It’s surreal that a documentary defending the art of comedy would grace Vice TV.
Woke platforms like Vice suggest we can no longer “punch down” with comedy nor tweak marginalized groups with humor.
- Cheered comics unwilling to joke about Kobe Bryant’s death
- Excoriated Dave Chappelle for telling the “wrong” jokes
- Applauded NBC for removing a classic “Saturday Night Live” sketch deemed racist
Even more astounding?
The film in question argues no topic is off limits in comedy, pointing to both free expression and the healing nature of subversive humor.
That’s the vital, throat-clearing disclaimer needed before assessing “Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11.” The documentary examines how laughter disappeared after the Twin Towers were brought down by terrorists 20 years ago.
Did irony and satire collapse along with those buildings and our collective sense of safety? When would our cultural institutions come back to life, from Broadway musicals to “The Late Show with David Letterman?”
Looking back at those first few days and weeks finds the special at its most illuminating. Stars like Nathan Lane, comedian Rob Riggle and Gilbert Gottfried share deeply personal stories about that uneasy time and how they slowly, carefully, began to make us laugh again.
Some comedians, like Riggle, had one foot on stage and the other in the military or fire department. Others spent months planning provocative new shows only to see the culture change overnight. Their meticulously crafted jokes no longer fit the zeitgeist.
The best moments are watching now-vintage clips of Letterman, Howard Stern, Jon Stewart and more walk us through the pain, back to our “normal lives.”
They reminded us it was OK to laugh again. Heck, it might even aid the grieving process. “Too Soon” soberly argues it did just that.
Comedians like David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, Marc Maron, Aasif Mandvi, Cedric the Entertainer, Chris Kattan and Jimmy Carr share how they tip-toed around the subject, and later, dove head first into challenging material tangent to the attacks.
Some comedians pushed the boundaries as far as they could, receiving both praise and sizable blowback. Too son, a select group cried, their attempts to silence comics proving un-American to the core.
Doug Stanhope, no shrinking violet on or off stage, earned sizable dissent for his blunt 9/11 material.
“Too Soon” takes a hard-left turn mid-movie, showing how the comedy community rallied to attack every element of the Bush administration and the emerging War on Terror. Too soon? Not any more.
The liberal comics take turns beating their chests, eager to speak truth to power about how they spoke truth to power. It’s when comedy began its hard-left turn, one that shows no sign of abating.
“Too Soon,” like the media and Corporate Comedy of today, has zero self awareness. Had the film been released a decade ago, its finger wagging at comedy scolds would hit the cultural bullseye and draw bipartisan support
The biggest names on the talk show landscape admit to self censorship to keep their jobs.
Not a single talking head in “Too Soon” acknowledges that reality, how we’ve come full circle in the worst way possible, from a comedy point of view. And it makes all the tough talk in the film defending comedy sound hollow.
Pathetic, to be exact.
It’s worse when we see Marc Maron, who rarely (if ever?) stands up to Cancel Culture via his mega-popular podcast defend a comedian’s right to say what he or she wants to say on stage. Garofalo alternately praises protesters against the Iraq War one minute than slams those who protest her shows the next.
Is dissent patriotic or not?
We also get attacks on Fox News and Sen. Mitch McConnell – most out of context, in the grand “Daily Show” tradition – while no one mentions the one word that must be said in a special defending comedy.
It should go without saying that a comedian telling far-left political jokes should be able to do just that without threats of violence, then and now. It’s equally vital to acknowledge how comedy survived 9/11 … but it’s struggling mightily in the Age of Woke.
David Spade says cancel culture has made his jokes dry: ‘I’m not’ as funnyhttps://t.co/lLghuBLZuf
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 4, 2021
“Too Soon” goes full sanctimony at times, noting how “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” took the media to task during the Bush years. Those same cultural voices have gone silent as the media’s leftward lurch transformed into pure corruption and the Biden administration handed Afghanistan to the Taliban without a shot fired.
Several Arab-American comics describe the discrimination they faced post-9/11, some petty, some death threats, from ignorant Americans aghast at their skin color.
Said comics stood tall despite the threats, finding their comic voices in the process. Bravo!
Today? Comics get canceled and too often comedy club owners bow to the woke mob rather than hire a “problematic” stand-up. How that didn’t make the final cut is downright embarrassing. Heck, Max Jobrani, heavily featured in “Too Soon,” was one of the comedians cheering on Cancel Culture with TheWrap.com recently.
The film’s spoken, and unspoken, messages are clear.
After 9/11 we needed comedy more than ever. Really. To process our grief … to reflect on what we’ve lost and what we still have … to move forward after one single, cataclysmic day.
We haven’t had another 9/11-style attack, thank goodness. Instead, we’ve had a global pandemic that has killed millions and changed nearly every facet of our lives.
Now, more than ever, we need comedy to address these issues, to let us heal, and grieve and most of all laugh.
It’s partially not available thanks to Cancel Culture and the digital brownshirts known as Social Justice Warriors. Instead, we have a new toxic layer to navigate, leaving laymen and comics alike to worry whether their past jokes will come back to haunt them.
What we really need is comedy the way it’s supposed to be. Smart. Dangerous, Provocative. Raw. Real.
The fact that “Too Soon” refuses to acknowledge that stains some of its best reportage.
“Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11” debuts at 9 p.m. EST Sept. 8 on VICE TV and will be shown at 2:30 p.m. EST Sept. 11 at at Hollywood Boulevard’s famed TCL Chinese Theatre as part of the Dances With Films Festival. Tickets are available at danceswithfilms.com.