Columns / Discourse / October 4, 2017

Response to “Is Comedy Desensitized to Bigotry?”

The article published last week regarding a comedy group and their insensitive, offensive behavior bothered me in a lot of ways, so I’d like to comment from my perspective. First of all, “the ability to judge what you should and shouldn’t say” isn’t really a relationship people have with people or comedy. It’s a matter of human decency and respect.

You think you’re devastated to see blatant racist behavior, especially here in Galesburg? It seems odd to think of a Galesburg local “retreat[ing] back into the safe space of Knox” as if he weren’t a part of the comedy act. And a white male saying another’s behavior “might as well been wearing blackface” seems inappropriate.

Comedy is NOT desensitized to bigotry. If anything, people that call themselves comedians may act as if they’re desensitized to bigotry, but that is likely just a negative side effect of not knowing when and where to draw the line and never having had to deal with the negative connotations of what they’re saying/doing.

After all this discussion of race and insensitivity, I was so disappointed that Joey said someone suggested “break[ing] up the sausage party and hav[ing] a chick check the troupe”. Seriously, “a chick” was the best they could come up with? Not knowing where to draw the line with racial jokes is real problem, and adding a female member to the group has NOTHING to do with that. How about a person of color (if they’d be willing)? Or perhaps just stop the troupe while you’re ahead because clearly there are boundary issues and you’ll only dig yourself into a deeper hole.


Deja Jenkins, Copy Editor

Tags:  bigotry Galesburg racism

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Oct 06, 2017

Allow me, as a member of the sketch group in reference, to add to the response and clarify a few dramatically altered facts.

First, a short backstory.
The comedy troupe, which Joey has referred to as “my comedy team”, has existed in Galesburg for over 5 years and have performed all over the central Illinois area, as well as Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Knox College students, for the most part, tend to remain in and around the college, rarely venturing off-campus for local events or shows preferring to stay as involved in Knox life as possible (which I say with complete acceptance and zero criticism). When Joey contacted the sketch group in the latter part of the summer he expressed his desire to learn about comedy, asked to join our troupe, and wanted to perform in and around Galesburg until the Knox fall term started. Unanimously our troupe welcomed him with open arms seeing the potential to bridge an apparent gap between the Knox Students and Alumni for creativity, comedy, and performance.

Joey attempted to create an interest in improv comedy via the Bluebrick Collective, however, the only members in attendance were our sketch/improv troupe. After two meetings he cancelled his attempts and asked to join OUR troupe, which he has enthusiastically taken to calling his own.
Regardless, Joey performed alongside us for a total 3 shows, one of which he attempted to organize and run himself whereat our troupe followed his every unorganized order to a silent room of uncomfortable audience members who were individually pointed at by Joey as part of a “joke” which was to label people based on their appearances as trite, unoriginal, and unfunny descriptions of Pokemon. As someone who publicly asserts that all people should be treated with an equal level of respect it felt very ill-fitting for Joey to individually induce uneasiness in the audience members.

In contrast, the sketch/improv troupe has been established and advertises themselves as a goofy, edgy, and satirical blend of comedy. The troupe doesn’t shy away from performing a bit or sketch based on racism, sexism, or any other sort of bigotry but this is not the only source of inspiration and is, in face a very small portion of the material the troupe offers. A majority of the sketches written are characterized by a goofy child-like or extremely literal interpretation of an idea such as the sketch titled “One Night Stand” where a bedside dresser is placed on the stage and left to sit for several minutes before the lights fade out and the next sketch starts or “High Noon” where two cowboys who are best friends and complete dopes decide they’re going to try to have a stand off, unfortunately one forgets their gun and the other wastes all of his bullets shooting into the sky shouting “It’s killin’ time!”.

Joey’s article has chosen to take a harshly critical and largely exaggerated view of the goal of the sketch troupe which is not to desensitize or spread any sort of prejudice or intolerance, but rather to mock and remove weight from those beliefs. He has chosen to take a fragment of what has been performed and create an issue where there wasn’t one and use that as a platform to write an article which is as vapid and unoriginal as a high school essay about whether or not marijuana should be legalized. He failed to add any new views, opinions, or thought provoking questions to a tired and abject discussion about the desensitization of comedy. One could argue that by creating this issue, the writer, Joey, himself has added weight to the issue, he has taken a completely ridiculous interpretation and mockery of those beliefs and given them power. If these sarcasms, satires, and jokes were spoken or performed without any preface to their intentions they could be giving weight and power to bigotry, however, they are performed behind closed doors at comedy shows. When an audience member enters a comedy show they enter an atmosphere which exists solely for the purpose of making jokes and spreading humor; If a person enters this comedy realm where everything is said with the intention of laughter as a response and walks away with any more hate in their hearts, then this is a decision the audience member has chosen to make, the audience member has added weight to a joke.

There is no word, sentence, nor joke which can be created or spoken which is inherently racist, sexist, or prejudice. The person who responds with anger or hate is the one who gives those words power.

In response to Joey’s question “Where do you draw that line?”, there is no line, not until you create one, and by creating one, you create an issue which has power and weight and the potential to hurt. Our sketch group has included more diversity than you have ascertained in your month and a half with us; we have had multiple women in our group, when we started sketch comedy we had 4 women in the troupe, we’ve had homosexuals, African Americans, an Indian American, multiple people with mental and physical disabilities, currently we have 3 Hispanic members, one with Autism, victims of abuse, depression, and addiction; you’ve made assumptions that we lack diversity and had the audacity to criticize us for that publicly. We Eat Monsters is a sketch and improv comedy troupe which accepts ALL forms of diversity happily and mocks the concepts of bigotry, racism, sexism, and prejudice with comedy. We’ve chosen to be loud and outspoken about our beliefs and have chosen comedy as an avenue to mock those who disagree with us. We take the weight and power from the words and concepts which YOU add power to. We would rather say how ridiculous we think something is aloud than to sit quietly through multiple shows and hide behind a keyboard making assumptions and accusations about a group of people, I challenge you Joey, next time you feel that something is offensive or not right, speak up for it instead of sitting quietly in an audience.

I thank you for taking the time to read my response and would like to personally invite everyone to our next comedy show.
We Eat Monsters
October 20th
The Club Room at Northgate Lanes in Galesburg
See you there!

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