In a recent interview with BBC Radio 4, comedy legend Mel Brooks claimed that political correctness was killing comedy. While Brooks made it clear that he’s not against empathy in comedy, he’s worried that comedy is becoming less authentic in our “stupidly politically correct society.”
“It’s OK not to hurt feelings of various tribes and groups. However, it’s not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. It’s the lecherous little elf whispering in the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”
Brooks continued, saying that Blazing Saddles, one of his most famous and beloved works, could not be made today due to its racial satire and the risks that it took.
“Without that, the movie would not have had nearly the significance, the force, the dynamism, and the stakes that were contained in it.”
To be fair, Brooks was clear that there was one line that he thought should never be crossed: the Holocaust is never funny.
“I personally would never touch gas chambers or the death of children or Jews at the hands of the Nazis. In no way is that at all usable or correct for comedy. It’s just in truly bad taste. Everything else is ok.”
Now, there’s a lot to break down in Brooks’ statements, but the idea comedy is dying due to “PC culture” just isn’t true. Instead, fans are getting a more diverse pack of voices to choose from. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins (Mr. Peanutbutter if you’re nasty) thoughtfully disagreed with Brooks on Twitter, explaining that critiquing comedy isn’t a bad thing and that the best comedy always punches up.
There is absolutely no doubt that Brooks is a comedy visionary who has left behind a legacy to be proud of, but it might be time for some new voices to come to the forefront. Diversity isn’t the death of comedy. It is merely another way to enrich it.
(H/T The AV Club)