Comedy Isn’t Dead And Slurs Were Never Funny

Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/Assistant Opinion Director

On September 12, “Saturday Night Live” announced that comedian Shane Gillis would form part of the show’s featured players in Season 45. Four days later, he was fired before he ever even began working at the famous Studio 8H.

Gillis’ swift dismissal came thanks to some racist and homophobic slurs the comedian made in his 2018 podcast. His offensive comments about Chinese people particularly didn’t sit well with people, coming off as contradictory to the show casting its first east-Asian comedian the same week.

Comedy was never made for people who walk on eggshells. But saying Gillis’ comments should be excused because he’s a performer is a stretch. Calling them funny would be a stretch too.

In his podcast, he called Asians “ch*nks” and said that listening to them trying to learn English was “more annoying than any other minority playing music loud on their phone.”

The controversy and subsequent firing caused quite a stir on social media. As usual, people took sides, and those who always cry about comedy being dead whenever a bigoted comic faces backlash for being bigoted, cried about it again.

These discussions about what comedy should consist of and whether comedians should be allowed to say whatever they like are not new, but 2019 may indicate how heated the debate has become. 

Just last month, Netflix released Dave Chapelle’s explosive new stand-up special “Sticks and Stones,” which got the comedian a lot of criticism for his comments about the LGBT community. Back in January, Kevin Hart stepped down from an Oscars hosting gig when footage of his old, homophobic material resurfaced.

We can argue about whether or not it was fair for Gillis to lose his job based on bad material from a year ago, or what this says about wealth and privilege in a world where Chapelle and Ricky Gervais have said worse and gotten specials on the world’s biggest streaming site.

But these jokes aren’t funny no matter who they come from, and he probably shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. Using slurs and punching down minorities was never funny and not just because it’s offensive. It’s also really lazy.

Going after groups of people who are easy to target and have been targeted for the longest time has become unoriginal and reflects a desperate need to be reactionary. Unless you have a totally new angle that doesn’t solely rely on your need to offend, jokes about women, people of color and the LGBT community fall flat nowadays. They’ve been done to death.

Because of that, I find the verbosity of someone like Katherine Ryan and observational style of Hannah Gadsby or John Mulaney more clever and effective than the smirky, exploitative energy of someone like Gervais or Chapelle. It’s harder and overall, funnier. But maybe that’s just me.

Many of the keyboard warriors who have recently gone out of their way to defend Chappelle and Gillis are the same people who loathed the former for his “white people” jokes and make it their second job to hate on “SNL” for making fun of their president.

These people were never going to tune in to Season 45 and probably wouldn’t have known who Gillis was if this hadn’t blown up. And while everyone has different tastes, It’s hard to believe that the majority of apologists who insist on the “politically incorrect” hilariousness of “Sticks and Stones” find it funny, when the critical consensus is that it felt like recycled ramblings of his antiquated material.

So what are the people taking these sides really trying to prove?



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Featured photo by Ursula Muñoz Schaefer

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