I hear…a whoosh of fresh air…
Does humor have to be mean, nasty, foul, antagonistic?
Does entertainment have to be “angertainment”?
The state of comedy might be best delineated by what I call The Chappelle Line--with a nod to the light-hitting shortstop who struggled to hit over .200, which came to be called “The Mendoza Line.”
Similarly, if a comedian is “hitting down,” trolling with so-called jokes involving race, gender, sexual preferences, self-identification, etc., he or she has crossed The Chappelle Line. As I noted in a newsletter a few months ago, Chappelle unleashed a shockingly–even by his low standards–offensive show in which he viciously and consistently attacking transgenders in a horrendous display of punching down...all the while pondering, “What does that even mean?”
Thanks for asking, Dave. Here you go:
"Punching Down Defined
"Punching down is making jokes at the expense of a person or group of less social, economic, or political power relative to oneself. If you relate to it or it’s your lived experience then you can joke about it. If you don’t identify with a marginalized group or a specific trauma please don’t make that joke…"
Coincidentally or not, Do Better Come (Instagram: @dobettercomedy) was born less than a week after Chappelle’s The Closer hit Netflix.
Since launching with an open mic show six months ago at the Yucca Tap Room, Do Better Comedy has put on scores of shows.
Phoenix comedian Brandi Bigley is one of the leaders of this unofficial organization, which hopscotches around the Valley, putting on shows at various locations.
The Do Better Comedy Facebook page states
“What does Do Better Comedy do?
“Anti-racist / Anti-misogynist / LGBTQIA+ friendly respectful comedy creating safe spaces for ALL GENDERS”
This is a particularly busy week for DBC, starting with the weekly Do Better Comedy Open Mic at Cruisin' 7th (“the Valley’s premier drag show venue”), 3702 N 7th Street, starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 25.
Then, Bigley and eight different comics are back at Crusin’ 7th for a Do Better Comedy show Thursday, April 28.
“... don't joke about marginalized communities and/or trauma you do not identify with.”
Do not joke about racial stereotypes, make racial dick jokes, or use racial slurs you don't identify with.
Use discretion with accents, best to stick with your own background.
White people hold the most power in society and are generally always safe to joke about as long as it doesn’t punch down.
Do not joke about sexual assault, rape, abortion, miscariage, roofies, etc unless it is your experience.
Do not perpetuate misogynist stereotypes, label women as whores, slut shame, etc.
Men hold the most power in society and are generally always safe to joke about as long as it doesn’t punch down.
Do not joke about marginalized genders you don't identify with. This means if you are cisgender you cannot make fun of other genders.
Do not joke about marginalized sexualities you don't identify with. This means if you are straight you cannot make fun of LGBTQIA+ people.
No homophobic/transphobic jokes.
Do not set up a joke saying you are an ally then flip it to be about something else. This is still making someone else's identity part of the joke.
This means no punching down.
Do not joke about people experiencing homelessness/drug addiction unless it is your experience.
Do not joke about abuse, rape, sexual assault, abortion, miscarriage, etc unless it is your experience.
Do not joke about people with disabilities, autism, little people, people of short stature, etc unless that's how you identify.
Do not joke about AIDS, cancer, etc unless it is your experience.
Do not use slurs such as midget, retarded, crackhead, whore, etc.
Do not body shame, no fat jokes unless that's how you identify.
All that being said, DBC notes it doesn’t require “clean comedy.”
As Bigley’s bio notes, “Brandi Bigley is the co-founder of Do Better Comedy and is excited to offer performance opportunities for up and coming comics! Brandi comes from a theater background and audiences are often hilariously confused by their gender and constant dialogue with their vagina.”
According to Kristin LaVanway, “Jarrod's mic is a GREAT place to work on new material and polish up those cleaner sets. Come on over this Saturday for the friendliest mic in town!”
“Come and join us for the Chicano Stand Up Comedy Show, happening Saturday April 23 at Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center in Downtown Phoenix.”