The Left, The Campus, And The Death Of Humor

So I’m not the only one who sees the super-uptight era of “privilege-checking” and “micro-aggressions” as inherently deadly to comedy and to democratic debate. Chris Rock notices exactly the same thing in a terrific interview with Frank Rich:

What do you make of the attempt to bar Bill Maher from speaking at Berkeley for his riff on Muslims?

Well, I love Bill, but I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.

In their political views?

Not in their political views—not like they’re voting Republican—but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

When did you start to notice this?

About eight years ago. Probably a couple of tours ago. It was just like, This is not as much fun as it used to be. I remember talking to George Carlin before he died and him saying the exact same thing.

Meanwhile, a reader insists we provide more of a balanced perspective:

As you despair of PC on the left, you completely ignore the PC of the right and what, to their minds, cannot be criticized and is almost beyond discussion. An incomplete list: Reagan, any action taken by the police, the Iraq War, the War on Terror, any action taken in relation to 9-11, CEOs, business in general, torture by Americans, God, the Bible, Judeo-Christian religion, middle-American culture, the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, guns, getting tough on crime, Manifest Destiny, creationism and the denial of global warming or its man-made causes. If you’re going to call out what you call PC, please consider the identity politics of the right as well, with your normal even-handedness.

Happy to – and I do my bit to chip away at these rigid certitudes when I can. And humor is a great way to cut right through these things. What are the subjects right-wingers cannot take a joke about? Ditto the lefties. Get the answer to that right and you’ve figured out what’s really going on.