Outrageous and offensive jokes have been part of comedy virtually since time began. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Don Rickles, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Lewis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, and many other comedians have built their reputations on pushing the envelope of good taste. But in today’s climate, humor that relies on cultural appropriation or insults based on stereotypes is being called into question. Some say that mining racism for laughs isn’t so funny, while others are upset at the thought of “cancel culture” limiting what comedians can say.
Naturally, Twitter users on both sides spoke out. One user wrote: “People getting upset at Billy Crystal for saying that comedy is a ‘minefield’ is the exact reason why Billy Crystal is saying that comedy is a ‘minefield’.”
Another added, “Lol, the reactions to this very, very benign (and accurate) statement are insane. He doesn’t go on some political rant about cancel culture. He literally just says he thinks it’s harder these days. My word.”
On the other side of the spectrum were writers like this one, who tweeted, “Yeah, it’s a real tragedy that Billy Crystal can’t do blackface anymore.”
Another wrote a long thread that read, in part, “Comedy is not ‘becoming a minefield.’ People just won’t accept racist [stuff] and punching down anymore. BTW, I like Billy Crystal. Very talented, funny man. But you have to be able to say, ‘We were much more ignorant and uncaring about certain things 20+ years ago.’ Not just him. ALL OF US WERE. “