Comedy is about pushing boundaries. As an art form, it relies on elements of surprise and subversion. From the earliest days of comedy, be it Aristotle’s work in Greece, Shakespeare’s Elizabethan period, or even the Punch and Judy shows of commedia dell’arte, comedy’s true value has always been explicitly tied to telling truths and satirizing cultural norms.
However, in our current era of extreme political correctness, being funny has been rendered impossible. As an aspiring comedian and storyteller, I find this liberal censorship to be an absolute hindrance when it comes to telling jokes and building an audience for my humor. Also a hindrance, the fact that I am a chair.
In the days of yore, comedians like Carlin, Pryor, or Andrew Dice Clay could take the stage without fear of repercussions for where their act went or what they said. This kind of creative freedom yielded some of the greatest comedy of all-time. These Gods of the guffaw could take the stage and make jokes about the topics that interested them, like women being dumb, non-heterosexual people being weird, and other cultures being confusing, without fear of being “cancelled,” or called out.
As both a comedian and a chair, I’ve found that cancel culture has been a real detriment to my career. When I take the stage for a set, my controversial takes are shunned almost immediately. I’ll tell a joke about terrorism or the Catholic Church and all I’ll hear is silence as confused audiences look around, unsure if they are allowed to laugh. Generally speaking, they are also looking around the room to ascertain who it was that made that off-color joke as well. As a chair on stage, they’re not expecting me to go there. They’re also not expecting me to be the one making the jokes. The duality of PC culture and being a chair has made breaking into the comedy field challenging.
These days, you can’t say anything without offending someone and worse yet, when you offend someone they take to the internet and write horrible things about you. Being a chair, I’ve seen people suggest that I would make “great kindling,” or that someone was going to “really enjoy rubbing their ass all over me.” Of course, the most common response is just “Just stick to getting to sat in,” which was funny the first time, but now is just kind of played out.
To date, my Twitter has 2,000 followers, which isn’t bad, though I worry that most of them think that I am running some kind of an Etsy shop for custom-made Windsor, Adirondack, and Queen Anne chairs. I get DMs every day specifying preferred measurements with messages like “My dad is going to love this!” or “Is the wood locally sourced?” Would it be better if the tree you’re killing was closer? My relationship to social media is complex. I recognize that I need it to be successful in the modern comedy landscape, but I’m also constantly getting dragged for not following these arbitrary rules of decorum. As a chair, typing is also really hard. One tweet can take me days to compose.
Look, I’m apolitical. Chairs can’t vote. So when assumptions are made about me being overly conservative, it’s just silly. I don’t align with any one party or regime. Just because my opinions on sex, religion, race, money, and big-game hunting seem to be more in position with the right than the left doesn’t, in fact, mean that that’s the case. I also seem to get roped in with Clint Eastwood a lot because of his RNC thing with that chair, which isn’t really fair. I’ve actually, over the years, tried to work Clint stuff into my set, but folks seem to think it’s too meta, and the second you say the word Republican on stage, you’ve pretty much lost the audience, unless you’re in Florida, in which case you’ve won the audience over.
I don’t know, maybe I’m in the wrong field. When I was young I was told that I could be whatever I wanted to be, but I’m beginning to wonder if that was true. My American dream was to be able to say whatever I wanted, without repercussions, and have everyone both unanimously laugh and agree with me all of the time. But I’m beginning to wonder if that’s even possible. My comedy has suffered because of political correctness and the fact that I’m a chair. And I worry that other truth-telling chair comedians will suffer in the future as a result. Maybe I should just return to the dining room table once and for all. I know my parents would like that.