Can We Take a Joke? will be released on July 29th.
Last night The Newseum hosted a private screening of this powerful and brilliant film about the 'outrage culture' that has resulted in comedians being heckled and shouted down, and at times physically attacked on stage, often on college campuses (with some college administrators allegedly paying hecklers to be in the audiences), and how social media fuels a frenzy of public censure of comedians for being, well, funny. The cast includes, among many others, Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Lisa Lampanelli, Adam Carolla, and Jim Norton, all of whom are pushing back, with razor sharp wit and humor, against out-of-control political correctness. Bursts of applause and cheering from the several hundred people in attendance punctuated the screening of the film.
The tragic saga of the pioneer free speech comedian Lenny Bruce is a storyline throughout the film, culminating in his 2003 posthumous pardon by the state of New York secured by free speech lawyers Ron Collins and Bob Corn-Revere.
The jokes, satire, and humor delivered by the cast of comedians are the edgiest and funniest ever combined in one film. And the passion these artists have for promoting individual freedom and liberty, diversity, and the betterment of society through free speech and the open exchange of ideas is palpable.
This poignant documentary tells the stories of some of the many attempts to stifle free speech by the ranting, raging, and protesting of both the most squeamish and thinnest-skinned as well as the most self-righteous among us. There are many take-aways from this film.
What stood out for me is that we cannot sit idly by the next time there is a tidal wave of manufactured outrage intent on ruining someone's life or career, suppressing free speech, or advancing the agenda of some group through the tyranny of social media. The equally powerful voices in support of free speech and the thoughtful exchange of ideas are essential to a functioning society.
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.