A.R. Moxon (Julius Goat) @JuliusGoat Novelist—THE REVISIONARIES coming 12/3/19 tinyurl.com/yxkldcx7 Newsletter: tinyletter.com/ARMoxon Blog: armoxon.com/ He/him Repped by @samroebuck Aug. 29, 2019 4 min read

Comedians complaining that suddenly marginalized people are offended by their jokes never pause to consider that maybe they were always offended, but were too before scared to speak; that what our cultural shift represents is not a silencing of voices but a great vocal awakening.

See, also: non-comedians making this complaint.

“too before scared” is not a typo it’s poetic license shut up shut up shut up

Me listening to Bill Hicks for the first time in 12 years.

A lot of his stuff still sounds prophetic but the stuff that hasn’t aged well has *really* not aged well.

It really does. The premise that having to take care with your speech is a new development is definitely telling on yourself.

The moral: watch NANETTE.

When you say something that is absolutely true, but don’t understand the import of the point you just made.

You can make jokes about anything or anyone, I think. The trick is, if you realize that the way you were doing it before was cheap and easy and harmful, can you figure out ways of doing it that aren’t? If not, isn’t that a reflection on you, the comedian?

And by the way, it’s not impossible for someone to just be humorless and hyper-offended. That’s a thing that exists too— and I’m sure it makes a comedians job very difficult.

I just don’t think that an increase of that is what our cultural shift has been.

Put another way, I think you can be as “edgy” as you want but the more you do so, the higher the degree of difficulty you take on to an already very difficult job.

Less room for error on the edge. That’s what makes it the edge. Right?

I don’t think many comedians would agree that their purpose is to offend everyone. I think they’d say their purpose is to make people laugh.

Many do so by telling truths in new and surprising ways, some by repackaging familiar falsehoods.

The difference between the two isn’t always clear; it’s about evolving and improving.

Don’t fear being wrong. Fear staying wrong.

Most of my favorite comedians have evolved, and I love to see it. (I actually think comedy is as vital and funny as it’s ever been.)

And I’m trying to evolve too. So what I laugh at has changed. I laugh *more* now.

Evolution is an *expansive* act.

Having trouble believing the notion that those who are not marginalized will be shaken out of complacency by jokes at the expense of marginalized people, while ignoring substantive critique marginalized people who are the jokes’ subjects.

Also having trouble believing that marginalized people are in some sort of comfort zone they need to be shaken out of.

Also having trouble believing that most comedians think that this is the primary purpose of comedy.

The purpose of comedy, I would argue, is to make people laugh. If you tell a joke and it offends some of the people, that you have made only some people laugh.

If you listen to them about what it they found offensive, you might be able to make a joke that makes more people laugh

Rather than replying one at a time to everyone arguing in my feed about how consequence-free offense is crucial to comedy and oversensitivity is destroying it, I’ll reply broadly:

You all sound pretty sensitive and offended.

Again, the point is NOT that you cannot tell jokes on any subject.

The point is, everyone gets a voice. MORE free expression, not less.

Joke how you want! It’s just that you have to own the joke, and accept that you don’t control the response.

It’s possible to tell a hilarious joke on any topic.

Tell a hurtful one, if you don’t care about hurt. But OWN that you don’t care. Don’t complain when people you’ve already established you don’t care about give you a response you dislike.

It’s THEIR response, not yours.

It’s possible also to tell hilarious joke that isn’t hurtful, that opens rather than closes, expands rather than constricts, calls the subject by their right name.

It’s possible also to tell a hilarious joke that is designed to offend somebody for their inhumanity or cruelty.

Knowing the difference takes a lot of listening and skill and care and empathy and willingness to grow.

Knowing who you’re offending and why takes a lot of work and ability.

You can’t control other people’s response to what you say, but you can take response-ability.

One last question: if you tell a joke, and people laugh, is that something they’re doing to you, or something you’re doing to them?

It’s something you’re doing to them.

*Their* response.

*Your* expression.

The criticism isn’t something they are doing to you either.


You can follow @JuliusGoat.



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