Offense Taken

Campus funnies


Are college students killing comedy? Some entertainers seem to think so.

In an interview with The New York Times last December, Chris Rock confessed that he had stopped playing college scenes because the crowds were "too conservative" and too easily offended. Now Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have taken up Rock's mantle. Seinfeld spoke with ESPN's Colin Cowherd in June, telling him that political correctness had taken over campuses and was hurting comedy: "I don't play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, 'Don't go near colleges. They're so P.C.'" And Maher has dedicated significant screen time on his HBO show to the idea that students are no longer learning to engage—and reject—arguments with which they disagree, since they are now so sheltered from them.

Part of the problem is a campus culture that encourages students to see themselves as victims—or potential victims—of provocative behavior. The federal government provides support for this point of view by explicitly encouraging students to file complaints against their universities when they feel they have been marginalized.

This summer, comedian Amy Schumer found herself in trouble for remarks she made about Latinos. She says she was speaking in the persona of an "irreverent idiot," then went on to explain, "Playing with race is a thing we are not supposed to do, which is what makes it so fun for comics. You can call it a 'blind spot for racism' or 'lazy' but you are wrong. It is a joke and it is funny. I know because people laugh at it." She later backed down and apologized.