It's only fair to share…

Last week saw the passing of comedian Gene Wilder. Although he had not made a movie for some 25 years, he is still regarded as one of the greats of comedy. Movies like Blazing Saddles are classics.

When interviewed a few years ago he said that he had stopped making movies, as he didn’t like the direction Hollywood had taken. He had gone on to another career as an author. One commentator observed last week that many of the films that Wilder had made would not be made today due to political correctness.

This is terribly sad and an indictment on our current censorious approach to humour. People will scream “offence” at literally the drop of a hat. Rather than take on scared cows we are now genuflecting to them.

When I was in high school the radio breakfast show was full of jokes. Necessarily they had to stay one side of the decency line due to it being public radio but nobody seemed to be offended if an Irish, Jewish or other joke was told. Everyone had a laugh!

Today you rarely hear jokes on the radio or anywhere for that matter. The perpetually outraged and offended PC brigade has stifled humour. It is particularly bad in the USA where numerous comedians now will not do shows on campuses (weren’t Universities meant to be bastions of free expression and for challenging sacred cows) or other places.

This includes Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Bill Maher – all excellent entertainers.

Comedy by its nature is meant to make us laugh (obviously) but also challenge us. Time magazine reports that a new documentary called “Can we take a joke?” has just been released. Penn Jillette is quoted as saying “outrage is a powerful political tool” and “you can’t have an exchange of ideas if there’s a chilling effect”.

And therein lies the key. Being offended is the get out of jail free card when you don’t have a valid counter argument to what is being said. As Lewis Beale wrote in Time “I’m offended has become the mantra of the thin-skinned”. He notes that part of Donald Trump’s appeal is that he is “relentlessly” un–PC.

Laughter is healthy. It lower blood pressure, slows the heart rate, reduces production of stress hormones and promotes the release of our happy hormones. We feel good when we laugh. We do not feel good when we are outraged.

The real problem is that those who want to be offended want to stop others having a laugh. As Beale adds, “No one says you have to like the joke. Just don’t silence the jokester”.

This nails it. Those who want to be miserable and perpetually offended have a right to do so. But those who want to enjoy laughter and humour have no lesser right.

There is an old adage that laughter is the best medicine. This is true. In todays world we all could do with a bit more laughter. Laughter is far healthier than outrage.