Add Billy Crystal to the growing list of comedians concerned that cancel culture is destroying their industry.
Mr. Saturday Night told the New York Post comedy has become a totally different world from the one he came up in. Calling it “a minefield,” the white performer who was once known for his Sammy Davis Jr. impression said, “I don’t like it … you don’t have to like it.”
Given the topic of his latest film, which he directed and co-wrote, its clear Crystal is giving a lot of thought to America’s state of disunion these days.
“Here Today” follows the unlikely bond between a young, black street singer (Tiffany Haddish) and an aging comedy writer (Crystal). He said the story offers, “something that we really need more of, the country, and that is empathy and that’s what I think is the beautiful part of this friendship.” He continued, “She gives up a chance for her career to move forward to take care of him. And I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
As the Daily Wire reported, Crystal is hardly the first comic to take issue with self-appointed social justice warriors carrying out seek-and-destroy missions against actors and comedians. When Saturday Night Live fired up-and-coming stand-up Shane Gillis for old jokes Twitter users turned up, numerous comedians said SNL was in the wrong.
“The guy shouldn’t have been fired,” Australian comic Jim Jefferies said on “Lights Out with David Spade” at the time. “Are we gonna get rid of every sketch that ‘SNL’ has done that involves race?” he asked. “I remember (former ‘SNL’ cast member) John Belushi dressing as an Asian man with a Samurai sword; that was the whole sketch.”
On that same show, “The Mandalorian’s” Bill Burr, who also defended Gina Carano after Disney fired her for voicing political opinions on social media, took a more pointed tack: “We’re not running for office!” he bellowed, “When is this gonna f***ing end? F***ing millennials, you’re a buncha rats! All of ya! None of them care, all they wanna do is get people in trouble…If you go back 15 years into somebody’s life, someone should then go back 15 years into your life!”
And it’s not just the state of stand-up that has comedy professionals worried. In 2019, Jerry Seinfeld told Amy Schumer on her podcast that political correctness is destroying sitcoms.
“Sitcoms are so bad,” he said. “It has gotten so much more difficult to chart the culture. When we did my show in the ’90s, it was so easy to make fun of things. You just knew what to do, you knew the angle you were going to take and you know it’s going to be fresh and it’s going to be funny. You know exactly where their [the audience’s] head is at. We don’t know where anybody’s head is at now.”
As for Crystal’s advice for comic’s trying to navigate an increasingly sensitive public, he seems to advocate they keep their heads down and wait the cancel culture moment out: “I keep doing what I’m doing” he said, “and that’s all you can do right now.”
Megan Basham (@megbasham) is the entertainment reporter for The Daily Wire. She’s a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic who was previously an entertainment editor and podcast co-host for World Magazine.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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Author: Megan Basham