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Stand-up comedy and 'awakened' culture clash

Historically known for pushing boundaries, stand-up comedy faces clashes with cultural taboos around themes such as the COVID vaccine, gender ideology, and race.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, rebellious instincts were a factor leading some comedians to mainstream success.

Today, however, comics face a very different attitude from audiences and comedy clubs who fear cancellation.

In some respects, the UK follows the United States, where people are polarized over issues such as racism, identity, diversity and historical legacies, and where Social Justice-style politics is more pronounced.

The Epoch Times interviewed four British stand-up comedians who made the conscious decision not to self-censor their performances.

Steve Hughes

“I once had a gig where all the guys shut down like a herd because they started making jokes supporting men. I watched them shut down. I told them, they Just like the masses shut down. And I walked off stage saying they were brainwashed,” Steve Hughes told The Epoch Times.

Steve Hughes says awakened ideologies are like “psychological Trojan horses.” (Courtesy of Trudy Stade)

Australian-born Hughes is an internationally renowned stand-up comedian with 20 years of acting experience. In his 2009, he evoked a rising culture awakened with his now-famous “I’m Offended Routine.” ”)

“In the early 2000s, when someone complained that they were offended, the manager explained, ‘It’s a comedy club. Then the manager would come back and brag to the comedians about what they had done.

Hughes said the awakened ideology is like a “psychological Trojan horse” that turns people into Agent Smith-esque characters in the movie The Matrix.

“They are like psychological footsoldiers, and they are all ready to explode like landmines and attack citizens in the name of morality and compassion and inclusion,” he said. Told.

A sense he called “the postmodernist of PC/critical race theory” that whatever is going on in your head is real [expletive]'” positions British comedy clubs between rock and hard places.

“If I invest £250,000 in a comedy club, will I submit to the pressures that fall upon me from the law, the media, the state and the psychology of the general public? If I don’t do that, will I be exposed to threats that may befall me?

Hughes, a former heavy metal drummer, describes what he calls a “franchised rebellion”, a “mainstream corporate cover” involving outliers but also a “mainstream company” begging to accept them. He said many were sold what he called “a corporate cover for the United States.”

Looking back to the early days of punk, a time of real resistance and rebellion, Hughes says that’s where we are right now.

“Last year we toured Ireland. We weren’t doing comedy clubs, we were doing rock bars and hotel rooms and even castles,” he said.

Abi Roberts

Comedian Abi Roberts told the Epoch Times:

Epoch Times photo
“I was the only comedian with red hair” (Courtesy of Abi Roberts)

“I don’t know how long it’s been building, but there are so many ‘in’ groups and ‘out’ groups, and that of course happens in authoritarian situations and regimes,” she said. I got

“I can’t believe you’re calling it a dictatorship living in England in 2022, but that’s exactly what’s happening,” she said.

Roberts was banned from Twitter after criticizing the COVID-19 vaccine in several tweets. She often used humor to laugh at media efforts to push the jab.

“I did an unleashed comedy [a club which is run by GB News presenter, free speech advocate, and comedian Andrew Doyle] I was the only red-haired comedian. I was ready to talk about “vaccine” or what I like to call “cure”. What happened in the last two years is so abhorrent that I do not apologize for taking the pin out of the grenade,” she said.

“I’m baffled as to why there aren’t more cartoonists like me,” she said, adding that there are “a handful of us who think they are at the forefront.”

Roberts has often denounced communism, arguing that it bears many similarities to the regimes of Stalin and Mao Zedong in that they dare not say anything lest people become persona non grata. .

People would come back to comedy, she added, but listening to Mozart in the same way was a political crime during the Cultural Revolution.

Although the comedian had warned against stand-ups playing what she called the “awakened” game.

“The problem is that they feed the ‘woke alligator’ and think it’s not going to come to them. Nothing will satisfy the ‘woke alligator’.” There is none. It’s a zero-sum game. A fool is what the king has always sought for the truth, and as soon as the king says to the fool to shut up, it’s over,” said Roberts.

Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell, a Canadian cartoonist living in the UK, told The Epoch Times that the last thing a stand-up wants is “a prison bar in your own mind.”

Campbell has made headlines on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Russell Howard’s Good News, and Dave’s One Night Stand.

“My empire’s sense of free speech, especially as a performer on stage, is that we’re on a soapbox and should be able to say it anywhere out of my head.” He said.

He was recently kicked off Twitter for what he believed to be a joke about transgenderism. .

“If you touch it, you will not have an account in the near future. It is a tyranny of the mind in itself,” he said.

Over the past two years, he has observed a shift in some audiences, which he describes as “a ubiquitous adaptability”.

“You see a whole different complexion in the audience,” he said, adding that it’s like a “corporate audience.”

“The only games on the field are basically underground,” Campbell said.

Sean Collins

In 2020, Sean Collins, a veteran Canadian standup living in England, told The Epoch Times that certain subjects are treated almost “like religion.”

“If I go to London and do a show with a lot of 18-19 year olds, you can see the difference in reaction because if you make a joke about men, they Because you look a little nervous…because you can’t conceive,” Collins said.

“You can see them looking at you like you’re crazy. But our way of life in today’s society is that people claim they can and I It’s baffling.

Epoch Times photo
“When men joke about not being able to conceive, they seem a little nervous.” (Sean Collins/Chris Inman)

Collins said he nevertheless gained a loyal audience that he still loves “comedy club” but simply “doesn’t get too upset about things.”

He was also kicked off Twitter for questioning the COVID-19 narrative, not as a joke. Having lost most of his income during lockdown, he produced the documentary ‘Another Way’ which explores why Sweden, unlike other countries, has remained open for business.

Although he said this influenced his subsequent work. Once he was told by a club that has repeatedly had success with audiences that “no conspiracy theorists are allowed in”.

“I closed his club and saved the show. I got it from him. It really kicks you in the teeth,” he said.

no taboo

But unlike comedians who want to pursue careers in the mainstream or television, Collins, Roberts, Campbell, and Hughes are free to pursue any subject they like.

“They’ll say things like ‘We need to get Labor back, we need to get the Conservatives back’. But do we see them in the Daily Mash? [a left-wing British satirical comedy show] Are you talking about the fact that all the candidates are on the World Economic Forum website?” he asked.

Owen Evans


Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech, covering a wide range of national stories.