Comedian, actor and television host Howie Mandel has observed the problems comedians face today with the police being applied to what comics are or are not allowed to say on stage. Of course, this has been compounded in recent months with Will Smith making fun of Chris Rock for a joke at the Oscars. Dave Chappelle has also caused huge controversy with the material in his Netflix comedy specials, leading to calls for them to be removed from the streamer.
In 2022, this was quite a divisive issue, with many arguing for their point from both sides of the coin. A veteran prankster, Mandel had a lot to say about the state of comedy these days in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Mandel, who hosts the Netflix game show bullsh*t, spoke about how much he appreciates the streamer for giving him and other talents complete creative freedom. He explains how “scary” it is for him that Netflix has become one of the few outlets where comedians can joke freely without having to worry about censorship or negative consequences.
“As someone who is stand-up comedy, it’s really scary. The window closes on the art form, which I find really scary and really debilitating. So when someone like Netflix gives you a forum where you can be creative and have that freedom of what those art form, I believe that is a necessity in our culture, and that is the ultimate freedom of expression. bullsh*t isn’t a stand-up comedy special, and it isn’t R-rated per se, but there’s no montage. It is certain not a broadcast network game show.”
It’s no surprise that Mandel doesn’t believe in the “too soon” mantra, given his close friendship with the late Gilbert Gottfried, aka the “King of Too Soon.” Here’s what Mandel said when asked why stand-up comedy is changing so drastically.
“Oversensitivity. As a cartoonist, I believe there is no such thing as too early, and there is no such thing as too far away. I don’t believe there is a rule… Comedy is based on impropriety, of laughing at a clown who falls down… When you laugh at a clown falling down at the circus you laugh at someone else’s injury or falling over That’s what comedy is When two guys walk into a bar something’s up embarrassing or just to happen to one of them to make a joke of it And there is no rule As someone who suffers from mental health, if you cannot laugh at pain then you curl up and die. It’s a great panacea They say laughter is the best medicine and now they’re telling us the medicine is going to be illegal It’s a tough, difficult time for free speech and an art form that is really more of a necessity than something true you can participate at your leisure.”
Howie Mandel also discussed how onlookers getting mad at comedians have led to violence. That includes the Oscars slam with Will Smith and Chris Rock, as well as the recent incident on Netflix is a Joke: The Festival where someone tackled Dave Chappelle onstage. No matter how far a comedian may push a joke, Mandel thinks it’s wrong to ever resort to violence, be it for that or any other situation.
“I believe humor is subjective, and whether you like it or it’s gone too far, there’s nothing you can say or do, even outside the context of humor, that would make me hit someone. I don’t do it “I don’t know that’s a discussion about humor or whether the humor was right or wrong. You can’t hit someone. You just don’t. It’s against the law, let alone against anything humanity should be about.” go. Violence is never the answer.”
At the end of the day, the change in comedy these days makes Mandel feel like comedians are just not allowed to joke anymore, a big difference from years before, where jokes seemed much more allowable in most circumstances.
“There was a time when I came forward where, even if you weren’t a comedian, the sentence, ‘Hey, I was just kidding,’ was enough to get you out of trouble. You say something, and they become angry, and you say, “I was just kidding.” “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were serious.” “So if you joked, it was okay. But not anymore. You can’t joke anymore. Don’t joke because it might not be funny… An art form is just going to disappear.”
You can watch Mandel’s new series bullsh*t streaming on Netflix now.
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