Have you had the feeling lately that Western culture is losing its sense of humor? Ten top comedians would agree. Namely, Chris Rock, Zeca Oliveira, John Cleese, Russell Peters, Scott Capurro, Daniel Lawrence Whitney, Patton Oswalt, Jim Norton, Gilbert Gottfried, Lisa Lampanelli, and Dennis Miller, all of them coming out of the woodwork to support Jerry Seinfeld’s original comment on the subject.
At issue for the top professional clowns is political correctness: You literally cannot say anything without offending swaths of people, no matter what you say. You can’t even comment that people get offended without offending them. Odds are good that somebody in your audience was already disgruntled before you took the microphone.
This is actually a problem going further back than the modern PC movement, however. History books will tell you that that precursor of clowns, the Court Jester, was originally not just a clown to entertain the king, but the one person privileged to speak his mind freely and not get beheaded for the trouble. Is the king making a decision that everyone but him can see will lead to trouble down the line? Only the jester is permitted to say so. By couching his criticism in humor, he was permitted to do the wisest thing by acting the fool.
In the modern age, perhaps it’s time we let our Jesters do their thing – and quit getting so offended at jokes. On the other hand, monarchs are sometimes level-headed; whereas the great mobs of the Internet never, never are.