Comedians, once at the pinnacle of entertainment, are now subjected to bullying and trolls on the internet. Once looked at as revolutionaries, now looked at as criminals. Ever since freedom of speech became a thing, comedians have pushed the boundaries of that freedom to the absolute limit. Some have blatantly crossed lines, made fun of things that most people don’t even talk about. But should they really have to be shamed and guilted into apologising by the public? Is it really necessary to damage their reputation and mental health beyond repair? Let’s look at some recent and quite infamous scenarios.
To start, take one that nearly everyone has heard of. Chris Rock and Will Smith at the Oscars. Everyone knows about it, everyone disagrees about it. While Chris Rock may have crossed a line making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair, or rather lack of hair, Will Smith only worsened the situation by walking up on stage and hitting him in the face. Jim Carrey, when asked to talk about it by CBS said, “I was sickened. I was sickened by the standing ovation. Hollywood is just spineless en masse and it really felt like this was a clear indication that we aren’t the cool club anymore. I would’ve announced the next morning that I was suing Will for $200 million, because that video will be on the internet forever.”
However, this isn’t the only case where a comedian faced dire consequences because of something they said. Indian comedian Vir Das, filmed a video while he was performing at the Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts, Washington D.C. titled “Two Indias”. Following the video’s release, there were warrants out for his arrest in three different states in India. While these warrants are no longer eligible, he is facing a lifetime ban from performing in these states as well as a few others. Why did he face such extreme backlash? He spoke the truth. He spoke the truth about his country, its politics, its press, its corruption, and its hypocrisy. He spoke about how officials in India aren’t doing their jobs. However, he also spoke about how the common people have started to do the jobs of officials right, about young men and women dedicated to bettering their country. For this, he was publicly condemned.
Recently, old tweets of Kevin Hart’s have resurfaced, people accusing him of being homophobic. In these tweets, he has made numerous comments casually throwing around the phrase “that’s gay”. He posted these tweets in 2009, 13 years ago. Kevin has clearly changed since then, he is more aware of the current situation, and should not be forced to answer for things he said over a decade ago. While these tweets are undoubtedly homophobic, one must realise that who Kevin Hart is now is vastly different from who he was then. He didn’t need to be fired as host of the Oscars because of them, and he doesn’t deserve to be alienated and cancelled from society because of them. He even tweeted an apology despite all this.
Why is it that people cannot let go of the past? Why do we feel a need to knock anyone whose life is going well down? Are we incapable of laughter, and of being happy for others? Some say that laughter is the best medicine, a cure for anything. So why is everyone trying to take it away from the world?