Comedy that Wouldn’t Play Well in 2024: “The Inquisition”

Current Events

LET US BEGIN WITH “THE WARNING”.

This where we are forced by some legalities and certain misguided social mores to perform a necessary action in keeping us away from litigation. Long ago it was always referred to as “CYA”. or in more proper English, “Cover Your Ass”, (a word I can use here because this is MY blog and MY page and I have no AI interlopers looking over my shoulder for what they might consider to be OFFENSIVE). Having hereby warned anyone who might be offended that certain words and phrases will be used here discussing the topic so if you have any of those sensibilities now is the time to leave and miss what will be a solid conversation.

We all good? Let us begin.

What was once hysterically funny in films, live performances, television shows, even short form writings, is often here in 2024, (or beyond, depending on when you’re reading this), considered insulting, offensive, troubling, and more than a little dangerous for current societal ears.

Actually, same as it was when the original material was first performed. Only now we have, in many cases, an overly sensitive society driven by social media and allowing anyone to be “injured” by said material and force it’s complete and utter dismissal. Used to be if you didn’t care for something presented as comedy, you just didn’t watch or listen. Now, the mere existence of such material can, in the minds of many, force a societal upheaval and leave an entire generation severely marked FOREVER.

So the purpose of this series is to view and/or listen, in unedited form, comedy material from days gone by that could NEVER be green-lighted or produced today in any form, not even on most streaming and cable services, for fear they would insult far too many people. Certainly, there are exceptions, but not nearly as many as there were decades ago when legendary comics stretched and snapped the limits of acceptance every night and every performance.

Let me note for the record that I believe there is no “line” in comedy. I believe satire, harsh commentary, and breaking the mold are more necessary now than ever before. The fact there is a faction of society that is so terrified of laughing about themselves and anything else is what has crippled America is more ways than one.

Comedy allows us to look into ourselves, our personal lives, who and what we are, and emerge on the other side with a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. By refusing to allow it to be aired, we stifle creativity, conversation, and a better interaction with those around us.

In other words, we really need to lighten up, Francis.

Bonus points for those who got the joke.

Let’s dig in on this historic musical number from Mel Brooks masterpiece, “History of the World, Part 1”.

For those not of a historical bend, and I won’t get into the whole magilla here, the Spanish Inquisition was one of the bloodiest periods of civilized society beginning in 1478. Basically, the Spanish Catholic Church was rooting out and punishing everyone who didn’t either follow or convert to Catholicism. Anywhere from 3000-5000 people were executed, so it wasn’t exactly something to laugh about.

That never stopped the brilliant Mel Brooks. The dance number remains a highlight of the film, and has been the basis for many a good sight gag in numerous films and productions over the years since it debuted in 1981.

However, in looking back at this segment, plenty of people have expressed outrage and disgust at the overall tone of the number. It’s take on Jews, including some of the older and now disdained stereotypes, have left many a bad taste in current minds, especially with the rampant anti-Semitism that exists in America and around the world. If you have never seen the movie, I suggest you find a copy and watch the entire film, paying closes attention to this sequence and the manner in which Gregory Hines portrayed an African slave. It won’t sit well with plenty of people.

But there lies the rub. Should the film, and the sequence, be “cancelled”, using the vernacular of the current societal actions? Ask yourself not “if” it’s funny, but “should” it be funny? Should we not allow ourselves to laugh at the darker side, learn what those mores were in past years, and use that knowledge to have conversations about the issues instead of just burying them for none to see? Or, is it simply a relic of a time past when insults and hate were showing a darker side of ourselves that we should have recognized?

Can’t we remove ourselves from the serious side of life for even just a short time and laugh at what still could be funny? I say that knowing full well there are a lot of people who never saw the movie and would likely horribly offended by what they see and hear. And that’s OK. No one should ever hammer away at anyone for how they personally feel. That is up to YOU.

But can we not laugh at satire and dark humor anymore while learning, or should we just shut it all down and never allow anyone to see it, giving it almost a “scarlet letter” connotation?

Comedy is supposed to take us places we never thought of going. So should drama, fiction, real life documentaries and other forms of expression. In going there, do we not expand our horizons and become better people for it? Do we not learn to talk to one another instead of just shutting down and locking away what WE don’t find funny?

Let the games, and the reaction, begin.

 

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