Controversial comedians don’t think before speaking

Illustration by Bharathi Mathivanan

Monica Alarcon-Najarro, Staff Writer

Comedians have always said their jokes shouldn’t be taken seriously, but when it comes to diseases that people can’t control, who’s laughing? 

There’s a fine line between an actual funny joke and one that’s ignorant.

This year’s 94th Academy Awards on March 27 took a now infamous turn when host Chris Rock made a joke about actress Jada Pinkett Smith being part of “G.I. Jane 2.” Following the joke, Pinkett Smith’s husband, actor Will Smith, walked up on stage and slapped Rock in anger.

The joke stems from the female main character of “G.I. Jane” having a shaved head. Pinkett Smith has an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata universalis, which is when the body attacks its own hair follicles leading to hair loss around the body, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

At first, it seemed like Will Smith was laughing at the joke unknowingly, but when he realized that Pinkett Smith was rolling her eyes, he became angry, which led to the slap. After the incident, Smith resigned from the Academy and has been banned from attending the Oscars for the next 10 years.

It was certainly uncalled for Smith to physically assault Chris Rock, but it was also insensitive and ignorant that Rock wasn’t aware about Pinkett Smith’s alopecia, according to Rock’s brother Kenny Rock, but decided to make the joke in front of his professional co-workers at an award ceremony. Both parties were in the wrong in this situation.

I understand that Rock wanted to tie movies into the ceremony to make it lighthearted, but he should’ve thought about it twice before saying it out loud. Comedians need to understand that if they haven’t experienced something they’re joking about, they shouldn’t bring it up.

This isn’t the first time comedians have faced backlash for the jokes made in front of audiences. Tracy Morgan is one comedian who faced backlash after his standup show in Nashville, Tennessee. Morgan joked that if he had a gay son he would stab him, according to an article by Complex

Michael Richards, who played Cosmo Kramer in “Seinfeld,” also faced backlash from the public. Richards made racist remarks and said the n-word to African American audience members who were being loud during his show, according to Complex. Mind you, Richards is as white as it gets, and has had multiple instances regarding racist comments in the media. Richards got his karma by having his racist meltdown filmed and published onto TMZ’s website.

Among many others, Dave Chappelle has also been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. In his Netflix comedy special “The Closer,” Chappelle made transphobic remarks which caused a walkout from Netflix employees.

Chapelle, however, didn’t apologize for his comments. Instead, he seemed defensive about the backlash he received from the public.

All these comments from comedians have caused an uproar in the media. I’m glad people are speaking up about the injustices and unfairness these comedians joke about. These jokes offend people from communities that are not represented fairly in the media as is; to push them down even more is not funny whatsoever.

It disappoints me to see comedians putting people down when they should be using humor to uplift others and make them forget about their troubles when attending their shows. Even though Will Smith apologized for his actions, I’m still waiting on an apology from Chris Rock to Jada Pinkett Smith. Both Rock and Smith were in the wrong, but at least one of them fessed up to their wrongdoings.

Comedians shouldn’t have to use offensive language and jokes to get noticed by the public. Personally, I love self-deprecating humor. If comedians focused more on making jokes about themselves it would feel a lot less offensive to others. They think after saying offensive jokes and apologizing it will just diminish the effects of their words and solve everything, which is not the case. 

Words have meaning and affect people in different ways, and that’s something all comedians need to realize.

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