ESPOSITO: Politically correct culture causes harm to comedians, certain comedy


Column: Unapologetically

Saturday Night Live (SNL) aired its 45th season premiere Saturday, addressing almost every scandal in the news except its own. 

In a few days, SNL had announced new cast member Shane Gillis’s entry and then departure shortly after. The reasoning behind his short-lived life at SNL lies behind surfacing videos of his decade-old stand-up routines where he dropped numerous offensive slurs. 

Immediately after these videos came to light, he issued his apology, was let go from SNL and laid his career in shreds. This situation is eerily familiar, as a new scandal surfaces into almost every media cycle. 

Around a year ago, an almost identical scenario arose when Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the Oscars after offensive tweets using slurs pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community surfaced. 

The ongoing conversation of political correctness is an important one. With the age of racism, sexism, homophobia and inequality still running rampant today, it begins with dialect and what we say to each other as humans. In the age of new media, what we say now matters more than ever. 

But, we tend to not pause to think about an important factor. The times are different than they once were. 

It is true. What is offensive today was offensive yesterday and never in history has there been an excuse for stereotyping and being anti-progressive. But as young people, we tend to lack the understanding that we know more and are aware of more now than what people did a mere decade ago. 

The hit television show “Friends” was filmed 20 years ago. It is still beloved today, still something to binge-watch on Netflix. And if the provocative jokes spoken about women, the LGBTQ+ community and more on "Friends" were ever spoken today, they would be considered offensive. 

"Friends" is still cherished, with no controversy surrounding it. There is an unspoken pass given to the television show and many other popular ones around that age. 

The question that lingers: What constitutes something as offensive and what is simply outdated? In this new age where a microphone is held up to everyone, every mistake we have ever made lies on the internet for the world to see and everyone has something to be ashamed of. How is it decided what gets a pass? 

Shane Gillis, like Kevin Hart and many other comedians, got his start performing at hole-in-the-wall comedy clubs until he gained a following and made it to his own stand-up shows. Recently, comedy clubs are implementing new rules. 

The famous comedy club The Comedy Store has now prohibited filming of any kind. Other clubs are for the first time now requiring scripts of performers' stand-up, to make sure nothing is deemed “politically incorrect." 

The decline of these performers is evident. The quality of their work becomes vanilla. No one wants to cross the line into the depths of political incorrectness.

Comedians hone their craft by failing. They get up in front of audiences and say things that no one dares to point out or say out loud. 

Many times their laughs do not stick and the things they say are too blunt or offensive. That is how they improve. Now, they are living in fear and actively being restrained. They are aware that if they push too hard, if they dare to be different, their career could end before it even starts. 

In a world more aware than ever of the inequalities we still face, it is important to keep up the conversation of ending stereotypes and stigmas. But we must learn to acknowledge that we cannot sensor our world either. 

Inappropriate things will always be said, but sometimes, these things are needed. People will never speak their minds again if they think it will end their careers. So as a society, we must learn to forgive the issued apologies that are worth forgiving. 

Forgive people that have made mistakes and have evolved as a result of it. Forgive those with good intentions who may have unknowingly gone too far. 

We must establish a line between what is career-ending and what is something to move on from. 

Laura Esposito is in the School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. Her column, "Unapologetically," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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