Is comedy dead?
Theatrical comedy was recognized by the Athenian state in 486 BC, thus canonizing its official birth. (Although I’m sure prehistoric humanoids had a sense of humor as well.)
Who would have thought that comedy would have survived and flourished for two and a half millennia and then, without much of a fight, abruptly be sent to the altar of sacrifice in the 21st Century?
Comedy endured the ‘Librorum Prohibitorum’, The Crusades, The Catholic Inquisitions, and the age of superstition, but according to Mel Brooks and Jerry Seinfeld, was successfully rendered obsolete by a humorless minority of campus ‘finger-waggers’.
Ah yes, “political correctness”. Isn’t that what killed comedy?
The term is subsequently thrown around; often and without critical analysis to what is actually being entailed and who is authorizing it.
According to judicial analysis of rulings administered by the Supreme Court, the limitations of the First Amendment to the Constitution have only become more liberalized in the 21st Century; that is, it has only expanded what is deemed acceptable free expression.
This isn’t to say there haven’t been infractions of people’s rights by law enforcement and local government, as we have seen with cases like Lenny Bruce, who was arrested and convicted after an 8-month long trial for ‘public obscenity’. Only that the constitution has stated that these rights are not to be infringed; the Lenny Bruce conviction was overturned by the Illinois Supreme court in 1964.
Modern political correctness hasn’t yet interfered with constitutionally protected rights, so how was it successful in claiming such a boisterous ‘victory’ as the death of comedy?
The uncomfortable truth is that political correctness in itself is not responsible for the death of comedy, but rather fear and guilt is.
Social ostracizing, political backlash, the not-so-glamorous internet fame of trending gossip–that is truly how comedy succumbed to a quick but painful death.
It was our collective electronic hyper-connectivity and the emergence of a new ability for the voiceless to be heard via social media that has generated panic in the artistic community.
In the hey day of Rodney Dangerfield the only thing to fear was a bad review from a lower-budget media outlet or a smug film critic. Technology simply had not reached the point to garner a mass feedback flow. Now, there’s millions of people weighing in across the world when an artist has become the center of controversy.
So that leaves us, if we’re honest in our observations, one conclusion that would spell the resurrection of comedy; to eliminate the fear and guilt associated with negative criticism.
Comedy is boundless and knows no limitations, but in order to keep the fire roaring it cannot be suffocated willingly by those who keep the flames alight.
A resurrection of comedy draws nigh. The pool no longer acknowledges the timid foot testing its water. It’s time to jump in.