Comedy that perpetuates division is not comedy


Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Craig Ferguson speaks at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con International at the San Diego Convention Center. Columnist Fred Shoaff argues comedy today is too politically charged.

By Fred Shoaff, Columnist

American comedy has gone off the deep end.

The only performances on late night television are politically charged, hateful and divisive. The artists of comedy can create hilarity using a far more diverse pallet than their producers allow, but for whatever reason, the same cheap laughs shaming Democrats and Republicans persist.

Former “Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson visited Champaign’s Virginia Theatre on Oct. 31 and showed why he remains a true comedic mastermind, despite not hosting a late night talk show in almost four years. Albeit not appropriate for national television, the show put the best comedy on display — the sort of comedy that has seemingly disappeared everywhere else.

For those familiar with his style, this show was classic Craig. It was 90 minutes of Scottish shouting that made the theatre shake with hearty laughter. The entire act was what comedy should be: an entertaining outlet.

Instead of acting as an escape from daily stresses and news, today’s comedy shows have become a cynical and damaging news source that perpetuates division. The hosts of these shows are reemphasizing everything wrong with modern politics by utilizing the same slanderous tactics they satirize.

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To be clear, I do not advocate for limiting criticism of people in authority as that would be against what America was based on, but the irreparable damage done to the bond of American citizens is worrisome.

Television stars such as Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers are being elevated to a position above journalists as they push their perverse views of the world to a level that divides viewers. When comedians continuously set new standards of cynicism with another agenda of jokes, they hide behind the age-old excuse: “It’s just a joke.”

Comedic reporting has become so one-sided that the idea of a civil debate between multiple viewpoints is an abomination.

Entertainment will always remain an integral part of American society, but the comedy profession and the likes of figures such as Craig Ferguson are threatened if the creative flair of comedians is only used for mockery.  

Laughter is no longer the byproduct of entertaining content promoted skillfully by a clever host. Instead, it is used as the commodity that makes viewers comfortable with their belief and disgusted by those on the other side.

Gone are the days when two individuals of different beliefs can sit alongside one another and enjoy a night of laughter. Now, comedy creates a world where the beliefs of one individual must be lowered to a level of laughter and be made a mockery of to gain the attention of viewers.

The great characteristics of comedy shows from years prior was their ability to uncover humorous stories and “report” them at the expense of a few. Plus, the equally funny political satires, jokes and skits were made funny not by slander or spite, but by clever usage of the First Amendment.

Comedy and America are not made great by raising one side and lowering another. There will be no resolutions or unification when even comedy is no longer about the jokes, but instead the agenda.

When attacking another American is the ideal way to attract a following, comedy is needed more than ever to unite both sides by acting as the hilarious mediator. No one who stands so strongly for a single side can act as a host necessary to make comedy about laughing with one another rather than laughing at one another.

Comedy needs someone with independence like Craig Ferguson and his Scottish flair to take the reigns of late night television. He always displayed how proud he was of earning his American citizenship and began each show with his signature line:, “It’s a great day for America.”

The pseudo-patriots who spew their political agenda on the national stage have lost sight of what made them comedians. These talented hosts must take lessons from their predecessors or continue making a mockery of their important profession.

Fred is a freshman in Media.

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