Censorship in Comedy: What the F*#$ Can’t I say!?!

By Derek Obregon

Posted October 17, 2013 in Web Only
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt . . . then it’s hilarious, right?! That mantra may be well and good when it comes to comedic shows like Jackass, America’s Funniest Home Videos or Ridiculousness (because we expect nothing less from them)—but not every form of comedy gets the same treatment. Shows on TV are easy to censor because there are guidelines set by the FCC that everyone knows. Even for a “live” broadcast, there’s a delay in case an f-bomb or inappropriate joke gets dropped. We simply “bleep” it out of existence.

But you can’t censor everything. A live stand-up act doesn’t come with a bleep-button. A comedian can talk about religion, politics and race all day and everyone seems just fine with that—but are there some subjects that should be censored, even in live comedy acts?


Should a stand-up comedian need to bite their tongue and not let certain jokes get out because it may offend someone? Take Daniel Tosh and “the heckling woman,” for instance. When he was insulted by a woman in the audience at one of his shows, he made a joke by saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now?” Of course it’s a ridiculous statement not meant to be taken literally, but Tosh later issued an apology, anyways.

After the Aurora Colorado shooting in 2012, comedian Dane Cook made a joke: “The Dark Knight Rises’ is such a bad movie . . . if none of that would have happened, I’m pretty sure that somebody in that theater, about 25 minutes in, realizing it was a piece of crap, was probably like, ‘Ugh, fucking shoot me.’”  He also later apologized for the comment, but many fans of comedy disagree with this type of censorship.


Should comedians really have to apologize for doing what they get paid to do? All they’re doing is trying to be funny. It probably isn’t a smart idea to lead with a rape joke or gun violence after a shooting, but everyone has a right to freedom of speech. It may be a “too soon” or “bad taste” moment, but shouldn’t that be a matter of preference, not censorship?

It’s a comedian’s job to test the water and make the unspeakable, speakable. Sometimes it’s a hit and other times it will just offend people. Don’t take it personal, it is stand-up comedy! If society tells us we shouldn’t talk about sex, guess what the first thing comedians are going to talk about is . . . sex! No one wants to go hear someone talk about vanilla sex for an hour when I could be hearing about some BDSM misadventure. Or are we going to try and censor that, too, because the comedian said something we don’t like?

No! Just wait for the next act and let the pros be pros.


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