Legendary Australian comedian Kevin Bloody Wilson says today’s PC-prone society is “killing” classic comedy because people are too scared to laugh at anything that isn’t deemed politically correct.
Wilson, and other Aussie comedy greats, such as Austen Tayshus, Wendy Harmer and Billy Birmingham, built his career on controversial jokes, touching on anything from obesity and homosexuality, to terrorism and even disabilities.
However, with a new generation of younger comedians, it seems there has been a dramatic shift in the comedy industry – and those gags that hovered on invisible boundaries before, are now slammed as offensive and a step too far.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Wilson said he’s even hesitant to appear on TV now, over fears he could offend his audience and find himself at the centre of a media storm. He claims reality TV shows are taking over mainstream slots on TV, and even comedy venues are drying up – forcing comedians to only appear at certain spots.
“Banks, corporate bosses don’t book us anymore for fear we might offend staff,” he added, while claiming he now opens his shows with a warning that it will be a “PC-free zone”.
Wilson is certainly not alone in his grievances. The man behind 1980s hit Australiana, Austen Tayshus, claims traditional comedy is “dying”. He told the publication: “The soft new generation of PC-wary comedians need to grow some balls and not worry about pleasing the audience.”
However, not everyone agrees that PC attitudes are ruining comedy. Addressing the debate on Studio 10, new host Denise Scott told the panel she had seen the shift first-hand in her own career, and while comedians clearly can’t get away with as much now – they should change and adapt to a changing society.
“In my parents’ era, it was acceptable to make racist jokes and homophobic jokes… it’s just not anymore, and that’s what you have to get a grip with,” she said. “I’m in my 60s now and I get that you have to keep evolving as a comedian.”
She added: “I don’t think comedy venues are drying up. I mean, look at me, I was lucky to get this gig [Studio 10], I’m 63.”
That argument was backed up by a new generation of comedians, some of whom claim it’s just “lazy” to blame a changing demand on political correctness.
Nazeem Hussain told the show that it’s time for comedians to get “new jokes”, while he added to the Telegraph: “The audience doesn’t buy that homophobic, racist and sexist stuff anymore. It’s lazy comedy, they should find new jokes and get a laugh.”
Meanwhile, Aussie comedian Rhys Nicholson took it a step further, and even claimed old-school comedians are “bullying” with their controversial jokes.