On his Saturday Night Live monologue on May 16, 2015, stand-up comic Louis C.K. took a different route: rather than talking about how much he loves hosting the show, or telling simple jokes and leaving the stage, C.K. decided to challenge his audience with a series of what his critics called “offensive” or “sensitive topics” that should not be made fun of. This is not the first time this has happened before; comedians like Daniel Tosh, Chris Rock, and Ricky Gervais have made jokes that certain people thought weren’t funny because of the topics they covered.
So what did C.K. say that was offensive? Throughout the monologue he made fun of racism; he compared his children’s fighting to the war currently happening in the middle east between Israel and Palestine, two topics that his critics, a group of talk show hosts of The Talk on CBS, did not touch upon. When he spoke of pedophilia (child molesters) that is when they thought he crossed the line, and although it can be a topic that is hard to talk about, Louis C.K. started talking about it toward the end of his monologue and one could feel the laughter go down the more he discussed it. He made fun of the act of molesting, and made fun of child molesters themselves, but never once did he make fun of the victims.
This monologue, and its aftermath, raised a specific question on censorship: is it necessary? The main arguments of Sara Gilbert, one of the critics who disliked C.K.’s comments, was that “a victim could’ve been watching.” If he were censored by the network, no one would’ve gotten angry. Jerry Seinfeld, another comedian, stated this on censorship: “they [speaking of people who are offended by jokes] just wanna use these words – ‘that’s racist,’ ‘that’s sexist,’ ‘that’s prejudiced’ – they don’t even know what they’re talking about.”
Comedians are the most affected by forced censorship. For example, whenever they have a show to do on college campuses, some of them have to go through their jokes and make changes dictated by the colleges, because they don’t want to offend any students. According to Evan Puschak, a writer and producer of an educational channel on Youtube called Nerdwriter1, “clearly Louis C.K.’s intention in that joke is to use comedy to get us to think about society’s attitude and treatment of pedophilia. Perhaps, he intimates, that we revile this demographic too blindly, taking solace in our normalcy when we know that the complexities of sexuality mean that the urge of pedophilia is not something chosen.” C.K. was trying to poke fun at society’s way of dealing with things that we see as abnormal; never does he state pedophilia shouldn’t be punished. He is still part of that same society that sees it as abnormal, but just like with Seinfeld, audiences do not understand what they’re talking about when they deem certain things to be offensive.
Rather than get offended at jokes, people should see the intent behind the jokes before jumping to conclusions because it might be an observation and lesson that can teach us more about the society we live in.