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Student comedians are under attack by their own politically correct peers in the U.K.

High-profile comedians have been badmouthing offense-prone college audiences for several months – Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Patton Oswalt. College students themselves recognize it. Small-time comedians are particularly endangered when someone gets offended.

But there’s a greater threat, according to Luke Terry of Spiked (which is kind of like Reason for the U.K.): Student comedians are getting shut out.

A comedian himself, Terry shines a light on “the innumerable times that students, restricted by the Safe Space policies of their own [student] unions, have been unable to perform stand-up to their peers” in the U.K.:

First of all, unless you live in London or Manchester, most young comedians have only a few local places where they can perform – nights run by union comedy societies are godsends. I studied in Birmingham, which only has two regular comedy nights – one is union-run, the other is at a pub called The Holly Bush. Now, as much as I liked the people at The Holly Bush, the allure of playing to five affable drunks soon wore off. This meant I had to water down my routine in order to get a decent gig – and even then, I ruffled a few feathers.

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The essence of standup comedy is experimentation, but that’s practically impossible at a student union-run event:

Safe Spaces operate on the logic that certain words and topics cannot be mentioned – no matter the context, tone or point. …

The way Dave Chappelle talks about race is vastly different to the way Nick Griffin does. And when you can be called a homophobe, as I was, for making a joke about gay sex, or accused of ‘triggering’ someone, me again, for mentioning 9/11, this nuance is lost. Never mind that the joke I made about gay sex was in the middle of an extended bit railing against homophobia. …

This attitude is toxic to comedy. Stand-up is nerve-racking enough; if young comics are constantly worried about being banned for speaking out of turn, how are they supposed to take the risks that allow you to grow as a performer?

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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