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.  

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