Watch Zayid’s set; then, carefully read and annotate Raz’s interview with her and Nesteroff; put Raz’s interview with Zayid or Nesteroff in conversation with one other course text of your choosing. You may also choose to put both of these course texts in conversation. Raise a controlling question, and find a passage in each text that addresses it. Using these passages, write 1-2 paragraphs that describe how the two writers are in conversation around that controlling question. Be sure to quote, paraphrase, and summarize effectively.
Op-Ed: ‘Cancel culture’ has always been a
problem for comedy
Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special “The Closer” adds to a long history of controversial comedy. (Mathieu Bitton / Netflix)
BY KLIPH NESTEROFF
Los Angeles Times- OCT. 15, 2021 3:03 AM PT
Is freedom of speech evaporating from the world of comedy? We hear a familiar mantra
whenever someone like Dave Chappelle comes under fire: You can’t joke about anything
anymore. PC police. Cancel culture. People are too sensitive. But does this premise hold up to
scrutiny? Studying history, it seems clear comedians have more freedom of speech today, not
At the start of the 20th century, ethnic minorities objected to the way they were portrayed
onstage. Instead of airing grievances on the yet-to-be-invented internet, many delivered their
objections in person.
Irish and Italian immigrants were vocal at the turn of the century. Vaudeville comic Walter Kelly
received “a letter threatening his life if he did not immediately cut out several Italian stories in
his act,” and an Irish betterment organization called the Clan na Gael pelted comedians with eggs
for perceived slights against the Irish.
A newspaper editorial in Kansas feared this would inspire other groups to do the same: “If the
well-known and almost indispensable Irish policeman is to be abolished from the stage by decree
of the Clan-na-gael, what is to hinder the ‘Afro-American’ societies from following suit and
threatening dire consequences on the heads of players who represent the stage type of negro?”
That’s precisely what happened. African Americans, Native Americans and American Jews all
staged protests in the early 20th century. In 1903, the Topeka Capital predicted the death of
comedy: “The final upshot [of protest is] to strip comedy of its most engaging and popular
features. If the raid should extend to all sorts of people caricatured in the theater and in print,
then good-bye to comedy.”
Indeed, jokes concerning politics, religion and sex were taboo for most of the century. Even the
most casual carnal reference could result in arrest. The legendary Mae West wrote a number of
popular stage comedies, and for her efforts she was convicted of obscenity in 1927 — and
sentenced to 10 days in a prison workhouse.
The debate concerning stereotypes was especially fierce when the television became a household
appliance in the 1950s. TV executive Bob Wood explained why CBS and NBC were purging
stereotypes from programming in 1956: “We deleted any material which we consider derogatory
to any minority group — that’s on a common sense and public relations basis.”
The Wilmington Morning News sounded the death knell: “There isn’t much laughter any more
— because there’s no way to speak in any light fashion about any group of people anywhere.”
Some comedians intentionally provoked their detractors out of spite. “From now on I’m going to
use as much dialect material as possible in my guest appearances,” said comedian Danny
Thomas, claiming he was sick of “over-sensitive groups” that were “too thin-skinned.”
Comedians resented interference — yet if it meant advancing their career, they went along with
it. “The Tonight Show” was created in 1954 and became an important stand-up showcase. For
seven decades, comedians have willingly eliminated the F-word without screaming about
censorship or accusing hosts such as Johnny Carson of tyranny.
The obscenity laws used to prosecute Mae West and Lenny Bruce were deemed unconstitutional
in the late 1960s, chipped away by the courts. Freedom of expression flourished as obscenity
laws were overturned at the start of the ’70s.
But police didn’t always abide by the new standard. “Blazing Saddles,” a Mel Brooks
film released in 1974, was co-written by Richard Pryor. While it was playing in theaters, Pryor
was arrested in Richmond, Va., for using the same language onstage one could hear in the film.
His manager was told a warrant had been issued for “disorderly conduct.” Pryor turned himself
in and was released after posting a $500 bond.
In the same decade, Sears pulled its sponsorship of “Three’s Company” due to religious
pressure, George Carlin was arrested after cussing and “Welcome Back, Kotter” was banned in
Boston over fears it would trigger disorder. In the 1980s, comedy team Bowley and Wilson were
arrested for flatulence humor. In the 1990s, Andrew Dice Clay canceled a show fearing he’d
be arrested on an obscenity charge in Texas. All of this occurred long before the words and
phrases “millennial,” “safe space” or “retweet” came along.
Comedians have far more freedom today. Subject matter involving sex, religion, politics or
profanity does not result in jail time. The tug of war between censorship and free speech has
been part of comedy for its entire existence. It is likely to continue.
Kliph Nesteroff is the author of “The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History
of American Comedy.”
