“I make fun of everyone, so I include everyone, and therefore, I don’t dislike anyone.” — comedian Lisa Lampanelli
Here’s the problem with the “I’m an equal opportunity offender” defense that Lampanelli and other comedians have used: Your attacks may be equal, but your victims aren’t. Some are more vulnerable than others.
Pick on a straight, white male like me. I can take it, because straight, white males run the country. Comedy doesn’t hurt us much. And as George Carlin said, “Comedy has traditionally picked on people in power.”
But picking on immigrants, trans people, and others losing their rights just adds to the troubles pounding them into the dirt.
The jokes may be funny, depending on the audience — a lot of audiences laugh hard at a comedian who ridicules the people they don’t like. Hell, I’ve laughed at some of the jokes.
But they’re still ugly, mean, and cheap. As comedian Patton Oswalt has said, “The stuff I really regret is that I was doing very hack jokes about midgets or someone who’s mentally handicapped just to get a rise out of the audience.” He added, “The core of what makes a comedian good is you look at stuff in the world that everyone accepts and you tear it down a little bit to find out what’s funny in it. If I refuse to do that with my own work and I only do that with the outside world, that’s a pretty weak stance to have in life.”
I wouldn’t stop comedians from telling any joke they want. Censorship is evil, full stop. Comedians must have freedom of expression, and freedom of expression must always be safe.
But I can say that I don’t usually like those jokes. That’s my freedom of expression.