No Slap: Leave Comedians Alone.

This week's defining moment was when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in the face. It's yet another sign that we need to leave comedy and comedians alone.
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Maybe Chris Rock needed a puffy shirt? | © Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / NBC

Wait, what am I trying to say here? What's this all about? What's the point of it all? What happened (wow, you really have been living under a rock!)? Why are people talking about this? Oh, and why is Jerry Seinfeld wearing a puffy shirt? The latter question features a darn simple answer, an answer that's actually the crux of this-here matter (even if you are yet to figure out what this "matter" is): it's funny. Being funny is important, it creates a positive atmosphere and is incredibly healthy for people. Yet, due to a society that's more focused on things being overly "serious", the plight of the comedian is an interesting one at the moment.

On Sunday night, a momentous occasion occurred. It wasn't the outdated pomp-fest of The Oscars 2022, an event seemingly taken out of the 1950s and 60s. It wasn't an award presented to an individual for hard work that they - unironically - do deserve an accolade for. It wasn't the hor d'oeuvres delivered to the tables of that pompous selection of self-important elites, sitting around feeling superior. No, it was a single moment that shocked the world (a surprising shock, especially considering some of the legitimately shocking things that are going on in the world right now).

That moment? Well, I think you know: the slap.

The slap is an interesting phenomenon, with people talking repeatedly about how "violence is never acceptable" and whether or not Chris Rock's slapped face "deserved it". Here's the deal, folks, this guy was hired by the organizers of The Oscars to grill the audience, to make fun of the rich and powerful and to... well... make people laugh. No, he didn't deserve to be slapped, no, violence is never acceptable, but the real conversation here should be about a comedian's position in society, and the ridiculous standards inflicted upon people. Much like I said Nintendo should do last week, people in general should really just "take a chill pill".

This is a pretty monumental slap, an emblem on the world stage for a society that is so far up its own backside that it can't take a joke, but will constantly live in a devastating cycle of self-deprecation and self-loathing. Everyone hates themselves, for very little reason, they blame themselves for the world's woes or - alternatively - other people who really have nothing to do with their own problems. They call out comedians for being some of the only really honest people in the world. The people who point out the absurdities, that point and the hard things, and try to make light of them through humor.

From Seinfeld to Bill Burr, from Bill Bailey to Joe Seinfeld, from Jon Stewart to Richard Ayoade, every comedian has something to say, and every comedian does it differently. Ricky Gervais is a dark, brooding comedian who says some pretty horrendous stuff about some pretty dark subjects, and the way he delivers it is cynical and biting, but aggressively funny. Meanwhile, a comedian like Jerry Seinfeld also delivers commentary on everyday life, just from a place of brightness, of quirkiness, with little space for shock and horror.

Someone like Joe Rogan is different again (not only because of his incredibly successful podcast) and Bill Burr takes on a similar tone to Gervais, except from more of a place of being the world's funniest "dad". Bill Bailey uses musical instruments to create stunning sets of hilarious commentary on all sorts of obscure topics. The one thing that all of these people have in common is that sometimes they will offend people, sometimes they will say something that hurts another person's feelings. When that happens, they should not be slapped. The slapper, in that situation, just needs to go and see a psychologist.

The scary thing about the Will Smith x Chris Rock kerfuffle is not the act itself, but the fact that Will Smith thought that it would be okay for him to do it in the first place. It's a situation where powerful, rich people think that they can do whatever they want - without consequences - and get away with it because of their stature. I mean, honestly, to do something like that on the stage at the Oscars? That's a pretty strong sign of that word many modern-day Twitter warriors like to throw around like a pancake: privilege.

Comedians are here to point out the absurdities in our society. That's their job, and sometimes they miss the mark. Chris Rock's joke wasn't very funny, that's a fact. It might have hurt Will Smith and his wife's feelings, that's a fact. The escalation is the troubling sign, that not only did Will Smith feel like he was in a position to get away with such a thing, but that it built to the stage where it became what it was. That's scary, because if more people start feeling like their feelings being hurt justifies harm to other people - whether physical or more existential - that's where dystopia begins. Leave comedians alone, folks, and for heaven's sake, don't slap them.


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