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There is one question that always comes up these days whenever I’m talking to anyone about stand-up comedy: “Are you even allowed to joke about anything now?” It isn’t always asked using those exact words, but the sentiment is always the same.
My answer surprises most people. I tell them I can get away with whatever I want to on stage because I am long past the point where I’m interested in having a television career.
Kevin Downey Jr. and I kicked off our “Unwoke Comedy Tour” in December and we’re only going to places in America where we know that they want to enjoy comedy that doesn’t beat them over the head with political messaging. Red states, in other words. We don’t worry about political correctness or being canceled in places like that because 1) conservatives aren’t constipated ninnies like the progs are, and 2) we’re not looking to get a sitcom or be on Colbert’s show.
Steve Harvey recently made some remarks that show how difficult it is for those whose aim it is to work in television:
More from Deadline:
Steve Harvey has no plans for another stand-up comedy special and blames “cancel culture.”
“The only way I can do one more special is if it’s at the end of my television career because it will end my television career,” Harvey told media on Tuesday during the TCA panel for his ABC series Judge Steve Harvey airing Tuesday nights at 8 p.m.
“We’re in the cancel culture now. No stand-up [comedian] alive that is sponsor-driven can say anything he wants to. Chris Rock can’t. Kevin Hart can’t. Cedric the Entertainer can’t. D.L. Hughley can’t. I can go down the list. The only person that can say what they want to say on stage is Dave Chappelle because he’s not sponsor-driven, he’s subscription-driven.”
Harvey has had a very good, sustained television career. And he hits the nail on the head when he speaks of “sponsor-driven” comedians. The first thing that the cancel mob does when it attacks is bully any paid sponsors associated with the intended victim into forcing the target to see the error of his or her ways. That’s usually followed by an embarrassing apology, after which the mob continues its cancel jihad anyway.
Because the cancel mob is populated by rabid animals.
Harvey’s Dave Chappelle example perfectly illustrates his point. We have seen several attempts by the rage mob to get Chappelle nuked from Netflix in the past few years. Netflix, however, isn’t getting paid by Charmin to sell toilet paper during a Chappelle special. The network only has to worry about its subscribers, and the execs there know that Chappelle is still popular with them. That’s Chappelle’s main television gig now so it’s all good.
If Steve Harvey, however, does a Netflix special and gets the PC animals yapping at him, he’s vulnerable because his main gig is on ABC, where all of the toilet paper is being sold. Given the fact that broadcast network money tends to dwarf streaming channel money, it’s a no-brainer for Harvey to avoid any potential pitfalls altogether.
Harvey later says that “political correctness has killed comedy.” He says it in the context of trying to maintain a television career though. Fortunately for those of us who are addicted to performing live stand-up, there are still plenty of people in America who don’t leave the house just to look for ways to be offended.
The joke’s on you, cancel crowd.