Comedy does not calcify; comedy evolves, expands and cultivates humanity. Comedy is intended to entertain while provoking laughter and thought. Controversy and comedy are not mutually exclusive; therefore one may experience offense, hurt feelings, or emotional contemplation upon exposure to jokes or seeing amusing spectacles.
Ferne Pearlstein’s 2017 documentary, The Last Laugh, is worth watching (again) as currently the public continues to ponder how to define funny. Are there subjects we can’t joke about, what is off-limits? I’ve never thought good humor was malicious in intent, nor designed to attack the weak or exploit the wronged. I think of comedy as a force that lifts us up, relieves anxiety and reveals the truth.
Comedians have the rare ability to propel society forward, give voice to the silenced, illuminate injustice and bring people together through an endorphin cocktail of humor. It’s hard to hate someone when you are laughing together.
There was a time when minstrel shows and blackface were not only acceptable, the shows were praised – Al Jolson wore blackface, and was heralded, “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” and funny films like Revenge of the Nerds, literally depicted guys secretly placing cameras in a sorority house, to watch women – illegal, disgusting, creepy, wrong. People change and evolve – well, at least some do.