Nobody’s Laughing

Comedy that relies on hurting marginalized groups has never been funny.



Screenshot from Shane Gillis' stand up performance on a Comedy Central on YouTube. (YouTube/TNS)

Kennedy Wade, Managing Print Editor

Humor is subjective. There’s no single joke that everyone on earth is going to enjoy. What one person finds hilarious can be what another finds boring.

Comedians regularly toe the fine line of what they want to say and what the majority will find entertaining. In an effort to gain a bigger spotlight, some comedians have begun to focus on making jokes about the current political climate. Some have made entire routines out of self-deprecation, while others have elected to make jokes with strong undercurrents of racism. Jokes that rely on a marginalized group as the punchline are never ok and only serve to alienate and push regressive ideals. 

Comedian Shane Gillis recently was hired and subsequently fired by Saturday Night Live in the span of four short days after a video of racist remarks he made about people of Chinese descent resurfaced online. In the video, Gillis can be heard using anti-Chinese racial slurs and mocking a Chinese waitress’s difficulty understanding him. Shortly after, another clip surfaced of him making homophobic remarks, calling other comedians “gayer than ISIS.” Rather than admitting to doing anything wrong, Gillis took to writing a short, lazy apology on twitter. Additionally, Gillis copyright claimed the clip on youtube of the homophobic remarks, having it taken down.

Gillis isn’t the only one who’s landed himself in hot water over derogatory comments. Youtuber Shane Dawson posted a video in 2014 apologizing for past videos of him in blackface, as well as using racial slurs. Five years later, Dawson posted yet another apology video – this time apologizing for jokes he made about justifying the sexual abuse of children.

Fellow youtuber Felix Kjellberg, known on Youtube primarily as Pewdiepie famously posted a video in which he paid two men to hold up a sign saying “Death to all Jews.” The video has since been switched to private after a massive amount of backlash – Youtube canceled the second season of his reality show and removed his eligibility for preferred advertising. But because Kjellberg posted it on the internet, and the internet is forever, the clip in question was later re-uploaded. Both creators stated that the things they did were meant to be taken only as jokes, and were not reflective of their personal beliefs.

Comedy is not a shield from criticism, nor does it simply smooth over all wrongdoings. Do these jokes reflect on the comedian’s views? In a word, yes. It speaks to their ideas that hurtful remarks are something to laugh at and be trivialized. Anyone who laughs with them is agreeing. In a world that is increasingly striving towards equality, these insensitive ‘jokes,’ where the punchline is punching down a marginalized group, aren’t acceptable.