Yes, You Can Be Funny And Woke

Todd Phillips is wrong—comedy can still exist without fear of offending people

Comedy is dead. Cause of death: woke culture. At least that’s what Todd Phillips, director of the doom-and-gloom supervillian origin story “The Joker,” thinks.

Phillips, who has also directed comedies like the Hangover Trilogy and “Due Date,” is just another disgruntled comedian with a vendetta against the world for not thinking they’re funny. Sound familiar? Read the plot of “The Joker”—take that for cinematic parallels.

Side note: If “The Joker” is an allegory for what’s coming next, we’re screwed. Is this our punishment for giving “The Hangover Part II” a 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes?

So, is he right? Did audience hypersensitivity kill comedy? No, of course not. And yet, the idea that PC culture has led to the demise of comedy is a recurring theme that you’ll constantly hear comedians saying, from Chris Rock to Jerry Seinfeld. As much as I love Seinfeld, I’ve got to disagree.

Look, I get the sentiment. But maybe comedians’ jokes aren’t landing anymore because people are tired of comedians using lazy writing as their excuse to be offensive for the sake of offensiveness.

Just last month, disgraced comedian Shane Gillis was fired from Saturday Night Live after racist and homophobic jokes he made during a podcast resurfaced on Twitter. In the podcast from 2018, you can clearly hear Gillis attempt a sort of Chinese accent and complain about the service at Chinese restaurants: “The transaction with the waiter is such a fucking hassle.” Crazy concept: don’t eat there.

In “joking” about the creation of Chinatown, he goes on to declare, “Let the fucking chinks live there.” And in the best revenge arc ever written, Bowen Yang joined the cast as the third openly gay male and first-ever Chinese-American SNL player this season.

Gillis joins the likes of comedians Kevin Hart and Louis C.K., who have both been caught under fire for their controversial comments on and off the stage.

Though, I’ve got to say Louis C.K. has a lot more issues than being politically incorrect.

In his pseudo-apology after getting the boot from SNL, Shane Gillis tweeted that, in order to be the best comedian he can be, it “requires risks.”

Pursuing a career in stand-up comedy is a gamble, and while trying to make a solid living off of your ability to make crowds laugh is certainly risky business, I don’t know where this idea that you have to be bombastic and controversial to make it in comedy came from.

A key issue in why these comedians are not being received as well anymore is that they’re simply out of touch with their audience. It should not be a shock that Louis C.K.’s jokes about the Parkland school shooting survivors did not sit well with a generation of youth scarred by living in constant fear of these attacks.

It shouldn’t be hard for comedians to write genuinely funny material that abides by today’s woke culture, especially when the foundations of Generation Z humor are quite literally a compilation of six second video loops and a 24-hour meme cycle on Twitter. To a homogeneous audience, racially offensive jokes might slide. To Generation Z, however, the most ethnically diverse age group in American history, many members might find being the butt of the joke on top of years of societal oppression a bit … much.

In the article with Vanity Fair, Phillips said, “Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture.” If that was a challenge, comedians like Jaboukie Young-White and John Mulaney have succeeded with flying colors. Young-White, a queer black stand-up comedian and correspondent on “The Daily Show,” has garnered a strong support of nearly half a million followers on Twitter; his tweets have defined millennial humor, effortlessly balancing self-deprecation and managing to convey sarcasm through text.

As for the state of comedy in our ever-changing world of PC and cancel culture? Phoebe Waller-Bridge seems to be doing just fine after her hit comedy series “Fleabag” swept the Emmys last month. And Trevor Noah says hello. Comedians like Waller-Bridge and Young-White have something in common: aside from both having hyphenated last names, they are both the future of comedy—setting prime examples for how comedians can push boundaries in an inclusive, feel-good way that lifts people up. Isn’t that what comedy is about anyway?

So, no, comedy is not dead. It has just changed for the better.