I hope you’re not sick of Joker yet, because this movie is being bandied about as a serious Oscar contender, which means we have another four months of talking about it from several different angles – and that includes diving into hot-button comments from its cast and director.
Filmmaker Todd Phillips made waves recently by essentially claiming that “woke culture” is ruining comedy, but longtime comedian (and Joker cast member) Marc Maron strongly disagrees. Read Maron’s dismissal of Phillips’ viewpoint below.
Within a recent Joaquin Phoenix profile at Vanity Fair, Phillips gave his thoughts on the current state of comedy:
“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture. There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore—I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’ It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’”
Maron responded to those comments on an episode of his long-running WTF podcast (via The Playlist), calling Phillips’ stance “tired” and refuting his entire premise about comedians metaphorically taking their ball and going home:
“There’s plenty of people being funny right now. Not only being funny but being really fucking funny. There are still lines to be rode. If you like to ride a line, you can still ride a line. If you want to take chances, you can still take chances. Really, the only thing that’s off the table, culturally, at this juncture –and not even entirely – is shamelessly punching down for the sheer joy of hurting people. For the sheer excitement and laughter that some people get from causing people pain, from making people uncomfortable, from making people feel excluded. Ya know, that excitement.”
“As I’ve said before, it’s no excuse,” Maron continued. “If you’re too intimidated to try to do comedy that is deep or provocative, or even a little controversial, without hurting people, then you’re not good at what you do. Or maybe you’re just insensitive.”
I never would have thought that Marc Maron would be the voice of reason in the Joker discourse, but here we are. He finished up his point with one more observation:
“Bottom line is no one is saying you can’t say things or do things. It’s just that it’s going to be received a certain way by certain people and you’re gonna have to shoulder that. And if you’re isolated or marginalized or pushed into a corner because of your point of view or what you have to say, yet you still have a crew of people that enjoy it, there you go! Those are your people. Enjoy your people.”
It’s hard not to think of people like Louis C.K. during that last quote, and Maron’s points are solid here. It seems as if Phillips may not have been fully prepared to handle the intensity of the firestorm surrounding the movie he made, and Maron’s essentially saying that if you’re going to call down the thunder, then you can’t complain about it when you get soaked.
And as for “woke culture” killing comedy, what Phillips seems to be really upset about is that it’s killed a subset of comedy, one which just so happens to reflect the comedy on which he built his career. But that does not mean that there isn’t a vibrant comedy scene out there full of vastly different perspectives. For more on this, I’d recommend listening to this excellent episode of the Still Processing podcast, which touches on Dave Chappelle’s most recent special and digs into this topic even deeper.