Search icon


22nd May 2024

Stephen Merchant says comedy is being ‘policed by the Left’

Charlie Herbert

stephen merchant

‘It’s allowed the Right to become the arbiters of free speech’

Stephen Merchant has claimed that “the Left” is “policing” comedy because of “sensitivities that seem out of proportion to the joke.”

Merchant, who is best known for his work with Ricky Gervais on The Office and Extras, said that comedians were having to be more cautious due to a fear of any backlash to jokes on social media.

Speaking to the Observer, he said there has “always been policing of comedy” but that this used to come from the right.

He continued: “It feels like it’s the Left that’s doing it now, and it’s allowed the Right to become the arbiters of free speech. Which does feel like quite a significant shift.”

The 49-year-old said there were “sensitivities that seem out of all proportion with the joke,” adding that he had noticed stand-ups are “more cautious because you don’t want to spend weeks on Twitter trying to justify a joke you were just experimenting with, because putting out the fires is exhausting.”

However, the comedian did acknowledge that “sensitivities shift over time and that people are allowed to criticise and query things, and we do look back at old comedy and think we wouldn’t do that any more.” 

He added: “I have no objection to the sands shifting. I think that makes sense and I’m loth to become a kind of ‘old man of comedy’, railing against the younger generation. But you do feel like there’s a sensitivity to the words before they’ve even heard the joke or the context. And that is inevitably a straitjacket of sorts – it quashes experimentation.”

Recently, American comedian Jerry Seinfeld made headlines after he said comedy was being killed by “the extreme left and P.C. crap.”

But others claim this is nonsense, pointing to shows such as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as examples of comedy that has moved with the times whilst also being controversial.

Related links:

Leigh Francis says Bo Selecta couldn’t be made today because ‘you’ve got to be mindful nowadays’

Richard Osman says ‘everyone’ knows who the real life Darrien from Baby Reindeer is

Jimmy Carr sparks outrage with ‘car crash’ This Morning appearance

WATCH: AJ Tracey Opens Up British Racism, Why J-Cole Shouldn’t Have Apologised, Kylian Mbappe & New Music