Comedy isn’t a free pass for intolerance


Larry David during the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards. David’s recent SNL appearance caused much controversy over Holocaust jokes.

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

It started with the Facebook posts “SNL What?!” and “Am I really seeing this SNL?” Then came another post moments later, and soon my social media feed was filled with posts wondering why Saturday Night Live would have ever allowed this week’s host Larry David’s monologue to go live.

While making a statement about being disappointed to see Jewish individuals in the news for “notorious reasons,” David cemented his own fate for the same reason.

He made a joke about the number of Jewish sexual predators and transitioned to another joke wondering how he would have gone about picking up women in concentration camps had he been there during the Holocaust. 

While social media was quick to critique the act, the live audience was laughing right along with him. The fact that David thought these jokes would be well received says a lot about the state of anti-Semitism nationally right now.

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Students know all too well the frequency of emails notifying us of a reported sexual assault on campus. Transitioning from a line about sexual assault to hitting on women is also not appropriate given the current climate of sexual assault in the media.  

To then mock the reality of the Holocaust, and negate the very fact that life did continue for the individuals in those camps, was not acceptable. We have seen acts against many religious communities on this campus in the past few months. There have been chalk drawings on the  Main Quad surrounding the Muslim Ban and the vandalism of the Illini Chabad menorah for the fourth time in two years. There are those who can say that no topic is off limits in comedy; however, when the topics at hand are so relevant in the news and affect such large numbers in our society, they should stay out of the comedic sphere.

David’s platform is one of comedy, which is to bring people together and find the positives in society. Rather than doing that, David set the conversations even further back.

It is nothing new to use humor as a way of lightening a serious conversation, but these topics are not ones to be treated in this manner. It is necessary to know the difference between humor and harassment. I’m glad my social media feeds condemned this monologue, and I hope that translates to further action in person.

If nothing else positive comes out of this speech, it should be a reminder that there are still many people who don’t understand the number of people affected by sexual abuse and religious intolerance. Each person who was taken aback by this SNL sketch should keep that feeling in mind, and commit themselves to standing up and speaking out when these topics come up in everyday life.

Hayley is a junior in ACES.

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