Written by Andrew Williams
Ever since the creation of humanity, we have searched for what is right and what is wrong. The quest for knowledge on good and evil, light and dark, and correct and incorrect is a long journey we’ve all participated in at one point or another. We come to new discoveries every day and create new boundaries, deeming certain thoughts and phrases insensitive or evil. But what is the most appropriate way to discuss these social laws? While many would say civil discussion, debating or mass media, I think one of the best ways to set social boundaries is through comedy.
Comedy has been around for centuries and has definitely changed over that time, but there has always been an aspect of challenge within it. Back during the time of the ancient Greeks, comedy shows were produced and consumed frequently, mainly showcasing foolishness of leaders and political topics. To this day comedy should serve as a form of “new” political discussion. Comedians often challenge social norms and mention topics most people are too afraid to discuss. Comedians such as Bo Burnham, Ali Wong, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman and many more have provided thoughts on mental health, political news, stereotypical gender norms and many other topics we, as humans, struggle to openly consider.
I believe comedians and comedy as a whole offer a chance for social boundaries to be challenged and provide a space where anyone can keep an open mind. However, with every good, there is a bad. What happens when comedy goes too far? When do jokes become more than that — more than just silly comments and observations about reality? There are many opportunities for a joke to go too far. As mentioned before, comedy has changed many times over the last few years. Specific topics become too personal for others to openly laugh at. Certain words used could always hurt those you care about, and harmful ideas and motives seep into the cracks of jokes directed at people. So where is the line? In my opinion, that’s what comedy is perfect for discovering. Now I’m not saying to openly hurt those closest to you by purposefully crossing those boundaries. Instead, we need to recognize them and respect the changes our society is going through. As the world matures and people grow, so should our senses of humor. The job of comedy is to invoke laughter and create a positive thinking space for someone to reevaluate their priorities, not to breed hatred and pain. Learning to be aware of your surroundings is very important, and things like topic, tone and audience should always play a factor in what you say. So maybe if we have love in our hearts and keep an open mind, we can all learn to take a joke.