Patton Oswalt: Imprisonment Made Lenny Bruce a Better ComicJuly 27, 2022
Patton Oswalt has no problem with Cancel Culture.
The veteran comic and busy actor isn’t afraid of the woke mob. He doesn’t say much that would trigger a Cancel Culture attack, for starters. He’s a dyed in the wool progressive, and his material rarely challenges the current groupthink.
Think Stephen Colbert without the couch or late night band.
The closest he came to feeling the mob’s wrath? He appeared on stage with old chum Dave Chappelle earlier this year, a no-no given Chappelle’s allegedly “anti-trans” jokes. Patton quickly spat out an Instagram apology to anyone offended by his camaraderie.
He’s safe, at least for now.
He expounded on Cancel Culture during a new interview with the equally far-Left Hollywood Reporter.
What he said about past comedy icons, and the trouble they faced for simply telling jokes, might surprise even Oswalt’s ardent defenders.
Here’s the “Ratatouille” star, whose latest Netflix special drops Sept. 20, sharing his views on Cancel Culture in general.
You shouldn’t just “cancel” out of context, but I also think comedians have a responsibility to evolve and to try to push things forward. And pushing the envelope doesn’t mean digging your feet in while the envelope moves forward — you should be ahead of that envelope, that’s how you should be pushing it.
A. Cancel Culture routinely ignores context.
B. Who decides when and how the envelope moves forward?
Yet even the “Annihilation” comic acknowledges the insidious nature of the woke mindset, suggesting his current material may be considered offensive someday soon.
I do a joke about in the future, what am I going to be canceled for? And you don’t know, but you want to at least try to keep progressing.
What if he fails to progress enough by the new standards?
He doesn’t seem willing to accept that possibility, even though comedians who once donned blackface when it was culturally acceptable now risk cancellation for that comedy crime.
Oswalt’s next comments suggest he’s ignorant about what his comic predecessors endured to allow him to say what he does onstage.
The other thing I’d say is that comedy has always worked better with restrictions. Think of the restrictions that Richard Pryor and George Carlin had, and before them, Lenny Bruce, and they found clever, brilliant ways around whatever the restrictions were, that’s what made it so fun and thrilling.
Yes, Bruce found it thrilling to see police officers at his shows, waiting for him to say the “wrong” joke and handcuff him. That’s how the comedy giant operated for years. It occasionally meant he headed to jail rather than his dressing room at the end of the night.
Bruce died at the age of 40 from a drug overdose, his future crushed by his demons and “restrictions.”
(Imagine being the interviewer and not following up on the Bruce comments….)
Here’s a quick peek at the “restrictions” that made Bruce a better comic, by Oswalt’s estimation.
Later that year  he was charged with violating California’s obscenity law at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop. The jury acquitted him, but more arrests followed. Twice the trials resulted in a hung jury, but in Illinois he was sentenced to a year in jail. While that conviction was being appealed, he was deported from England, and in March 1964 he was arrested again on obscenity charges in southern California. The cumulative stress of continued police harassment and prosecution was taking its toll, physically, emotionally, and financially, and he was officially declared a pauper by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco in 1962.
Carlin also got arrested for telling jokes that the culture deemed punishable with jail time.
Pryor’s gifts would have shined brighter without the cultural boundaries he came up against as a young comic.
It’s baffling that Oswalt, who is 53, would either be unaware of his ground-breaking predecessors or unable to connect his fame with their sacrifices.
Then again, he once compared Antifa thugs to the soldiers who stormed the beach at Normandy, so processing reality may not be his strong suit.
I’m 100% with you Donald! Antifa has been horrible for so long. Here’s some anti-fascists ruining a perfectly good beach day in France! Wish you could have been there to stop them! https://t.co/1eOBVIdNYm pic.twitter.com/caPzj7ojaB
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 31, 2020