Culture

You Don’t Have a Problem with Amy Schumer — You Have a Problem with Comedy

Yes, it does matter that she was joking.

In one of the most ill-informed, senseless pieces I’ve ever read, two social-justice warriors claim that comedian Amy Schumer is an awful, racist eyesore because she made jokes about Mexicans.

In a piece published in the Washington Post, American history professor Stacey Patton and Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies chairman David J. Leonard conclude that, based on Schumer’s jokes, she and Donald Trump “certainly share similar views about Mexicans” and that people like them are making the world a horrible place for marginalized communities:

“Whether joking or not, both draw on shared cultural stereotypes and use dehumanizing language that gives life to an ecosystem of racial fear and violence,” they contend.

Really?

Schumer is a comedian. Trump is a presidential candidate. Are Leonard and Patton honestly saying that a person performing should be held to the same standards of speech as a person trying to convince you he should be the next leader of the free world?

Leonard and Patton claim that it does not matter “whether [Schumer was] joking or not,” but it clearly does matter. Of course the standards of “acceptable speech” are different in comedy than they are in politics — that’s why we have different words to describe those different types of communication. The phrases “standup set” and “stump speech” are clearly not interchangeable, so why on earth do they seem to expect the exact same things from both?

One of the true joys of listening to comedians perform is that you can expect to hear them say things that wouldn’t be okay to say in any other situation, and that hearing those things can make you laugh or even think about an issue in a way that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Of course, comedians (including Schumer) sometimes make “offensive” jokes that aren’t funny or valuable in any way. But no one should hold that against them. I’ve spent some time performing standup comedy myself, and believe me when I say that there’s absolutely no way to know whether or not a joke will work other than trying it. Now, unless you want to demand that every baseball player who has ever struck out be banned from playing ever again, you have absolutely no right to suggest that a comedian who has said something in poor taste that fell flat be similarly shamed. If we make comedians reluctant to test certain jokes because they’re afraid of being crucified for them, we probably won’t hear as many bad ones — but we’ll lose valuable ones, too.

#related#Now, Leonard and Patton claim to understand the “instrumental role” that comedy plays in our culture. But people getting this upset at Schumer for making jokes about Mexicans — or at Trevor Noah for making jokes about Jews, or at Jamie Foxx for making jokes about Bruce Jenner, or at Margaret Cho for making jokes about her own race (yes, that really happened) — is perpetuating an all-too-pervasive alarmist attitude that will inevitably destroy the art altogether.

Sure, some of Amy Schumer’s jokes involve racial stereotypes. But here’s the thing: So what? If people who joke about race are racist, people who joke about gender are sexist, people who joke about gender identity are transphobic, people who joke about terrorism are Islamophobic, and people who joke about “rednecks” are elitist, what the hell do you want people to joke about? The world is full of so many different types of people that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single joke that wouldn’t offend at least one of them.

The truth is, if you can’t understand why it matters that Schumer was joking and Trump wasn’t, then it’s really not her that you have the problem with — it’s comedy. My advice: Don’t watch it. Oh, and please, for the love of God — never show up to one of my parties.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.  

Most Popular

Film & TV

Knives Out Takes On the Anti-Immigration Crowd

Since the beginning of the Obama era, the Left has broadcast two contradictory messages on the subjects of race and immigration. The first is that a so-called Coalition of the Ascendant will inevitably displace white Americans as the dominant force in the country’s politics and culture. The second is that ... Read More
Film & TV

Knives Out Takes On the Anti-Immigration Crowd

Since the beginning of the Obama era, the Left has broadcast two contradictory messages on the subjects of race and immigration. The first is that a so-called Coalition of the Ascendant will inevitably displace white Americans as the dominant force in the country’s politics and culture. The second is that ... Read More
Elections

It’s Not Because She’s a Woman

In early October, Elizabeth Warren hit her stride. Her stock in the Democratic primary had been climbing steadily since midsummer, and as Joe Biden continued to lag, the Massachusetts senator became the first presidential hopeful to overtake him as front-runner in the RealClearPolitics polling average. She’s ... Read More
Elections

It’s Not Because She’s a Woman

In early October, Elizabeth Warren hit her stride. Her stock in the Democratic primary had been climbing steadily since midsummer, and as Joe Biden continued to lag, the Massachusetts senator became the first presidential hopeful to overtake him as front-runner in the RealClearPolitics polling average. She’s ... Read More
Culture

The Absurd Crusade against the Salvation Army

We all know some individuals who are so obviously good and kind that we are certain if anyone were to dislike them, that's all we would need to know about the person. We would immediately assume he or she is a bad person. To hate the manifestly good is a sure sign of being bad. Such is the case regarding the ... Read More
Culture

The Absurd Crusade against the Salvation Army

We all know some individuals who are so obviously good and kind that we are certain if anyone were to dislike them, that's all we would need to know about the person. We would immediately assume he or she is a bad person. To hate the manifestly good is a sure sign of being bad. Such is the case regarding the ... Read More
Film & TV

Clint Eastwood’s Messy, Nuanced Triumph

After a pipe bomb exploded at a concert held to celebrate the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, the FBI came to suspect that the security guard who discovered the device might have planted it to gain a reputation as a hero. The knotty story of that security guard, Richard Jewell, does not lend itself ... Read More
Film & TV

Clint Eastwood’s Messy, Nuanced Triumph

After a pipe bomb exploded at a concert held to celebrate the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, the FBI came to suspect that the security guard who discovered the device might have planted it to gain a reputation as a hero. The knotty story of that security guard, Richard Jewell, does not lend itself ... Read More