Can less people take a joke nowadays? It certainly seems like there’s less room for reasonable debate about whether a joke should be said.
Rowan Atkinson is one of the most famous funny faces on the planet. For the last four decades he has created some of the best comedy characters, from Blackadder to Mr Bean, so he has been on the frontline as attitudes towards comedy have shifted.
Promoting his new Netflix series, Man vs Bee, he spoke about how his own comedic sensibilities have changed.
Atkinson said: “I don’t think my taste has changed in comedy. I mean, all jokes have got to find an audience and it’s the audience that tends to change with time. Certain things are in fashion and certain things are out of fashion. But what’s in fashion is just about the way people see the world around them. And the world around us changes all the time.
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“I’m not talking about the appropriateness of jokes or the correctness in political or social terms of jokes,” he continued. “It’s just the jokes should be about your human experience. And our human experience is developing. You couldn’t make jokes about mobile phones 25 years ago because nobody had a smartphone. The world changes.”
This week, Atkinson spent a long time trending on social media after speaking about how it’s comedy’s job to offend. But most of the debate throwing around accusations of ‘wokeness’ and ‘snowflakes’ and ‘cancel culture’ missed the more nuanced point Atkinson was making.