet others may feel the same way about how President Trump is actually enacting his abilities as president.

The controversy surrounding comedy is prevalent and will always be but it all depends on the audience. Some of the problematic comedians I mentioned earlier are still super successful even though they have received a lot of backlash for their comedy. It isn’t easy being a comedian in general, but especially in a climate like the one we are in, it seems to be impossible not to offend anyone. With all of this being said, should comedians nowadays tone it down or is it all being taken too seriously? I’ll let you be the judge of that.


Shante Boudaghi is a fourth year Religious Studies and Sociology double major at UCSB who is also pursuing a certificate in Business Communication and Law! When she's not dancing with her collegiate hip hop team, you can catch her teaching kids about the history and fundamentals of Hip Hop culture and dance at different elementary schools in the Santa Barbara area.
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