Opinion: Why PC Culture is Killing Comedy


Jake Salomon and Daniel Rohr

“Two businessmen bought the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million. They are very excited with their purchase, as this is the only legal way to own black people,” said Norm Macdonald on his podcast a while back.

Jokes like this fly less easily in today’s America. People would immediately protest Macdonald  and call him racist. However, there is hypocrisy in this. Typically, jokes where white people are made fun of are less offensive to people than jokes where black people or a minority are made fun of. This is because of the rise of a politically correct (PC) culture where people seem to think that minorities are offended by jokes about them.

From my personal understanding of this issue, the majority of jokes that are perceived as offensive do not actually offend the minority they are about. Rather, others hear the joke and think that they would be offended if that joke was about them.

When Reuben Hall, a senior at SRHS, was asked about this topic he responded, “As an actively practicing Jew, I personally believe that Jew jokes are extremely funny and they really don’t cause any harm to people as long as they are meant to be funny.”

Nowadays, comedians have to watch what they say, especially at college campuses which are the country’s leaders in safe spaces and political correctness. But why do some people want everything, including and beyond comedy, to be politically correct all of a sudden and what has it done to America?

Humor arises “from the intersection of two incompatible scripts or frameworks in a given text” (Dannagal G. Young, The Privileged Role of the Late-Night Joke). In other words, for you to perceive a joke as funny at first, your brain must be engaged enough to think that it knows what the punchline is, but then be surprised by a completely different random answer. Therefore, outrageous and “unacceptable” comedy will trigger a response in your brain, causing you to laugh.

This is why jokes that are so wrong are funny. Your brain is not expecting to hear the outcome of a good politically incorrect joke. Restricting this type of humor deprives us of the laughs we would have otherwise had.

Today, comedians are often bashed on social media for jokes that are too politically incorrect. Jokes about women’s stereotypes (when told by men), the LGBT community, and other cultures are usually not allowed. Additionally, as Rowan Atkinson, English comedian and actor, says “jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them.” There will always be people who get offended by comedy, so it is best to just ignore them and carry on with your life.

Modern day comedians such as Atkinson are hesitant to tell outrageous and borderline jokes out of fear of backlash. When a group feels scared to say something publically is when the real problem begins. This is a direct violation of their First Amendment right to free speech.

I do believe that nothing is off limits when it comes to comedy. People should be secure enough with their beliefs and culture that they are able to laugh at jokes about it or even make jokes about it themselves.

It is not legal under the Constitution of the United States to restrict the speech of someone just because you do not like what they are saying. A case involving the restriction of hate speech against a certain group went to the Supreme Court in June 2017 (Matal v. Tam) and they unanimously voted that hate speech isn’t an exception to the First Amendment. Plus, jokingly mocking something for the sole purpose of humor is way different than hate speech. Therefore, people have no right to make comedians apologize for offensive jokes they tell.

However, their desire to do so is a relatively recent fad. The dissent towards politically incorrect jokes was not present just 20 years ago but today it has moved into all aspects of our society.

Ace Hardware changed their commercial jingle from “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man” to “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks.”A Virginia teacher was fired on December 7th for not using a transgender student’s preferred pronouns. SRHS is talking about changing the name of Dead Week to Study Week to make it seem less daunting. The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie is apparently inappropriate to show because Santa is a bigot and Rudolph gets bullied, and it is frowned upon to say “Merry Christmas” in December because that is excluding of other religions. President Trump even acknowledged this and when he came into office he said that he was going to make it acceptable to say Merry Christmas again. The song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is now considered to be degrading towards women and it is frowned upon to play it.

These are all fairly recent events, with all but the Ace jingle change happening in 2018, where people were upset at something that was not PC and changed it or boycotted it. The push for a politically correct America has evolved from restricting comedy to trying to control the way others live their lives. Not only is this in contradiction with the First Amendment but it is just plain annoying.

Americans are used to being able to say whatever they want, and they do not like it when people tell them they must do otherwise. The truth is, a lot of Americans don’t care about trying to be politically correct. Americans are known as set in their ways and this is very true when it comes to being politically correct.

I am in no way saying that PC comedy is not funny, but rather that comedians who make non-PC jokes have the right to continue to do so and I will defend their right to do so. I also believe a PC culture could work in a communist state, but a post-modern American society is not the place for it.

It is silly to expect the U.S. to become a politically correct nation, and even sillier to think comedians will become PC. There are much bigger problems in America than words triggering people. Being politically correct is not a worry that the vast majority of Americans have and I doubt that it ever will be.