We need to diversify the comedy scene

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Our conception of comedy is constantly changing. As the comedy scene continues to evolve, we must support a diverse range of comedians and comedy, if only because good humour is subjective, not universal.

Some people claim society is becoming too sensitive, “censoring” comedians unnecessarily. While The Journal Editorial Board agrees there’s a risk in shaming people for the jokes they make, it also believes that good comedy is timeless; insensitive jokes that were acceptable back in the day simply aren’t funny today.

That’s not because people are becoming “too sensitive”—it’s because our generation’s conception of good comedy has evolved.

That said, while it’s important to criticize racist, sexist, and transphobic jokes of the past, there must also be space for comedians to grow. Instead of cancelling comedians for their past transgressions, we should judge them on their current content, as well as their actions outside of comedy.

Diversity in the comedy scene is also important, both in content and comedians.

Comedy isn’t universal; different people find different things funny, which is why it’s so important to promote diversity among comedians. This won’t just open the door for other minorities but will cater to different audiences, further acknowledging that there’s not one definition of good comedy, but many.

Problematic comedians, despite insensitive jokes both past and present, are always going to have an audience. If we’re going to diversify comedy in the way we need to, we should focus on giving audiences to more than just straight, white men.

This starts with streaming services like Netflix. These platforms can give underrepresented comedians large audiences they otherwise may not have access to.

Diversity isn’t just a problem solely in stand-up, either. Comedy shows need diverse representation, too.

Policing comedians on what they can and can’t say is a tricky line to walk. While it’s important to call people out for problematic behaviour—in the comedy scene or otherwise—it’s equally important to allow them to change their behavior, or in the case of comedy, their jokes.

Society isn’t becoming “too sensitive.” The people who think so should maybe consider that problematic jokes aren’t being censored; they’re just not funny.

Instead of clinging to washed-up comedians who tell the same jokes they did 10 years ago, we should welcome a new age of diverse comedy complete with fresh, cutting-edge content.

—Journal Editorial Board

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