Irreverent jokes open the door for discussion

Published by adviser, Author: Janelle Wilson, Date: November 19, 2015

The war of political correctness wages on in our country. Some people argue that political correctness is a necessity, and helps people feel included and respected. Others see it as a harbinger of the end of free speech.

I fall on neither end of the spectrum, but somewhere in the middle. Political correctness has its merits, but when people are politically correct to the point that they do not, and will not, encourage discussion, or the opportunity to teach, then it becomes an issue.

We are becoming a more politically correct society as a whole, aware of every possible thing that might offend people.In the midst of the discussion on political correctness enters comedian Anthony Jeselnik.

Jeselnik is a Pittsburgh native who became famous for his highly irreverent and dark stand up routines.

Last month he was featured in an article by the New York Times that commented on his televised stand-up act that was shot in San Francisco. He said that he chose to shoot there specifically because it was the most politically correct city in the world.

No subject for him is off -limits, and it adds another element of discomfort to the inherent tension that his style of comedy creates.

He makes jokes about death, gender, race, religion and even tragic events like the Holocaust and 9/11.

Jeselnik’s stand-up is not my favorite, but what he’s doing with his comedy has merit.

He has crafted a persona that is expected to be irreverent, even cruel. He tweeted a joke about the Boston Marathon bombing almost immediately after it happened. His audience knows what to expect when they purchase a ticket for his show, and he often gets away with saying whatever he wants.

However, this treatment is only given to comics who tout themselves as irreverent. Were a mainstream comedian who wasn’t known for their irreverent humor say something even slightly offensive, he or she would immediately be a target for backlash.

Comedy should be a forum for free expression, especially because people will always be more receptive to opening a discussion if it is presented in a humorous way.

Irreverence, so long as it does not discriminate, is beneficial because it levels the entire spectrum of gender, race and religion and makes no one higher than the other.

If a comic is able to make fun of men and women equally, then it makes neither sex have the upper-hand. Likewise if he or she makes fun of Catholicism and Buddhism, then no one can be offended that he or she has singled out one specific group.

The biggest strength of irreverent comedy is that it demands critical thinking. The group that is being poked fun at may question their worldview after coming under question.

There is nothing wrong with challenging your own perceptions, and comedy can make you more receptive to confronting flaws in your belief system. People like to laugh at themselves, and laugh at things that are part of their everyday life.

In the event that someone is seriously offended by something that a comedian says, then they can open discourse about it with their friends and family.  No one wants to read an article about someone else’s dissenting opinion, but if it’s presented in the form of a joke, then they would be open to discussing it as opposed to an opinion in a serious medium.


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