Once upon a time in America we used to be able to laugh at ourselves. And nobody was offended. Just listen to old radio shows and you will see what I mean.
Without a doubt, the old Fred Allen radio shows would be banned today because of the ethnic humor displayed in a segment called “Allen’s Alley.”
There was the wry Jewish housewife Pansy Nussbaum, stoic New England farmer Titus Moody, and bellowing Southern Senator Beauregard Claghorn–all stereotypes that in today’s hypersensitive culture would be considered politically incorrect.
Allen’s show ran from the 1930s into the late 1940s and it was really funny. I discovered it and other amazing comedy radio shows like Jack Benny, George Burns & Gracie Allen, and Bob Hope in the 1960s when there was an old time radio revival and many old radio shows were rebroadcast on stations devoted to nostalgia.
I can still recall listening to Senator Claghorn say things like: “Somebody, Ah say, somebody knocked;” “I’m from the South, Suh;” “That’s a joke, son”; and “Pay attention, boy!”
After talking with Sen. Claghorn, Allen would introduce the next guest in the ally by saying: “It’s Titus Moody.” The stoic New Englander would answer with a sardonic “Howdy, Bub.”
Then there was Mrs. Nussbaum who spoke with a decidedly German/Yiddish accent and when Allen introduced her, said things like “You were expecting maybe…”at which point she would butcher some famous person’s name “…Veinstein Chuychill?”
In their book The Big Broadcast 1920-1950, Frank Buxton and Bill Owen wrote: “[Claghorn, Nussbaum, and Moody,] were never criticized as being anti-Southern, anti-Semitic, or anti-New England. The warmth and good humor with which they were presented made them acceptable even to the most sensitive listeners.”
Sadly, the Political Correctness Gestapo that pervades America today, would disagree.
And so do many of today’s comedians who have gone on the record lamenting the hyper-sensitivities of today’s easily offended audiences as well as the death of the kind of humor that made Fred Allen a staple with audiences.
Take the recent turmoil regarding Trevor Noah, who will take over the Daily Show next month. After his selection as the show’s new host was announced several of his old tweets that were considered racist and sexist were posted online. Noah was quickly condemned by the media, prompting several fellow comedians to come to his defense. The problem, several said, wasn’t Noah’s bad jokes, but an overly sensitive public.
Writing in Time Magazine, comedian Jim Norton said: “Trevor, while tweeting things with the intention of being funny, had gone … yes, you guessed it – over the line!… In his rush to be funny, he had broken what has become the new golden rule in American public life, which is to never say anything (or, God forbid, joke about anything) that may be deemed even remotely offensive or upsetting by any segment of the population for any reason…”
For your consideration, I offer several more comments from comedians and comics who feel the political correctness that permeates America today is robbing us of our ability to laugh at ourselves and others.
John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame explained recently that he stopped using any race-related jokes when he was criticized for telling jokes about Mexicans in his routine.
“Make jokes about Swedes and Germans and French and English and Canadians and Americans, why can’t we make jokes about Mexicans? Is it because they are so feeble that they can’t look after themselves? It’s very, very condescending there.”
During a recent interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Daniel Lawrence Whitney (Larry the Cable Guy) said political correctness has gone too far.
“It’s gotten way outta control. You know. I really think that we’re at a point in this country where people really need to take the thumb outta their mouth and grow up a little bit and realize there’s a lot bigger problems out there than what a comedian did a joke about.”
Take a look at the Cable Guy’ “politically correct” version of “The Night Before Christmas:”
Gilbert Gottfried recently wrote a piece for Playboy Magazine called “The Apology Epidemic” in which he said America’s current “apology culture” has gone too far.
“Imagine if the most brilliant comedians in history were working today,” he wrote. “They’d never stop apologizing. Charlie Chaplin would have to apologize to all the homeless people he belittled with his Little Tramp character. W.C. Fields and Dean Martin would both have to apologize to alcoholics. The Marx brothers would have to apologize to Italians, mutes and uptight British ladies. Comedy has been around for a long, long time, and there have been a lot of impolite, unpleasant and jaw-droppingly politically incorrect jokes…You went up there as a comic and joked about it all and nothing was off-limits. And to this day, nobody has died from a single joke.”
Comedienne Lisa Lampanelli recently wrote an article for the Hollywood Reporter called: “How Political Correctness is Killing Comedy.” In it she said: “Here’s the problem: Comedy, probably more than any other art form, is subjective. What jokes crack up your mom, your little brother, and your gay best friend will be completely different — unless it’s a video of a guy getting hit in the gonads with a piñata stick. That’s funny to everyone….If you like safe, generic comedy that’s fine. Go on a cruise ship and crack up listening to the comedian point out the hilarious differences between loafers and shoes with laces. But don’t go to one of my shows and be outraged by what you hear. Going to my show and expecting me not to cross the line of good taste and social propriety is like going to a Rolling Stones concert and expecting not to hear ‘Satisfaction.’”
Canadian comedian Russell Peters might have summed it all up best in a recent interview. Society, he said, has become overly sensitive. And political correctness is the reason.
“If you look at TV in the ‘70s versus TV now, and you see the things people said back in the day – they said the most off-color stuff and nobody’s feelings were hurt. Do you know why? Because it’s about intent. The intent then was to make you laugh. And the intent is still to make you laugh, but they’ve (the PC Police) drilled it in into your head that you’re not supposed to laugh at this.”
In my humble opinion, when a nation can no longer laugh at itself, we are in big trouble.
Political Correctness is a treacherous wedge that is dividing and polarizing us. Its proponents believe we should all think alike. But we are individuals. We don’t all think alike or laugh at the same things. Thank God!
That is not how the real world works. You won’t get far trying to walk through life on eggshells.
Kill me with comedy. I’d rather die laughing than crying.
In that spirit I offer up a couple of politically incorrect jokes for your amusement and consideration.
- Q: Have you heard about McDonald’s new Obama Value Meal?
A: Order anything you like and the guy behind you has to pay for it.
- When asked if they would have sex with Bill Clinton, 86% of women in D.C. said, “Not again.”
- What does Barack Obama call illegal aliens? Undocumented Democrats.
There. Now the PC Mafia and all the other handwringing moral guardians out there can lambast me for sharing such horribly politically incorrect humor.
And that’s no laughing matter.