The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How comedy’s war on political correctness went mainstream

(via"Late Night with Seth Meyers")
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The anti-PC comedy backlash has arrived.

It started last week when Jerry Seinfeld said political correctness is hurting comedy. He doubled down on it on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," then Bill Maher agreed, Dave Chappelle empathized, and think pieces were written. Comedians have been complaining about this for years, of course, but it's now gone mainstream.

And that's thanks in large part to Seinfeld -- both because he's so widely known, and also because he's a pretty unlikely messenger.

He's no Chelsea Handler or Kathy Griffin; Seinfeld's comedy, for the most part, is PC -- or at least isn't nearly as un-PC as most other comedians. Even back in the '90s, the "Seinfeld" episode about being mistaken for gay used the phrase "not that there's anything wrong with that." For someone like him to become the unofficial spokesman against PC is significant -- like John Denver testifying before Congress during the 1985 debate over obscenity in music.

(Even though Denver faced the threat of censorship for his song "Rocky Mountain High," he was far tamer than the artists most visibly under fire during this debate, like Motley Crue and Prince. But he could articulate the argument against censorship from a place Tommy Lee couldn't.)

Seinfeld has brought increased visibility to the anti-PC argument, but it's been around awhile. Before Seinfeld noted that multiple comedians have warned him against playing at liberal-leaning college campuses, the late comedian George Carlin called political correctness "American's newest form of intolerance" in his 2008 book, "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops,"and Chris Rock said political correctness was "back stronger than ever" and that it was something he began noticing around 2006.

Since then, the increasing number of ways to record and stream performances means comedians workshopping a joke can find themselves in the middle of an Internet firestorm if it doesn't land right. It can happen on Twitter too, as soon-to-be "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah learned when he was criticized for offensive tweets about, among others, Jewish people.

But Noah is keeping his job, and Carlin and Rock both said comedy wasn't fun anymore since audiences had grown more sensitive. They're signs comedians and those who employ them are over our PC culture and want to do something about it.

Now that Seinfeld has given them cover to express their feelings on political correctness in comedy, we could soon hear from others, either in their sets or during their apology media tour following a joke that didn't quite come out right.