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Are Leftists Simply Too Delicate for Comedy?

Are leftists too sensitive for comedy or are some comedians just transphobic?

transphobia is not a joke
Credit: Shutterstock / Ringo Chiu

With jokes about transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, an NYC comedian, sparked a debate about whether leftists are “compatible” with comedy.

What Happened?

Earlier in May, standup comedian Chrissie Mayr upset her audience members after making jokes about Dylan Mulvaney. As a transgender person, Mulvaney has been the subject of much ridicule. Most recently, Bud Light drinkers spewed hate after Mulvaney posted a video holding a can of the beer with her face on it.

On May 7, listeners interrupted Mayr’s performance at the Hyena’s Comedy Club in defense of Mulvaney. Mayr later posted the clip on Twitter, and it has since gone viral.

In the clip, Mayr misgenders Mulvaney and bashes her for not having gender-affirming surgery. “Why has it been a year of girlhood and still no tits? That’s day one, okay?” Mayr said, referencing Mulvaney’s series 365 Days of Girlhood. She then poses the question, “Why no tits for Dylan?” to which an audience member responds, “Because he’s a man”. Mayr repeats the audience member’s comment in agreement.

A “delicate” audience member then yells, “No, she’s a woman!” Following that outburst, Mayr defends her joke by saying, “Uh-oh! We have one of those. It’s all good. We can all have different beliefs. It’s okay. Some of us can believe in reality…”

A group of women is then seen leaving the venue, one of them shouting, “F— you, transphobe!” Mayr claps back with, “Is that the best you can do?” She then proceeds to make jokes about the weight of the women who left, telling them to look out for “poachers” who “are going to want their tusks”. She later revealed that the group of women knocked over her merchandise table on their way out.

Mayr’s Defense

During a subsequent interview with Fox News, Mayr defended her offensive comedy by declaring that “true equality is being able to joke about everybody”. She stated that no group should be “safe” from being made fun of, and slammed the transgender community for acting like the “protected class du jour”.

Further, Mayr expressed her belief that comedy clubs should be a place where controversial opinions and uncomfortable truths can be said. In light of this, she commented, “You should be laughing at things at a comedy club that might get you in trouble at work. You should be making side comments to your buddies at a comedy club that could get you in trouble at work. It’s one of the last few places of freedom where you can be yourself and let loose.”

“The only joke a comedian should stop doing is one that doesn’t get a laugh. Just because society pretends to be more woke and ‘evolved’ doesn’t mean people don’t still laugh at the same things as we did 20, 30, 40 years ago.”

Chrissie Mayr

Mayr went on to bash leftists for wanting certain groups “exempted from ridicule”.

Funny or Offensive?

Beyond Mayr, comedians like Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais have been called out for making jokes deemed offensive. And they, too, complain that comedy is too politically correct because audiences are too sensitive. They claim they are being silenced when consumers point out and condemn certain jokes.

However, this is not the case. By saying these offensive jokes to such a large and public audience, the comedians normalize bigotry. Chrissie Mayr argues that “there’s no such thing as ‘punching down'”, but, in comedy, the distinction between punching up or down is an important one. Comedians punch up when they make fun of people or groups that hold more social power than them. Oppositely, they punch down when joking about marginalized people—those with little power.

Punching up allows comedians to challenge the status quo and hold those in power accountable. Punching down only reinforces stereotypes and furthers prejudice against marginalized groups.

When comedians make misogynistic or transphobic jokes, they normalize such behavior and thinking. For example, jokes referring to trans women as men, such as in Mayr’s routine, invalidate transgender identities through humor. On the other hand, transgender comedians, like Robin Tran, making jokes about their own experiences can make people laugh without tokenizing themselves.

There is no right way to do comedy, but there can (and should) be a distinction between light-hearted jokes and offensive humor. Comedians should not rely on outdated stereotypes to get a laugh. They should instead challenge and criticize those stereotypes. Comedy is about making people laugh, not furthering discrimination.

Written By

hi! i'm nic (she/they) and i am a second year english lit major at the university of san francisco! i enjoy writing about queer topics, social issues, and fashion :)

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