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Humor and the left

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Why did the chicken cross the road?

To express its solidarity with the courageous struggle of indigenous worker fowl against exploitation by the corporate farmer class, to demand an inclusive barnyard, and to fight growing chickenfeed inequality.

When woke folk make a joke, the results are seldom funny.

Many of you may have read of the brouhaha over the Netflix special of comedian Dave Chappelle, The Closer. Chappelle's routines are notorious for jokes that insult and mock nearly every group, including whites, women, gays, Jews, and Asians. His usual material largely revolves around biting comments on race and identity, and Bloomberg has glowingly described him as "a leading voice on race."

In his routine, he focused on the transgendered, proclaiming that "gender is a fact," engaged in some raunchy comments on transgender genitalia, and mocked those with "hurt feelings." From the resulting outcry, it seems he has finally found a group that one dare not make fun of. Many of the attacks have come from those who had previously counted themselves as fans, at least when he wasn't targeting a group that they cared about.

GLAAD, the LGBT advocacy group, has denounced him for "harming" and "endangering" transgenders, and poet Saeed Jones has pronounced it a "betrayal." Others have criticized him for failing to "support" and "build up" the transgender community, apparently confusing the role of comic with social cheerleader. Netflix is under assault, and the always thoughtful Twittersphere has erupted.

One commenter improbably charged Chappelle with "white privilege," perhaps being a little unclear on the concept, while one of his defenders accused the LGBT community of "white privilege" for criticizing a Black comedian. Sort of a leftist "food fight" flinging movement jargon. It is great fun to watch this internecine liberal brawl, as it casts doubt on just how cohesive the left's "intersectional" alliance really is. It seems that once they get past their shared foundational principle that "straight white males are bad," things really start to fall apart.

Let's step back for a moment and take a breath. This is comedy. Comedy is supposed to challenge and shock the audience. It is expected to explore the forbidden. Boomers recall comedians like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Eddie Murphy whose shticks revolved around offending traditional sensibilities. You liberals will have to accept the fact that your dogma has become "the establishment view," against which dissidents and comedians must rail. Name me a truly funny partisan figure, other than, perhaps, the amusing gaffes of a confused President Biden and the frantic struggles of his press people to explain what he really meant?

And let's get real. This brave, new genderless world, in which our language and scientific nomenclature have been hijacked to reflect newly discovered "truths," really offers a lot of comedic opportunity. For example, the deadpan news report of a disturbance in a LA women's spa resulting when one woman displayed her penis to the other women, or the lawsuit against a hospital resulting from a "man being denied a hysterectomy," well, the joke writes itself. When politically mandated semantics conflict with readily observed reality, you know that hilarity is sure to ensue.

We can now even find comedic material in our medical schools, such as the school which has directed instructors to avoid "gendered" references, like "mother," and to instead use the term "birthing parent." "Happy Birthing Parent Day, mom, errr, rather, person who birthed me ... ." It is always fun to mock painfully stilted language.

The outrage over Chappelle's show, and the whole "cancel" thing, seems to reflect a difference in generational attitudes. We now have many people who seem to believe that they have a veto over any expression that they disagree with. Perhaps it's from being allowed to shut down any discussion by saying it "makes you feel unsafe." Chappelle has certainly said plenty to insult and offend people like me, but we have somehow survived.

When you humorless liberal scolds find yourselves fighting bitterly against popular comedians, perhaps it is time for you to recognize that you have lost the cancel culture war. While the critics dutifully panned his special, fearful of being canceled themselves for praising anything which is Officially Off-Limits, the viewers have been much more receptive and have given it a 96 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Other entertainers, like Bill Maher, have been successful in speaking out against cancel culture, and the tide is turning. Netflix has made a lot of money off of Chappelle and is unlikely to let the indignant sputtering of a few people with the media megaphone deter them. Outrage on Twitter and social media has a lifespan of around a nanosecond and is as consequential as a gnat fart during a tornado.

Comedy will always be subversive and will not bend to political diktats. Δ

John Donegan is a retired attorney and aspiring comedian in Pismo Beach who identifies as being young, good looking, and really, really funny. Send a response for publication to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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