Is political correctness just censorship in disguise? If so, do comedians have an obligation to fight against it? Comedian Jim Gaffigan on the limits of speech, freedom, and our self-knowledge.
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Transcript - Standup comedy has a rich history of being associated with being against censorship. It’s, you know, comedians are contrarians. You tell a comedian to not do something similar to a five year old that’s sleep deprived, that will be the first thing they do. If you say do not go on stage, do not talk about the CEO at this corporate event comedians will instinctively do that. So any form of censorship is counterintuitive to a comedian. So comedians pride themselves on saying any topic – nothing is off limits, dah, dah, dah. That being said I also think that as a comedian I believe that there’s nothing that’s off limits. But I also think that as human beings we’re constantly censoring ourselves. I’m censoring myself right now for this. I’m trying to appear smart and I’m not doing that good of a job. But I do think that the PC culture in my opinion is of great value. We should always strive to be more sensitive and understanding and similar to the concept of liberty which I mentioned before is ever expanding. So our idea of freedom today is a much better fulfilling idea of freedom than our founding fathers even envision probably.
But it’s the same notion of freedom. So the idea of politically correctness I don’t think that has to do with censorship. I think that has to do with a certain sensitivity. So, you know, words that are very toxic it’s unnecessary. If you also identify yourself as a clean person it’s not necessary to say shocking words. That being said there are great comedians that deal in shock, that deal in irreverence. But similar to liberty irreverence – what’s irreverent today is stale tomorrow. So if you chase irreverence that’s a pretty slippery slope. I mean Don Rickles can do it but there’s been a lot of awkward moments for Don Rickles even on a public stage. But I don’t know. It’s also very personal but I think that whatever we call political correctness or whatever the term might be saying things that aren’t sexist or could be construed as racist it’s not that hard of a sacrifice. Now that’s not to say that people aren’t overly sensitive. I think the bigger issue which I even, we did an episode on is the fact that we are humans and there is the mob mentality. That same mob mentality that would go on PokeRoms in Eastern Europe is the same mentality that people engage in when someone does a tweet that’s of poor taste. So I think it’s not so much the crime, it’s the punishment. And I think that human beings, I feel like we have this arrogance. Like every generation thinks we got it figured out. We’re the greatest generation.
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