It’s just over two months now since I started performing comedy and I’ve done a little over 30 gigs, which is a far more impressive tally than I could have ever hoped for when I went to Edinburgh in August. It’s likely the reason I’ve started to feel like a comedy veteran, as that’s the kind of work-rate usually associated with seasoned pros on the circuit. I’m also very tired, very broke and my health is deteriorating rapidly. Living the dream!!
I have never shied away from writing and performing controversial and offensive material. Usually it’s to do with race, religion, sexuality (including paedophilia) and politics. Everyone has a different line in the sand when it comes to being offensive and mine is that I do not promote hatred (except when done in an obviously ironic way). I’m happy to make jokes about pretty much any group of people. However, as I repeatedly re-iterate in every performance, the people who tell you to hate others are unequivocally “the bad guys” who deserve to be shunned, and we should have love in our hearts for others.
There is one exception to this general principle, which is that those in a position of power – politicians, oligarchs, the media, corporations etc. – are fair game and, within reason, you can throw hatred their way with impunity. Anyway…
Yesterday I was booked to do a short 10-minute spot at The Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel, East London. I’d lived and worked in the area a few years back and knew it reasonably well, but hadn’t visited at all since I left in 2006. So I was looking forward to re-connecting with the locale, which in all honesty hadn’t changed much from what I could see. The audience was quite mixed as the compere soon discovered – just a handful of people with foreign accents and two local guys.
Southern audiences are rarely kind to my offensive material. I’ve tried to adjust my main set so the punters are more prepared for what’s coming… Throw in some signposts and gently ease them in with some mildly offensive gags first. Still, the London crowds just don’t seem to get it, as they’re paralyzed by their politically correct paradigms. Paradigms that are no longer valid, but they’re the only part of the nation that hasn’t really realised it.
So I was pleasantly surprised when, unlike at most other London gigs, my offensive material started hitting the mark. Perhaps a little local knowledge helped grease the wheels at the start. No one batted an eyelid at the jokes I made about the local Bangladeshis – they loved it. Then I moved on to jokes about Indians, lesbians, child sex abuse, “chinks” – complete with traditionally offensive Chinaman impression – and they enjoyed it. Even the “I can’t stand White people” punchline got a big laugh. Yet, hypocritically, both the punters and some comedians got their noses out of joint at the word NIGGER…
I’d not really tried jokes about Black people before but had recently written a couple of good ones – with the butt of the joke actually being ME, but that’s pretty common in comedy. Deathly silence. Nothing. The mood changed palpably.
A couple of African-American girls in the crowd – from the Deep South of Atlanta, Georgia it turned out – were obviously miffed about it, and I could see it from the stage, so I caught up with them afterwards and explained to them why they should, in fact, be offended when comedians specifically REFUSE to make fun of Black people in their gigs.
“Really, Jay? You’re telling us that comedians who refuse to risk offending Black people are racist?!”
HELL YES!! And those two American girls understood why when I laid it out for them logically. Let me explain.
After the gig, it was time for people to trot out the usual politically correct mantra: “You can’t say NIGGER, Jay. Because you’re not BLACK!”
People in comedy, and in PC society generally, often repeat this belief but have never provided a satisfactory explanation as to WHY you can only use a word perceived as a racial epithet if you’re a member of the group it refers to. It’s part of the politically correct paradigm that I refuse to subscribe to, and in reality people who object to usage of the word NIGGER don’t normally subscribe to it either except in the case of the word NIGGER. Which demonstrates the huge hypocrisies in politically correct audiences and comedians. Just like last night, they allow comedians to get away with making fun of many different other groups. Let’s recap here: I made fun of Bangladeshis and they laughed. I made fun of “chinks” and even did a traditionally offensive impression of a Chinese guy – hilarious. The lesbian jokes got a positive response. I even said I couldn’t STAND White people and they laughed at that too. I am in NONE of those groups, but there was no objection raised whatsoever. Until the subject matter switched to Black people.
The hypocrisy is very clear to me. And that is why I’m an equal opportunity offender.
There’s a general rule in comedy that almost every modern PC comedian accepts as their gospel truth. “You are not allowed to punch downwards.” In other words, you are not allowed to joke about people BENEATH you in society. Only those on your own level or above you. (Some comedians get around this rule by playing a poverty-stricken chav, accented foreigner or gay character on stage to give them perceived license to mock those minority groups.)
You can see the problem here, can’t you?
When a comedian states there is one particular group that it’s taboo for them to ridicule then that implies that they think that particular group is beneath them. And THAT, dear readers, is a very real demonstration of prejudice. Every comedian who says they are going out of their way NOT to offend Black people are RACISTS! Unwittingly, perhaps, but ultimately their implicit reasoning is “Look at those poor downtrodden Black people. It would be wrong to mock them, because I’m so superior to them socially.”
That’s a horrific level of prejudice. And I am having none of it. (This is exactly how I explained it to those two girls after the gig.)
I will be tweaking my main set to make that point more clearly. It might take some time to get it across just right, and many people will tell me “Why do it? It’s too risky and you’ll offend a lot of people.”. However, I simply refuse to self-censor due to fears of causing offence. I believe that stand-up is the last bastion of free speech, and if anyone tells a comedian there is a line in the sand they shouldn’t cross then the best of us should be running as fast as we can to cross it.
Now all I need to do is explain of all that as eloquently on stage and be funny at the same time… all in 90 seconds. One of the comedians yesterday asked me how I could possibly think I could get a laugh with the word NIGGER. Challenge Accepted! Last night was my first attempt. Next time, I guarantee I will make it work.