In January 2020, British comedian Ricky Gervais hosted the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards and took Hollywood elites by surprise by roasting them all.
“If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech,” he said. “You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world.”
With his monologue, Gervais dropped a bomb in Hollywood’s lap. The Guardian even speculated that Gervais’ opening monologue was so offensive that 2020 might mark “the end of the awards show host.” Unsurprisingly, while Gervais’ hosting skills did not charm Hollywood, they were a hit with viewers at home.
Gervais had proven that he didn’t care if he was censored or “canceled” by the establishment media—and it was refreshing.
In a recent interview, Gervais told Metro, “[E]veryone’s got a different definition of cancel culture…If it is choosing not to watch a comedian because you don’t like them, that’s everyone’s right. But when people are trying to get someone fired because they don’t like their opinion about something that’s nothing to do with their job, that’s what I call cancel culture and that’s not cool.”
Unfortunately, people across the country are being ousted from their jobs and silenced from sharing their views merely because they don’t align with the reigning ideology.
This is a dangerous trend that few in entertainment are willing to acknowledge—except for comedians.
Comedians play an important role in culture; they point out ironies of life where we can’t see them and help us cope with hardship. Other times, they use their wit to critique those in authority and shine light on uncomfortable truths. They can even challenge the status quo.
Take Dave Chappelle for example.
In his 2019 Netflix stand-up special ‘Sticks and Stones,’ Chappelle took jabs at cancel culture and “thin-skinned” audiences. In the wake of its release, critics warned viewers not to watch it. “Political correctness has its place,” comedian Dave Chappelle said to The Hill shortly after winning the Mark Twain Prize for the special. “We all want to live in a polite society; we just kind of have to work on the levels of coming to an agreement of what that actually looks like…The First Amendment is first for a reason.”
Meanwhile, Jerry Seinfeld has been voicing his concerns about censorship run amok since 2015. In an interview on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” Cowherd asked Seinfeld whether he was worried about the “climate,” and whether he would feel comfortable playing at college campuses given how inhospitable they often are to free expression. “I hear that all the time,” Seinfeld answered. “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’”
“Does it hurt comedy?” asked Cowherd.
“Yes, it does,” Seinfeld admitted.
Cancel culture is weaponized political correctness. It’s used as a tool to silence expression and it puts us all in danger because when freedom of speech is stripped away, so goes our democracy. Even comedians know it’s no laughing matter.
Cancel culture tears us apart. It weakens our society and harms our interactions with each other.
Jack Denton’s story is a perfect example of this. Jack is a senior at Florida State University who should be finishing his term as Student Senate President. But he was forced out of his position because he shared his Catholic beliefs in a private chat group… with fellow Catholic students.
If we want to strengthen and sustain our society, we must recommit to pluralism and embrace free expression—regardless of our disagreements with each other.
And that’s where you come in.
Over 13,000 people have committed to fight for our freedoms and stand against cancel culture by signing the Philadelphia Statement. A recommitment to core principles of free speech and civil discourse, the Philadelphia Statement is much more than a document—it’s the catalyst for change. Will you join the movement by signing your name today?
Caroline Roberts serves as a Strategic Communications Writer at Alliance Defending Freedom.