America has lost its sense of humor

Erica Wiesburn

They say laughter is the best medicine. I’m no medical expert, but I agree laughter is beneficial. Frankly, it’s an escape from our depressing reality. Reality is, gas prices are sky rocketing, war is killing our loved ones and unemployment is the highest it’s been all year.

At a time when humor is most needed, however, political correctness is stifling our freedom to not only speak, but to be funny. The easily offended are silencing professional comedians and average Joes alike.

Michael A. Smerconish, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and author of Muzzled, pointed out the decline of comedic entertainment in this country over the years. He spoke of jokes that were once sidesplitting hits that are now seen as discriminatory, offensive and grounds for lawsuits.

He spoke of comedian Don Rickles. Smerconish described him as “an equal opportunity offender.” Smerconish said that in 1976, at a specific show in Las Vegas, Rickles “incorporated people in the front row into his act.” It didn’t matter if they were “whites, blacks, Asians, Catholics, Jews, men, one was off limits.”

Unfortunately, these typically taboo jokes are harder and harder to come by. Either they are censored before they can air, or comedians refrain from pushing the envelope, hoping to protect their reputations. People have become afraid to be funny.

In 2005, Robin Williams performed at the Oscars ceremony. Smerconish said William’s act originally intended to ridicule censorship after Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction. His act, unsurprisingly, was also censored. Instead of performing the butchered, newly edited act, Williams decided to walk on stage with tape over his mouth. He later commented, “They’re afraid of saying Olive Oyl is anorexic. It tells you about the state of humor. It’s strange to think: how afraid are you?”

America has lost its sense of humor. We already tolerate our newspapers, TV shows, movies and comedians being censored. But, now we are silencing ourselves as well. It’s becoming more impossible for comedians to strictly make a career out of being hilarious. Hence, stand up comics frequently shift into the Hollywood limelight.

Advice to the fearful: Don’t be afraid to say you find politically incorrect jokes humorous occasionally. We all do. Try to feel comfortable enough to laugh at jokes discussing parts of your demographic and other people’s demographics, as well. It’s vital to remember that being nervously aware of the differences between people is also a form of discrimination.

Advice to the easily offended: Stop taking every joke personal. More than likely it was told with the intent of making people laugh, not to hurt you or anyone else.

I’m not suggesting saying the most ignorant ethic slur that comes to mind and expecting it to be funny. I don’t condone discrimination nor do I stand behind maliciously offensive statements. I’m simply saying, relax! If a joke makes you a bit uncomfortable, it’s doing its job.

Don’t run for cover the next time you hear, “So, a Priest and a Rabbi were having coffee at Starbucks…” Laugh it up! We need comedy now more than ever.

Erica Weisburn is a junior newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].