Comedy’s Shortcoming: Race and Ethnicity

by on May 14, 2015

   Comedy is a hard road. The term “know your audience” couldn’t be more true when it comes to delivering punchlines on subjects that range from touchy or pleasantly risque, to downright racist or ignorant. Depending on the comic and the expectation of their material, they may leave no stone left unturned when it comes to poking fun of stereotypes. That said, is the self-deprecating ethnic and racial joke almost too overused? When it comes to a comedian making fun of themselves culturally, when is time to back down and leave everyone else out of it?

   It’s often easiest to talk about ourselves when meeting new people. Finding common points and interests is the basic working of a conversation. When that conversation is one-way, however, finding the commonalities between one person and an entire room of people can be tricky. Calling attention to a single or a few very obvious characteristics about oneself— ethnicity, accents, disabilities—can sometimes be the quickest, easiest way to get a laugh. Or at least break the ice. The next step for comedians lies in finding more creative ways to make commentary about long-running elephants in the room. Digging deeper for a fundamental “differentness” in comedy is where the next round of material can be found.