Can We Take A Joke? Standup Comedy vs. Political Correctness

November 12, 2015

By Nick Gillespie at Reason Onlin

“If you think you have the right not to be offended,” says comedian Jim Norton, “either change the parameters of what offends you or realize you’re wrong. Those are your two choices.”

Can We Take a Joke?, a new documentary about standup comedy and the policing of speech, debuts on Friday, November 13 at DOC NYC, one of the country’s biggest film festivals.

Directed by Reason.tv alum Ted Balaker, the film features Penn Jillette, Adam Carolla, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, and others discussing how political correctness and other forms of repression—including corporate pressure to not offend—are undermining the free-wheeling, ribald, and uncensored world of standup comedy.

“Why is comedy the only form of the arts where people think they have to agree with or approve the content?” Norton asks in a live-peformance clip. “You don’t walk through a museum with a towel and throw it over paintings you don’t like.”

Comedians and performers such as Norton are joined in the film by Greg Lukianoff of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), who talks about the growing attacks on the First Amendment, especially those on college campuses which once prided themselves as bastions of free speech.

The Friday night debut is sold out but tickets are still available for a Monday screening.

Original release date: August 20, 2015. For more links and resources, go here.

“We’ve all seen it a million times: a comedian tells a joke, someone else gets offended, someone else blogs about it, and then ‘boom!,’ outrage spreads across the land,” says filmmaker Ted Balaker who is currently finishing up his latest documentary, “Can We Take A Joke?.” The film, which features comedians Gilbert Gottfried, Jim Norton, Lisa Lampanelli, Adam Carolla, Karith Foster, and Penn Jillette, examines the role of comedy in our culture of constant outrage.

“Comedians don’t even have the freedom of conscience to just be neutral on something,” Balaker told Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie. “[They] have to affirm what the cool kids believe.”

Balaker, a frequent Reason TV contributor, sat down with Gillespie at this year’s FreedomFest 2015 to talk about the current state of comedy, how technology has fueled the outrage machine, and how comedians are fighting back against PC zealots.

About 5 minutes.