Comedy is Free Speech, Make No Mistake

Scotland’s “Comedy Unleashed” festival is off.

An Irish comedian named Graham Linehan is the scapegoat—in his stand-up, he tells a few jokes about transgender people, and the Edinburgh venue nixed the festival of which he would’ve been part.

“We are an all-inclusive venue and this does not align with our overall values”, they said, unironically.

Ever notice that whenever someone self-describes as “all-inclusive”, it’s always in the act of excluding someone or something?

Obviously, a venue can choose its activities. Also, obviously, they made a lousy choice.

Linehan notes that, while he personally laments the cancellation, he’ see’s a silver lining: it’s drawing attention to “essentially a small group of highly ideological cultists [who] have taken over institutions across society”.

I’m not a comedian, but I love comedy, and I recognize that not only is laughter good for us, but comedy is free speech.

Not kind of, or sort of. Completely.

It seems easier to silence comedians, because they often use language and imagery that’s blunter, and can be quoted (out of context sometimes) to great effect.

But comedy is a mix of art and opinion—the art of crafting and delivering what you say, and having the opinion or observation about things around you. When you ban or smother it, you don’t get to cloak yourself in righteous robes of defending society or decency.

It’s no different, or lesser, a form of free speech than a politician, an athlete,  an educator, a minister, a journalist or a citizen using their voice. No. Different.

You are a petty tyrant shutting up someone you don’t want to hear, while pretending you’re white-knighting for someone else. Nope.

If we let them silence comedians, we’re next.

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