Rowan Atkinson, the actor who brought the iconic Mr. Bean to life, spoke out against cancel culture in a recent interview with The Irish Times, saying he believes the “job of comedy” is, in part, “to offend.”
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“It does seem to me that the job of comedy is to offend, or have the potential to offend, and it cannot be drained of that potential,” Atkinson said. “Every joke has a victim. That’s the definition of a joke. Someone or something or an idea is made to look ridiculous.”
And he unashamedly expressed his belief in the ability to make jokes about any topic one chooses. Rather than looking at people in the upper echelons of society, he said anyone could — or should — be fair game for comedy.
“I think you’ve got to be very, very careful about saying what you’re allowed to make jokes about. You’ve always got to kick up? Really? What if there’s someone extremely smug, arrogant, aggressive, self-satisfied, who happens to be below in society?” Atkinson told The Irish Times. “They’re not all in houses of parliament or in monarchies. There are lots of extremely smug and self-satisfied people in what would be deemed lower down in society, who also deserve to be pulled up.”
He added, “In a proper free society, you should be allowed to make jokes about absolutely anything.”
This isn’t the first time Atkinson has decried cancel culture, telling Radio Times in 2021 that it is the “digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn.”
Atkinson warned that society is being fed, via social media, a binary view of the world — and that the consequences are what we’re currently watching unfold.
“The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society,” he said. “It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘canceled.'”
Atkinson said he was filled with fear about the future based on the cancel culture chaos he observed.
The comedian is hardly the only person speaking out on the issue. Rapper and producer Sean “Diddy” Combs recently said, “canceling is a trend that needs to stop.”
“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson also weighed in on the issue earlier this year. Robertson, who has faced his own issues with cancellation in the past, said he wouldn’t support defending “The View” moderator Whoopi Goldberg after controversy over her Holocaust comments.
“I can’t support canceling Whoopi Goldberg, and I don’t support canceling anyone else — not even when what they have to say is ignorant, hostile, or just plain dumb,” Robertson wrote in a February Facebook post. “I believe in Jesus, I believe in redemption, and I believe we live in a nation that needs to hear a whole lot more about the one who gave himself to redeem us.”
And Duane Chapman — known better as “Dog the Bounty Hunter” — recently said on “The Prodigal Stories Podcast” that he believes cancel culture “is losing its grip” on society because people are disenchanted with it, choosing instead to looking past each other’s differences.
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