Comedians are pushing back against the “cancel culture” atmosphere in which entertainers become the object of boycotts when jokes cross an invisible line.
Comedian Dave Chappelle, who received this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, said free expression is a bedrock of American society, and noted that he has learned to tolerate those who offend even him.
“[I] don’t get mad at ’em, don’t hate on ’em,” he said during his acceptance speech Sunday night at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., according to USA Today. “Man, it’s not that serious. The First Amendment is first for a reason. Second Amendment is just in case the first one doesn’t work out.”
Chappelle said Americans need to relax.
“We got to let some air out of the ball, man,” Chappelle said in his remarks, The Hill reported. “The country’s getting a little tight. It doesn’t feel like it’s ever felt in my lifetime.”
“Political correctness has its place,” he told a reporter on the red carpet.
“We all want to live in a polite society, we just kind of have to work on the levels of coming to an agreement of what that actually looks like,” Chappelle said.
“I, personally, am not afraid of other people’s freedom of expression. I don’t use it as a weapon. It just makes me feel better. And I’m sorry if I hurt anybody,” he explained, adding, “Yada, yada, ‘everything I’m supposed to say.'”
Other entertainers have said outrage over comedy has become absurd.
“I think it’s gone way too far,” comedian Marlon Wayans said Sunday, according to The Hill.
Wayans said his comedy is based upon “the crazy stuff that goes on.”
“I don’t care what the topic is, my job is a hard one. I got to find what’s funny about these dark topics that people are afraid to talk about,” Wayans said.
Entertainer Keegan-Michael Key, meanwhile, said comedians often deliver important messages through humor.
“Sometimes we’re offended, but other times, are you offended, or are you afraid to hear something that maybe needs to be said?” he told Yahoo.
Actor and comedian Eddie Murphy said despite the pressure, comedy is thriving.
“I think the art form is soaring higher than it’s ever soared,” Murphy told Yahoo.
“Every now and then somebody might say something that ruffles somebody’s feathers or steps on somebody’s toes or whatever, but for the most part, it’s bigger and more global and more diverse than it’s ever been.”
Jamie Masada, who founded the Los Angeles comedy club “Laugh Factory,” said unrestrained speech is vital to comedy.
“Comedians, they’re allowed to be able to have this freedom of speech,” Masada told the Los Angeles Times in September.
“All of that stuff is very important to our culture.”
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