Now we know why Jim Norton didn’t make the cut on The Wrap’s latest Cancel Culture discussion.
Norton, one of free speech’s boldest defenders, originally was slated to join the liberal Wrap’s confab on comedy in the Cancel Culture age.
Norton appeared in the 2015 documentary “Can We Take a Joke?” and likely would have stood up to those trying to censor what a comedian can and cannot say.
He previously did just that to Judd Apatow’s face.
Norton would have had his hands full on the Wrap panel, which once again cheered on Cancel Culture while ignoring its many noxious elements. The ideologically rigid panel desperately needed a Norton or Adam Carolla, comedians who understand the threat Cancel Culture poses to their craft.
Instead, it gathered five like-minded souls who took turns bashing conservatives, going down unnecessary rabbit holes and assuming edgy comics crave nothing more than shouting racist terms on stage.
Let’s meet the assembled comedians:
- Maz Jobrani, comedian
- Matt Rife, comedian
- Nell Scovell, TV writer/director
- Skye Townsend, “A Black Lady Sketch Show”
- Suni Reyes, comedian
Scovell kicked things off by insisting the “Right” had weaponized the term Cancel Culture, ignoring that the trend is overwhelmingly a progressive tool in the modern age. Her fellow panelists quickly agreed, setting the stage for the dishonest exchange to follow.
“The term ‘Cancel Culture’ itself is a right wing talking point,” Scovell said, adding a better term is “judgment culture.”
Jobrani agreed, but he struggled to identify what Cancel Culture is. He recalled moments from the 2000s when some audience members complained about jokes critical of President George W. Bush. He cited those memories as an early example of this trend.
That’s heckling, not Cancel Culture.
You’d think a comedian in 2021 might know the difference. He probably does, but the far-left comic wanted to score ideological points rather than soberly address the issue.
He wasn’t alone.
Time and again the panelists bashed the Right, ignored the larger issues in play and focused on secondary targets while ignoring the heart of Cancel Culture: Snuffing out free expression.
“If you wanna be relevant you need to change with the times,” Jobrani said, assuming anyone offended by a joke must be listened to, respected and followed. “But if you say something really extreme, that’s harmful … you kind of deserve the pushback.”
In fact, the panel suggested any joke that’s mean, cutting or simply insulting is no longer worthwhile or worth defending. Of course, jokes targeting Republicans would probably be just fine with them.
Jobrani did tell a funny joke, though, even if he didn’t realize it at the time. He recalled audience members recoiling at Bush-bashing bits.
“I had to remind them, the whole point of America is we’re supposed to make fun of our leaders,” the comedian said, ignoring how mainstream comedians avoid jokes aimed at President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, like President Barack Obama before them. “Saturday Night Live” might be the most obvious, egregious example.
Also missing from this conversation? The fact that Cancel Culture comes for some and avoids others. The latter group includes Tom Arnold, Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Howard Stern and Bette Midler, all liberals in good standing.
The panel didn’t mention that critical fact. Why? Zero panel diversity, most likely.
Some of the banter acknowledged the need for forgiveness, something in short supply with Cancel Culture.
“We should have the opportunity to show people that we have evolved or that we have learned from our mistakes and that we are not just doing things from a place of hate,” Reyes said. “Sometimes people do things, I think as Skye mentioned, from ignorance. They just don’t know any better, they were not exposed and people have lost common sense. Like they just cannot tell [the difference] between someone truly being hateful and mean … and OK, you’re just a little dumb and you need to be told that you’re dumb. And hopefully, now you will learn this lesson and do better.”
Condescending? No doubt. At least she made a solid point that directly ties to Cancel Culture. So did Rife, at least accidentally. He acknowledged how comedians walk on eggshells every time they Tweet.
“It depends on how funny it is to me,” Rife said of Twitter jokes. “If it’s like a funny thing and then I weigh the consequences of like, ‘Oh, I know, X, Y, Z people might not like this,’ or whatever, then yeah, I’ll weigh the benefits … Is it worth it to you making the people you want to make laugh? Is it worth that to offend these people? If those people already probably aren’t going to like you, no matter what, regardless of this one joke you make — it might be worth it, might not. It’s kind of up to you. You can joke about whatever you want.”
Tell that to Roseanne Barr.
The comedians did explain why context is a critical concept in comedy, but they ignored how Cancel Culture routinely avoids it in order to punish people.
Scovell suggested Cancel Culture is payback for an unequal American society where people of color weren’t given a full range of freedoms in the past. Discomfort, she said, is being shifted today, as if two wrongs suddenly make a right.
Jobrani said a modern comedian must listen to outraged audience members, assuming they speak for the entire crowd. And, as any comedian will tell you, 99 times out of 100 they don’t.
Yet that 1 percent must rule the day, and your material.
“We need to listen to people who have been marginalized, that are now getting a voice, and stop with the victimization of like, ‘white people can no longer say …’ No, you can say whatever the hell you want. And there will be an audience [for it],” Jobrani said.
“I’ve seen a few comedians that are far-right and get more far-right, and their fans have grown,” he continued. “Go live there, but those fans of yours in the next generation will be dying out, and your career won’t have any longevity.”
The moderator brought the conversation back where it belonged at one point. He quoted Chris Rock, who said the rise of Cancel Culture will lead to boring comedy.
Townsend generically agreed.
“A part of comedy that is exciting is that it’s risky,” she said, adding a potentially offensive bit can be excused if it connects to “her truth.”
The leading question didn’t spark much beyond that, with Jobrani mentioning Joe Rogan’s fan base without acknowledging minions at Spotify are trying to cancel select “JRE” episodes. He did say Rock was wrong, though, about the rise of boring comedy.
The best way to describe the confab? Comedians against comedy, but zeitgeist comic Ryan Long got their first.
It’s important to remember TheWrap announced its four-part Cancel Culture series with a lie:
“Each conversation will feature contributors from different backgrounds and opinions [emphasis added] in a robust dialogue about what it means to be “canceled.”
The series exists to support and sustain the toxic trend. Cancel Culture is a weapon, a way for the progressive Left to attack cultural institutions and right-of-center folks at the same time.
They have little interest in giving either up.
Inviting Norton into the comedy conversation would have hurt that mission. The only question is, did he get disinvited for that reason, or did he realize how corrupt the series would be?