I yield to no one in my admiration of Kat Timpf, a steady voice of sanity and common sense in our ever crazier world. I agree with her that it’s a shame, and contrary to the spirit of humor, for the University of London to require “an environment where joy, love and acceptance is reciprocated by all,” along with abstention from a staggeringly long lists of -isms, from comedians appearing in an upcoming show there.
Still, I have to feel a bit of sympathy for the organizers of the show, who obviously know that many comedians have recently been cracking jokes to which their listeners take violent exception, particularly at colleges. Like Kat, I wish audiences everywhere would be more broad-minded and less eager to grab the torches and pitchforks, but there’s not much we can do about that, and from the organizers’ point of view, it’s better to let the comedians know in advance what sort of comedy is expected of them than to risk having them shouted off the stage.
Every comedian understands the principle of tailoring your material to the audience. If a New York comedian does a show in Kansas, he’ll lay off the gefilte-fish jokes. And it’s entirely possible to be funny with inoffensive, white-bread material. Weird Al Yankovic is hardly “edgy,” and he is still going strong after nearly 40 years; I’m sure we can all think of other examples (e.g. Ellen DeGeneres).
The comedian whose tweet got the controversy started says:
Comedy isn’t about being “kind” and “respectful” and the only people who get to decide what comedians talk about on stage are . . . comedians. Comedy is supposed to push boundaries and challenge people and comedians should be free to mock religion, atheism and a whole load of other things.
And while I’m sure that’s true of his comedy, it’s not an absolute rule. The University of London is looking for a different sort of comedy, and (again) while it’s certainly a shame that things have come to such a state, I can’t really blame the university for acting in advance to avoid a riot. If this comedian, quite understandably, doesn’t want to work with that kind of restrictions in place, he can decline the gig.