< Maysoon Zayid: Should Humor Make Us Uncomfortable? March 24, 20179:10 AM ET
TED Radio Hour
GUY RAZ, HOST:
It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. And on the show today Painfully Funny, ideas about how humor can make uncomfortable things a little easier to deal with.
MAYSOON ZAYID: I don't like doing radio ever…
ZAYID: …Unless I'm totally in control.
ZAYID: Because I have a face for TV not radio.
RAZ: That's true.
This is Maysoon Zayid. She's a stand-up comedian.
ZAYID: And I'm slurring, and everyone thinks I'm drunk (laughter).
RAZ: Now, the reason why Maysoon is a little self-conscious about doing radio is because of a disability she has which in her stand-up routine she tackles head-on. Here she is on the TED stage.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
ZAYID: My name is Maysoon Zayid, and I am not drunk, but the doctor who delivered me was. He cut my mom six different times in six different directions, suffocating poor, little me in the process. As a result, I have cerebral palsy which means I shake all the time. Look. It's exhausting. I'm like Shakira, Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.
ZAYID: CP is not genetic. It's not a birth defect. You can't catch it. No one put a curse on my mother's uterus, and I didn't get it because my parents are first cousins, which they are.
ZAYID: It only happens from accidents like what happened to me on my birthday. Now, I must warn you. I'm not inspirational, and I don't want anyone in this room to feel bad for me because at some point in your life, you have dreamt of being disabled.
Come on a journey with me. It's Christmas Eve. You're at the mall. You're driving around in circles looking for parking. And what do you see? Sixteen empty handicapped spaces.
ZAYID: And you're like, God, can't I be just a little disabled? Also, I got to tell you. I got 99 problems and palsy is just one. If there was an oppression Olympics, I would win the gold medal. I'm a Palestinian, Muslim, I'm female, I'm disabled, and I live in New Jersey.
RAZ: I remember when I was in San Francisco, I remember watching you talk in the audience and…
ZAYID: Oh, you saw it live?
ZAYID: That's so cool.
RAZ: So when you came out and you started to talk, the audience was like kind of uncomfortable – right? – because you were talking about how you shake like Shakira and – but within just a few seconds, you were able to disarm that entire, you know, massive roomful of people by just kind of putting people at ease which – is that – is this something you do consciously or are you aware that initially…
ZAYID: It's something that I do naturally because I've been a stand-up comedian for 15 years. And when I started doing stand-up comedy, I was doing New York City clubs like the middle of the night, just like begging to get five minutes of stage time.
And I didn't have time for audiences to be shy or uncomfortable with me, so it's just part of who I am as a comedian is that I get out there, I get the fact that I have a disability out of the way and then I move on. And I think because I move on in a strong, funny, relatable way people are able to move on with me.
RAZ: Yeah because I think for most people like the idea of making fun of a disability is – it's uncomfortable. Like, we're not used to that.
ZAYID: Do you think so? Because, I mean, disability has been mocked mercilessly throughout stand-up comedy, characters on television, disability is made fun of all the time. I think what they're not used to seeing is someone with a disability who's proud…
ZAYID: …Unashamed, and talking about it in a way that they've never heard before. But we have been mocked because like even someone like me who managed to, like, get all the way through high school without ever being mocked or bullied, when I became a performer, it became pretty common place for people to do that to me.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
ZAYID: A lot of people with CP don't walk, but my parents didn't believe in can't. My father's mantra was you can do it. Yes, you can can.
ZAYID: So if my three older sisters were mopping, I was mopping. If my three older sisters went to public school, my parents would sue the school system and guarantee that I went, too. And if we didn't all get A's, we all got my mother's slipper.
ZAYID: My father taught me how to walk when I was 5 years old by placing my heels on his feet and just walking. Another tactic that he used is he would dangle a dollar bill in front of me and have me chase it.
ZAYID: My inner stripper was very strong. And by…
ZAYID: Yeah. By the first day of kindergarten, I was walking like a champ who had been punched one too many times.
RAZ: So when you were a kid, I mean, first of all, you describe, like, upwards at the age of 5, you weren't able to walk, right?
ZAYID: I was able to walk at 5. I had to be able to walk in order to be mainstreamed into public school. And my father worked day and night to teach me how to walk. And I think what's so amazing about this is the fact that he was told that I would never walk. And he decided that he was going to try.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
RAZ: When did you realize that you were funny?
ZAYID: (Laughter) So my dream in life was to be on "General Hospital." I didn't know that I was funny. I went to college for drama. And then I came back to New York City, started auditioning, realized no one was hiring me. And I had a conversation with an amazing acting coach. And she said to me why don't you do a one-woman show? That way you can stand out. And I started looking at things like that. And who did I see? I saw Whoopi Goldberg.
