I am a fan of stand-up comedy in general. I’ve even done a little myself and though I’m certainly not great at it, I’m thinking about getting better and doing more because I think that comedy can be a place for social justice work, a place to talk about difficult things when people’s defenses are down, and I think that helping people laugh – whether it’s to get a point across or just helping them find the funny for a little while - is a worthy pursuit. Because of all that, I have a much wider berth for what is ok in comedy than I would for regular conversations. I’m still not a fan of getting cheap laughs by playing off stereotypes for any group – I like my comedy to be smarter than that (paging Eddie Izzard to the stage please.)
For those reasons I’m not a fan of roasts – I don’t see them having a social conscience or doing anything other than giving those who are roasting an opportunity for cheap laughs at others’ expense. I find them typically rampant with racism, sexism, homophobia, trans* phobia and fat phobia which I don’t think are hilarious. Before someone freaks out about freedom of speech, let me be clear that I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be allowed, I’m saying that they’re not my thing.
Apparently comedian Aziz Ansari had enough at Comedy Central’s roast of James Franco. He used his time to take the other roasters to task for their racist and homophobic jokes based on cheap stereotypes. Yay! Then he punctuated his point by making a fat joke based on cheap stereotypes. What the hell dude?
Aziz got almost all the way there, then he tripped on his own prejudice right at the finish line. This happens sometimes with people – they can see their point of view (“I should be legally able to get a divorce even though my religion says it’s wrong”), but they can’t see the issue if applied to other people (“Gay people should not be legally allowed to get married because my religion says it’s wrong.”)
I think that when you find these disconnections, the first step is often to gently point out what’s happening – sometimes that’s all that’s needed to help someone see the disconnect. Regardless, I think it’s important to note that it happens and that there’s really no justification for it and any attempt at justification ends up sounding like “But, but, but, I want to get cheap laughs by continuing to pile the stigma, shame and stereotyping onto fat people! *petulant foot stomp*” which is a pretty difficult position to defend from a place of logic. So if people try to rationalize this away and you notice that they end up sounding like idiots, it’s not you – it’s them.
If you want to let Aziz know that it’s no more ok to make jokes based on cheap stereotypes of fat people than it is to make those same jokes about any other group of people, you can communicate with him in the following ways:
You can leave a comment on the Youtube Video
Find him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/azizansari
Find him on Tumblr http://azizisbored.tumblr.com/
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