Are Comedians Crossing the Line to Stay Relevant?
Leon Bennett/Getty; Bobby Bank/Getty Tiffany Haddish and Aries Spears
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Y’all know what–I’ve been told that I’m pretty funny so I’ve played around with the idea of getting into the comedy world to see how far I can go. But, with today’s level of heightened sensitivity around damn near every topic under the sun, it kind of makes me want to stick with my day job–especially after seeing how some of these comedians are getting fired publicly after certain stunts. 

The latest celeb drama surrounding comedians Tiffany Haddish and Aries Spears has me questioning the timing and motives behind some of these controversies.

Last week, news broke that both were being sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, sexual battery, sexual harassment and sexual abuse of a minor behind a 2014 skit they filmed making fun of pedophiles. 

In the “comedic” sketch, the victims that were 14 and seven years old at the time claim that they were misled by Haddish and told that they would be filming a commercial for Nickelodeon at Aries Spears’ home. Instead, they were allegedly drugged and forced to perform sexual acts with Spears while Haddish witnessed the abuse.

For the record, any “jokes”, skits or otherwise about pedophilia, rape, etcetera are completely out of line whether it was performed yesterday or another lifetime ago. And while I don’t claim to be in the full know of all things entertainment, I haven’t heard Aries Spears’ name since he was doing standup on Def Comedy Jam. So it was peculiar to me how he was trending the week before and got dragged for body-shaming pop artist, Lizzo. Then this comes up days later, all while he’s on a national tour

Same thing with the Oscar slap heard ’round the world.’ Months after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock so hard that it took the Scooby-Doo Detective Agency to find his bottom jaw, we’re still talking about it

Now while Will was wrong, I sought to explore and explain reasons why he did what he did. And it appears that others did, too, because there was definitely a boost in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star’s memoir sales.

I’m not saying one of the reasons Will slapped Chris was to boost his sales but, just as we are aware that messiness sells, so are agents and other people invested in celebrities and their Q scores. So, keeping the drama alive for as long as possible keeps the attention and coins flowing.

Then, Chris Rock was recently in the news for making another distasteful joke about O.J. Simpson’s deceased ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. You’d think after being slapped once he’d learn to watch his mouth. But nope, he’s in the news again–and also on a world tour.

Finally, Dave Chapelle stays saying reckless sh*t. And it seems like every time he does (unapologetically), a new Netflix comedy special comes right behind it accompanied by yet another paycheck. 

The point or question I’m trying to get at is, are comedians being more controversial to stay relevant? Or get paid? Are they threatened by or having to compete with an emerging, kinda bootleg entertainment industry that is social media where the willingness to be goofy and/or embarrass yourself can make you a paid influencer absent of true talent? 

What’s to the habitual line-stepping, y’all?

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work--"If not me then who?" As a strategist and injustice interrupter, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for radical...

3 replies on “Are Comedians Crossing the Line to Stay Relevant?”

  1. Comedians since the beginning of stand up have always stepped up to the line and crossed it. There are comics who perform blue (clean) and then there are those such as Lenny Bruce, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, and on and on and on. Comedians are always the ones to make an issue funny. They mean to cross lines in order to get you to use your brain and actually think about the topics they are talking about. Which are usually the politics and other relevant issues going on in society at the time. If it’s being made fun of, it’s probably pretty damn important to pay attention to. You bet your ass they cross the line. There are examples of excess and such….(Bill Cosby for ex.). But in the end, they USUALLY reflect the things every day people think and talk about or should be. Richard Pryor had a famous quote where he said it simply. “There are two kinds of people in the world. The ones who get the joke and the ones who don’t. F$@# em if they can’t take a joke.” Rule number one in comedy as in life. Be funny, push the envelope but don’t commit crime and be an asshole.

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