The comedy world seems to be split in two right now, with some people saying the world has gotten too sensitive for anyone to feel safe telling jokes anymore and with everyone else saying, “Stop being racist.” It’s a real tough call.
This is actually not a new division, it’s been a conversation going on for a long time. Recently, however, a comedian named Shane Gillis was fired from Saturday Night Live before ever performing in an episode because a series of podcasts in which he used racist slurs and performed racist accents came to light. It turned out SNL knew about Gillis’s racism and hired him because they wanted to appeal to his demographic: conservatives. The ensuing backlash was of their own making!
Shane Gillis will not be joining SNL. According to a show spokesperson, 'the language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable.' pic.twitter.com/m6uKH5GHW3— Tomthunkit™ (@TomthunkitsMind) September 29, 2019
Fans of Gillis think he was fired for no good reason, but a lot of people pointed out that some of the worst stuff he said was as recent as a year ago and his apology was pretty bad. It was of the “sorry you were offended” variety. People are just too uptight to enjoy his comedy, according to him.
But there’s one comedians both conservatives and liberals each try to claim as their own, and he had something to say about all of this.
Blacklist writer Aiah Samba shared a clip of George Carlin on Twitter from 1990. He’s being interviewed by Larry King about a comedian named Andrew “Dice” Clay, who was known for his offensive material. Was Carlin cool with it?
Wow, this is from 1990. And I thought us “sensitive” folk didn’t understand the unfunny punching down jokes from these “comedians”. Interesting pic.twitter.com/2jU5Xj6pA3— Aiah Samba (@Dualityman81) September 28, 2019
No. This interview is almost thirty years old, and Carlin is saying a lot of the stuff people say now about how comedians should always punch up. He also adds that Clay’s appeal is to angry white men who feel threatened by women and immigrants.
“Comedy has traditionally picked on people in power, people who abuse their power,” Carlin says. “Women and gays and immigrants, to my way of thinking, are underdogs.”
“I think [Clay’s] core audience is young white males who are threatened by these groups,” he continues. “I think a lot of these guys aren’t sure of their manhood, I think that’s often a problem when you’re going through adolescence… and the women who assert themselves and that are competent are a threat to these men, and so are immigrants in terms of jobs.”
Carlin was often seen as an edgy comedian who said offensive things, but even he believed that attacking people with less power than you is cheap and manipulative. His message is getting shared a lot of Twitter, especially by comedians who are tired of Gillis getting valorized as a martyr to PC culture:
????????????x1,000,000 GODDAMIT https://t.co/67XUEeJsZd— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 28, 2019
them: COMEDY IS A FREE FOR ALL U PC POLICE PUSSIIIIIIEESS— Jenny Yang (@jennyyangtv) September 28, 2019
Oh, just legendary comic George Carlin sounding like a modern day social justice warrior as he eloquently slams comics who attack vulnerable communities.— Charlotte Clymer?️? (@cmclymer) September 28, 2019
From 1990. https://t.co/lkUfuolIg3
George Carlin talking about Andrew 'Dice' Clay and bigoted comedy *THIRTY YEARS AGO.* Absolutely uncanny. https://t.co/0pG1Nc7B54— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) September 28, 2019
Comedy Civil War https://t.co/32WzunEbQO— Dan Wilbur (@DanWilbur) September 27, 2019
George Carlin thought racist bits were bad and he was as far from the stereotype of a Social Justice Warrior as you can get. And a lot more people remember who he was than remember Andrew Clay.