A few years ago, a few high-profile comedians made a big deal about how “political correctness” was getting out of hand and, like, ruining comedy. Jerry Seinfeld was one of those guys, and he tried to make the argument that if he wanted to make a joke where he made fun of how gay dudes are totally effeminate, then the PC police would be out to get him. I tend to believe that if you’re a comedian in 2017 and you’re making jokes about gay dudes are effeminate, you’re the one with the problem, not “politically correct culture.” It’s one thing to say that Jerry Seinfeld is an out-of-touch hack, but it’s completely different to try to parse what Mel Brooks said in a new interview. Mel Brooks is a living legend, a titan of comedy, a brilliant comedic mind through and through. And he thinks people are getting too “PC” as well.
Blazing Saddles is widely considered one of the greatest comedies in history. But, director Mel Brooks believes the satirical Western wouldn’t stand a chance today, blaming the current “stupidly politically correct” environment. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker recently appeared on BBC Radio 4, where he was asked if he thinks he could get films like The Producers, Young Frankenstein, or Blazing Saddles made in the present climate.
“Maybe, but never Blazing Saddles,” he responded. “Because we have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy. It’s okay not to hurt feelings of various tribes and groups. However, it’s not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering in the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”
Getting a kick out of being deemed the “Patron Saint of Going Too Far,” Brooks acknowledged that he would only draw the line at “gas chambers or the death of children or Jews at the hands of the Nazis.”
You know why Mel Brooks wouldn’t make a joke about the people who died in the Holocaust? Because it would be punching down and it would be unfunny. That should be the conversation about comedy in the current era – who is being made fun of? Are your jokes making fun of a marginalized community, or are you making fun of the people who perpetuate that marginalization? Are you making fun of the lecherous king, or are you making fun of the people whose lives are destroyed by the lecherous king’s actions? I’m not saying Mel is all wrong or all right, I’m just saying it’s a more nuanced conversation than “stop being politically correct, let’s make fun of marginalized people together!”