And when I saw what Whoopi Goldberg did and saw, like, how she used comedy, I was like wait a minute. When I look at my TV, the people who look like me are all comedians – Richard Pryor, you know, Ellen, Rosie O'Donnell. Those were the people who were not typically beautiful, possibly had disability, you know, had different races like Margaret Cho. And I felt like comedy was how I could break through the fact that I was an other and still get on TV. And so I signed up for a comedy class. And it worked out because I had no idea I was funny. And it turned out I'm hysterical.
RAZ: (Laughter) You know, it's interesting because, like, all these comedians that you mentioned, I mean, they dealt with their demons – right? – or their challenges through humor, right? And do you, I mean, do you see yourself doing that in your comedy in the same way? I mean, do you see yourself as almost like kind of an advocate for people with disabilities or for Arabs and Muslims as well?
ZAYID: I've never tried to be an activist or an advocate. I was telling my own story. And just by telling my own story, I was controversial. I was telling people things they didn't know. And this started post-9/11 in New York City. My friend and I founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival to counter the negative images of Arabs in media.
And we always made sure that the comedy came first. So we weren't a bunch of Arabs trying to be funny. We were a bunch of comedians who just happened to be of Arab heritage. And, you know, sometimes I just want to talk about Beyonce. I named my cat Beyonce.
ZAYID: And people are like talk about Gaza, talk about cerebral palsy, talk about – you know? And I'm like, but I really just want to talk about Beyonce the cat. So it gets exhausting having to constantly battle. But I feel like more than ever in my life, it's important now that I do battle.
ZAYID: Because having grown up with, you know, one foot in Jersey and one foot in the Middle East, I'm really worried about where we are right now in this country. And when I did the TED Talk, I didn't know how important it was to say a Muslim in front of
everyone. I really thought it was the disability that was going to be the thing that I was championing.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
ZAYID: Growing up, there were only six Arabs in my town. And they were all my family.
ZAYID: Now there are 20 Arabs in town. And they are still all my family.
ZAYID: I don't think anyone even noticed we weren't Italian.
ZAYID: This was before 9/11 and before politicians thought it was appropriate to use I hate Moslems as a campaign slogan. The people that I grew up with had no problem with my faith. They did however seem very concerned that I would starve to death during Ramadan. I would explain to them that I have enough fat to live off of for three whole months, so fasting from sunrise to sunset is a piece of cake.
ZAYID: I spent my summers in a war zone because my parents were afraid that if we didn't go back to Palestine every single summer, we'd grow up to be Madonna.
ZAYID: Summer vacations often consisted of my father trying to heal me. So I drank deer's milk. I had hot cups on my back. I was dunked in the Dead Sea. And I remember the water burning my eyes and thinking it's working, it's working.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
RAZ: Do you think ultimately that comedy can change people's minds?
ZAYID: I think it already has. We've seen from generations comedy taking the risks that no one else would, whether it was "Will & Grace" mainstreaming the LGBT community on primetime television or, you know, "Black-ish" right now. I think comedy is the easiest, most relatable way to tell people things they don't want to hear.
RAZ: You know, earlier you were saying that you didn't set out to be an activist or an advocate but, I mean, you sometimes end up changing people's minds, right?
ZAYID: Right. So like I've never been, like, OK, if I'm going to talk about Palestine-Israel and how people deserve equality regardless of faith, I have to use comedy 'cause otherwise people are going to get defensive. It's more like, oh, I'm going to tell that joke about when I was strip searched. And I'm not really thinking about, like, this is the best way to deliver this message. I'm thinking about this is a really funny story. I'm totally going to get them to laugh.
And then it's usually not till after the show where I'm like, oh, my God, someone just came up to me and said they didn't know that Palestinians were people. They thought it was the name of a terror group. And it's like it's always afterwards that I realize I've shaken someone's ground. It's never my intention to go out and do that. My only intention is make them laugh, get on "General Hospital," win an Emmy.
RAZ: (Laughter) That's Maysoon Zayid. You can hear her full talk at ted.com.
We are a professional custom writing website. If you have searched a question and bumped into our website just know you are in the right place to get help in your coursework.
Yes. We have posted over our previous orders to display our experience. Since we have done this question before, we can also do it for you. To make sure we do it perfectly, please fill our Order Form. Filling the order form correctly will assist our team in referencing, specifications and future communication.
2. Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER INFORMATION" section and click “PRICE CALCULATION” at the bottom to calculate your order price.
3. Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
4. Click “FINAL STEP” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
5. From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.
Need this assignment or any other paper?
Click here and claim 25% off
Discount code SAVE25