Yesterday, on Twitter, comedian and activist Patton Oswalt delivered an astounding series of tweets that, had the words been spoken from a stage, would have been called performance art instead of stand-up comedy. Yes, Oswalt has elevated himself from comic to one of the nation’s — nay, the planet’s — greatest cultural critics, taking a stand for free speech and the right to make jokes about every taboo subject while at the same time squashing the words of every Social Justice Warrior and PC Policeperson on the Internet. Fellow comedian Ricky Gervais, who regularly encourages his followers to broaden their minds with his balanced, levelheaded discussion of religion, called Oswalt “the bravest and uncompromisingly brilliant tweeter out there.” It’s true; Oswalt is extremely courageous, taking a stand from behind his keyboard against the indignities he’s suffered at the hands of overly sensitive marginalized Twitter communities.
Oswalt, really, is a success story, a self-proclaimed nerd who no doubt learned that “It Gets Better” the hard way. And what a better life Oswalt must have now compared to his childhood: multiple comedy albums; a role on a successful and brilliantly crafted CBS sitcom, The King of Queens, which shall live on for years in syndication; even roles in extremely popular films, particularly the modern Disney/Pixar classic Ratatouille. But yesterday, Oswalt proved his worth with a series of tweets that Mashable astutely pointed out contained “deep layers of nuance.”
Do you catch the brilliance here? The joke is that he never tweeted those offensive jokes in the first place, but since the Internet is full of other human beings who claim to be “marginalized” by the so-called status quo of a society made up of and ruled by straight white men, people clearly missed the humor and took offense to Oswalt’s genius display of fake apologies! And thank goodness they are fake! After all, Oswalt himself has surely seen hardship in his life, and why shouldn’t he poke fun at those who clearly couldn’t get past their own miseries and hurts and pains the way he did? One need only to pull himself up by his bootstraps and work hard at what he loves to achieve the kind of success that Oswalt has. (Maybe they’re just jealous?)
The point here is: we need men like Oswalt creating art and making us think about the ramifications of even suggesting that those artists think twice about milking controversy for laughter. Because isn’t laughter “the best medicine”? I mean, if we could all just lighten up, as Oswalt suggests, and see the humor in things like sexual assault, the mass extermination of human beings because of their ethnic backgrounds and/or religious beliefs, and the uncomfortable experience of gender dysmorphia, the world might be a more pleasant place! Then, straight, white, male comedians wouldn’t be harassed with allegations of “privilege” and forced by their audience, of all people — those who aren’t even creating art by standing in front of a microphone to entertain others — to consider the way these jokes could, say, make others uncomfortable at the expense of the other straight, white men who are laughing at them.
Free speech is a right, and it cannot be taken away from those like Patton Oswalt, who bravely and unapologetically put his words out there onto the Internet — not for others to combat them with words of their own, God forbid, but to let them sink in so we can all think about them. Luckily, not everyone on the Internet is completely humorless. There were dozens of people who tweeted their support for Oswalt — tweets he then retweeted — proving that at least some people understand that we should be listening to Oswalt’s voice and considering his point of view, and surely that exchange of ideas shouldn’t go both ways.