Oscars bring comedians’ role into question

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Editor Elect

At this point in my life, I consider myself a comedian. An amateur comedian, sure, but I still consider myself a comedian. I’ve been performing live comedy for over five years now in multiple forms, and I’ve also been involved in multiple internet comedy specials. I spend most of my time as one half of Pittsburgh’s favorite comedy duo band, The Moon is a Hologram. We earned the title of Pittsburgh’s favorite comedy duo band on a technicality as there aren’t any other comedy duo bands in the area, but that’s neither here nor there. 

The reason that I’m bringing all of this up is because in the past few years there have been increasing discussions about the roles of comedians in our society. Some argue that the role of the comedian is to be shocking, to be provocative. To push the boundaries that others won’t. 

This mentality has been used to defend some comedians who have said some pretty awful — and also painfully unfunny — stuff. Dave Chappelle, a comedian I once respected, told some really transphobic jokes in some of his recent Netflix specials. This caused loads of discussion, tweets and articles (including one that I wrote at the time, calling the special “entirely one note and painfully unfunny”). This discussion is ultimately pointless. Dave Chappelle will continue to make millions of dollars off of his comedy. People will continue to defend him by making nonsensical arguments about “cancellations” and how “it’s just a joke.” Transgender people will continue to be villainized by right-wing media, and the trans community will continue to suffer the consequences of a society that has normalized belittling them for an hour and a half straight in the form of a “comedy special.”

The big thing that got me thinking about this again was The Oscars. Now, I’m not here to beat a dead horse. I mean, if you started reading this column thinking “Wow, I really hope he discusses what his opinion is on the Chris Rock/Will Smith Oscar debacle” then you should probably re-evaluate some things. That being said, a big reaction from a lot of the so-called critics of cancel culture is that the safety of comedians is at risk in our society, and how we need to care and protect comedians from the horrors of cancel culture. One week later to the day, Louis C.K., a man who sexually harassed multiple female comedians, won a Grammy award.

The critics don’t actually care about comedians. They care about pushing an agenda so that they can continue to push a culture war that they serve to gain from. Louis C.K. winning a Grammy is proof that so-called cancellation doesn’t exist, or if it does exist it’s nothing more than a slap on the wrist and a subsection on your Wikipedia page.

Ultimately, the role of a comedian is not to be provocative, or shocking. It’s certainly not to offend. Personally, the last thing that I want is for someone at one of my shows to feel uncomfortable. I want everyone to have a good time and laugh so hard they forget their problems. That’s all any comedian should want, because the role of a comedian is to be funny. That’s it.