It is inevitable that comedy and politics are joined at the hip in today’s America. Comedians frequently use their platform to call out those in power and express their distaste for controversial issues. Popular television shows like Saturday Night Live, Ellen and The Tonight Show also often have an underlying tone of politics and satire. Several comedians like Samantha Bee, and Roseanne Barr have been under fire for “comical” remarks that are read as offensive. While darker humored comedy is nothing new, satire is no excuse for hatefulness. Poking fun in a spiteful and downright classless way normalizes the exact hateful behavior that divides us.
If viewers and fans continue to support distasteful comedians, the hate speech played off as jokes will only continue.
Earlier in March, the hit sitcom Roseanne returned to television after a two-decade hiatus and was extremely well received by long-time fans and new viewers alike. However, despite the rave reviews of the new spin-off Roseanne, ABC cancelled the show hours after Barr took to Twitter with a racist remark about former President Barack Obama’s Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett. Barr tweeted that the African-American woman was equivalent to, “if the Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a child.”
After the show was pulled from the air, Barr claimed she was a victim of a liberal double standard. This is an incredibly shameful and clumsy response from Barr, especially considering that her new show exhibited its own form of racism. In one episode, Roseanne fears that her new neighbors could be terrorists after discovering they are Muslim. Let’s also not forget the time that she showed her anti-semitism by dressing up as Hitler for a magazine cover while pulling burnt gingerbread men out of an oven.
While Barr’s behavior is just the latest incident of tasteless comedy, it is not the only example by a long shot.
Last week, Bee made a dig at Ivanka Trump in her latest skit on her show, Full Frontal. After Ivanka posted a picture of her and her son on Twitter, Bee made a statement from, “one mother to another,” to do something about her father’s immigration practices, claiming the post was in bad taste due to the thousands of immigrant children who had been taken from their families and lost in the system. Bee then proceeded to refer to her as a “feckless c***.” The slur was both vulgar and misogynistic in its nature. While the message of commenting on political issues was not the root of the problem, it was the word choice that was grossly inappropriate and uncalled for.
TBS has since apologized for the language used by Bee, and has removed the clip from online. State Farm and Autotrader have removed all advertisements from Full Frontal, but there have been no further disciplinary actions taken. Many are calling this a double standard, pointing out that Barr is a President Donald Trump supporter and Bee is a clear opponent of the president’s ideals, which is why Barr was disciplined so heavily while Bee was not.
Both of these comedians know the magnitude of their platform and have been around the television industry long enough. Both deserve to be disciplined for their divisive language and classless sense of humor. However, Barr’s support of the president is not the reason she was disciplined. She promoted clear racism which is not a good look for ABC.
Incidents like this paint a picture for all that can go wrong when comedians think they are being funny but are actually being classless and abhorrent. While comedy is an art that can take up many different forms, in order to be executed correctly, there must be some guidelines. Where do comedians draw the line between comedy and just plain hatefulness? Clearly, that line needs to be adjusted some.
Barr and Bee both received much deserved backlash, and the other comedians who engage in offensive talk aimed at either side should receive backlash as well. Comedians should not use their platform to promote hate speech and divide us. Speaking on political or touchy subjects is not the issue here, it is the comedians poor lack of judgement.
Samantha Moffett is a junior majoring in mass communication.