Easily one of the most recognizable faces of comedy due to his ability to not say a single word, Rowan Atkinson, who famously created the British character “Mr. Bean”, recently discussed how comedy has changed since the 1990s, when the character was created, and how cancel culture has attacked comedy for doing what it was designed to do – offend.
Taking part in an interview with the Irish Times, Atkinson admitted, “It does seem to me that the job of comedy is to offend, or have the potential to offend, and it cannot be drained of that potential. Every joke has a victim. That’s the definition of a joke. Someone or something or an idea is made to look ridiculous.”
The person interviewing Atkinson asked him if comedy should be allowed to only focus on people in authority and not punch down with jokes. The actor explained, “I think you’ve got to be very, very careful about saying what you’re allowed to make jokes about. You’ve always got to kick up? Really? What if there’s someone extremely smug, arrogant, aggressive, self-satisfied, who happens to be below in society? They’re not all in houses of parliament or in monarchies. There are lots of extremely smug and self-satisfied people in what would be deemed lower down in society, who also deserve to be pulled up. In a proper free society, you should be allowed to make jokes about absolutely anything.”
Last year, the comedian took aim at cancel culture, suggesting it was a toxic movement like a “medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn.” He added, “It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn. So it is scary for anyone who’s a victim of that mob, and it fills me with fear about the future.”
Taking to social media at the time, Atkinson wrote, “The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society. It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘canceled.'”
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