Bafta award-winning comedian Stephen Merchant argues that the authoritarian left has killed comedy, with satirists afraid to crack controversial jokes for fear of offending politically correct sensibilities.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Merchant, co-writer and co-director of the wildly popular British sitcom The Office, complained that perpetually offended Twitter outrage mobs have made public figures petrified to speak candidly.
“This idea that we have to police ourselves, that we might say the wrong thing and upset someone or something. It’s not fun. It’s just not fun,” said Merchant, noting that the BBC would probably have never broadcast The Office if it was made today.
Merchant pointed out how the left had replaced the old puritanical right as the new force of censorship.
“It feels like we’ve come from a point when I was growing up, where the right, if you like, were dictating what could be said and done and seen – where Mary Whitehouse was the figurehead of censorship,” said the star of Hello Ladies, adding, “Increasingly now it feels like it’s the liberal agenda that dictates what can and cannot be joked about.”
“People are being leapt on because they happened to use the wrong terminology about Bruce Jenner, or Caitlyn Jenner, or whatever his name is now, or her name. There I am making mistakes. I’ll probably get in trouble for that,” said Merchant.
Merchant’s lament particularly applies to British comedy, which used to be the envy of the world two decades ago but has since devolved into an anemic and stale brand of pseudo-satire unrecognizable from its glory days.
Similar sentiments were also expressed recently by Jerry Seinfeld, who warned that “PC nonsense” had put comedy on a path to self-destruction.
Seinfeld cited an example in his own life, noting how his 14-year-old daughter thought that her mom referring to her being interested in boys was “sexist”.
“I’ll give you an example: My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple years, I think maybe you’re going to want to be hanging around the city more on the weekends, so you can see boys.’ You know what my daughter says? She says, ‘That’s sexist.’”
Real Time host Bill Maher and comedian Jeff Ross agreed, with Ross calling comedy a “medicine.”
“You don’t want it watered down; you want it potent,” he said. “We have a responsibility to shine a light on the darkest aspects of society.”
Responding to Seinfeld’s remarks, comedian Artie Lange also told FOX411, “Political correctness is the direct enemy of comedy. Humor is to feel loose and not take yourself too seriously. You should be able to joke about everything race, religion; sexuality. Everything should be okay to joke about.”
Salon compiled a list of ten popular comedians who all think PC is killing satire, names which included Chris Rock, John Cleese and Dennis Miller.