The Corner


‘Humorists Have Been Scared Out of the Business’

Chris Rock in his 2018 Netflix special Tamborine (Netflix via YouTube)

From Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and other top comedians, we have heard the same thing: Comedy on campus is pretty much impossible. The woke culture forbids it. Of course, this is affecting America at large as well.

I received a note from my old friend Larry Shackley, a longtime NR reader and a great admirer of P. G. Wodehouse. In fact, Larry is reading through the complete Wodehouse — complete — right now. He came across this statement from the writer in 1956. It sounds awfully present-day, doesn’t it?

“Humorists have been scared out of the business by the touchiness now prevailing in every section of the community. Wherever you look, on every shoulder there is a chip, in every eye a cold glitter warning you, if you know what is good for you, not to start anything.”

Wodehouse wrote this in an autobiography, Over Seventy. He goes on to illustrate what he means, at some length — stylishly, amusingly. For example, he writes that if you tried to be funny about porcupines, you’d get letters beginning, “With reference to your recent tasteless and uncalled-for comments on the porcupine . . .”

As a writer — not on the Wodehouse level, to be sure, and not in the orbit of Seinfeld, Rock, et al. — I can tell you: Yup, true.

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