Writer from Welcome To Night Vale
discussing writing on Citizen Radio 865
A lot of folks reblogging this quote and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
When we say that comedy shouldn’t be offensive, it sounds like we’re saying it should be polite, that it shouldn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers, which is just fundamentally wrong, I think. It’s really important that comedy be subversive, that it challenges societal norms and is impolite, that it’s a force for cultural change. That’s kind of a fundamentally “offensive” endeavor - people find profanity offensive, people find frank discussions of sex and sexuality offensive, or discussion of religion or race offensive, but these are all things comedians should be talking about.
Where we should make a distinction, I think, is between things that are offensive
and things that are cruel.
Because making fun of rape or rape victims or even using it for a cheap laugh when we live in a culture suffering from an epidemic of sexual assault is fucking cruel. Standing in a position of power and making fun of someone who has to live in a society that disenfranchises them because of their gender, sexuality, religion or race is fucking cruel.
I’m not trying to be pedantic - I think the language of this debate is important, because the people being cruel probably don’t consider themselves that way. They think they’re free speech warriors taking a baton passed by Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce, two comedians who were definitely important and definitely “offensive.” But they’re not rebels raging against the system, they’re willing participants in the worst parts of it. And if we, the people who know better, start making this distinction, maybe we can take their point of pride away from them, so that they can stop feeling heroic for being so fucking awful and boring.