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Comedians need to be held accountable for racist jokes

Comedians need to be held accountable for racist jokes

Comedians need to be held accountable for racist jokes
October 01
18:42 2019

“Saturday Night Live” recently announced a number of new cast members and one of them included comedian Shane Gillis.

Shortly after this announcement, videos surfaced of Gillis using offensive language. Clips from his podcast show resurfaced, where the comedian is heard using racial slurs toward Asian people and mocking Asian accents. Gillis tweeted a statement about SNL’s decision to fire him but did not apologize. 

Shortly after the casting announcement, he was fired for making these racist jokes.

After his firing, Gillis tweeted: “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries, my intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.” 

It’s important to discuss how even though comedians may not intend to offend anybody, that doesn’t mean that what they said isn’t inherently offensive. Perhaps Gillis’ intentions weren’t malicious, but his language was still racist, homophobic and sexist. There are no excuses for using slurs. 

Comedians are constantly being forgiven for this kind of behavior because they claim it was “just a joke.” It’s not funny when a joke is at the expense of a human being. If those remarks were said in any other setting, it would not be acceptable. So why is it accepted when it’s from the mouths of comedians?

Amy Schumer is another famous comedian who has been known to make racist jokes. In 2015, she apologized after being called out for a racist joke she made about Hispanic men. The joke was that she “used to date Hispanic men, but now I prefer consensual.” Even though Schumer apologized for her offensive joke, she made excuses that undermined her overall apology. In a tweet, she stated, “It is a joke and it is funny. I know that because people laugh at it.” 

Comedians use people as a punchline for their comedy acts without any regard for how it hurts the actual people they are joking about. These jokes might be made to be harmless, but they contribute to and reinforce stereotypes that are already placated in our society.

They are harmful because they hurt the people they are targeted at both on an individual level and on a macro-level. They encourage and support stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination.

Victims of these jokes are often blamed for being “too sensitive” and not knowing how to take a joke. Comedians get away too easily without any of the blame. After half-hearted apologies that are filled with excuses, they continue to make problematic jokes. Too much focus is being placed on the comedians’ intent and not enough focus is being placed on the actual people they dehumanize. The victims of the jokes are often disregarded.

There needs to be accountability for the offensive language comedians use for the sake of a punchline.

They need to face consequences in order for this culture of comedian forgiveness to change. Shane Gillis was fired from SNL after the videos of him resurfaced, but he did not accept any fault for his words or actions. He will probably continue to use this kind of humor because it’s easy to say something shocking for laughs. Gillis still has many supporters behind him who truly believe that he didn’t do anything wrong. People are basically encouraging this behavior.

It is important to forgive because these incidents can serve as a platform to teach others that it is not acceptable to dehumanize people for the amusement of others. However, forgiveness does not mean that comedians can continue to be offensive for their own selfish acts and lazy jokes.

They need to be held accountable for them and there is only so many times that excuses can be made for someone who is repeatedly showcasing the same bigoted behavior.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Vivian Berreondo

Vivian Berreondo

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