Disrespect disguised as comedy

Editorial Board

Trigger warning: Mention of discrimination, violence, death and bullying.

Where is the line drawn when it comes to comedy? After the 2022 Oscars, this is a question that has plagued the headlines. 

While announcing “Best Documentary” at the Academy Awards show, Chris Rock went off-script and began joking about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss. Mrs. Pinkett Smith has suffered from alopecia since 2018 and has always been open about her insecurities surrounding it. Rock’s joke definitely hit a sore spot with Pinkett Smith and resulted in an angry Will Smith, who proceeded to slap Rock across the face on national television. Since then, spectators have started an uproar, debating who was in the wrong and what could have been done better in the heat of the moment. 

Rock was in the wrong. While it is understandable that it is his job to be comedic, there is a fine line between joking and bullying. In no context should it ever be okay to joke about someone’s appearances — no matter if they have a condition or not. Mr. Smith reacted as any reasonable significant other would have.

Another comedian that has repeatedly stepped over the fine line is David “Dave” Khari Webber Chappelle. On countless occasions, Chappelle has taken controversial stances in regard to the LGBTQIA+ community and has even self-proclaimed himself as a transphobic comedian. Additionally, he defended author J.K. Rowling, claiming he’s “team TERF,” an abbreviation for a transgender-exclusionary radical feminist. Oftentimes, Chappelle’s punch lines have revolved around his harmful homophobia in comparison to the racial discrimination people of color experience.

In cases like that of Amy Schumer, non-BIPOC have had the privilege to get away with significantly more discourtesy and end up mostly unscathed. On the “Roast Charlie Sheen” show in 2011, Schumer joked to Steve-O about his friend, Ryan Dunn, that passed a few months prior to the filming

“I truly am – no joke – sorry for the loss of your friend, Ryan Dunn. I know you must’ve been thinking, ‘It could’ve been me,’ and I know we were all thinking, ‘Why wasn’t it?’” Schumer asked with a smile.

Not only was Schumer’s jab at Steve-O quite literally suggesting that he should have died, but she suffered limited consequences succeeding it.

These are only a few of the disgusting examples in which comedians mask their disrespect with comedy. When you consider comedy done well, you might find amusing commentaries on social issues. However, it seems comedians are now painting their comedy specials with vitriol, insensitivity and hate. Comedians should be held to the same standards as everyone else and not be allowed to spew their nonsensical perspectives.

To read more about this, check out “Rocked at the Oscars: Smith apologizes after controversial actions.”