As comics, we think absurd thoughts. Ideas that would seem offensive or insensitive if they weren’t crafted in a humorous way. And sometimes, even if we do deliver them in a way that is funny, some audience members believe these statements to be your actual opinion. The audience member then changes their opinion of you and now doesn’t give you the open minded attention that they were before you made the joke.
So, should we as comics not tell jokes that could make us seem to some people like we are racists, sexist, ignorant or just plain bat shit crazy? No, you should never limit your comedy just to appease the few. How do we make jokes that feature unpopular or insensitive opinions or ideas without the crowd thinking we are racist pieces of shit, you ask? You put the idea on someone else.
In our acts, we make up situations all the time. You say you were at the bar last night but were you really? Nope, just the set up to a joke. Did you and your significant other really have an argument last weekend while apple picking? Not only did it not happen last weekend, you never went apple picking and the argument was with a buddy at bar. But, the situation related more and connected better with the audience when you changed the where and the who. So, why not do the same thing with opinions and ideas. You didn’t say that the Chinese are bad drivers. Your crazy uncle did.
“But Pat, I don’t have a crazy uncle.” You make one up. Crazy uncle, goofball neighbor, bigoted father of a friend, libtard friend from college, Trump supporting maniac you overheard at WalMart. Create someone for the audience to hate or judge. Make them the one that delivers the offensive statement or trigger words. Make them the “bad guy.”
By doing this, the audience continues to value your opinion. They continue to trust you. All you did was tell them about an asinine thing someone else said. That isn’t what YOU think. You aren’t racist. That crazy neighbor of yours is the one who has close minded thoughts of Mexicans. And the more you develop these characters, the more you can get away with saying. The audience will be laughing at the insane things the character said while shaking their head in shock and disbelief. And they will still like you. And the audience liking you is the only way they will listen and trust you,
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have opinions. But first you should understand your voice. Who are you on stage? Because if you are a ranting, angry spewer of charged up ideas, then you don’t need a character. You are the character. But if you are just a reporter of events you have observed or been involved in, does it make sense to share an opinion that could lose half of the audience and hurt the rest of your set? It is obviously still your joke. Your idea. But instead of going up there with a fucking puppet in a Klan hat, you create scenarios in which “another person” says the horrible thing. Let the audience imagine the Klan hat. Don’t wear the Klan hat.
Go watch a couple comedy specials. Really listen to the jokes and stories. Pay attention for characters introduced into the material. They aren’t mention by mistake. The addition of the character has purpose. But, in reality, the character didn’t say that outlandish statement you just laughed your ass off at. The comedian did. They just made you think someone else said it. The comic protected themselves from judgmental audience members. They became endearing instead of vilified. They didn’t say the awful thing. They put the blame on someone else.