Yes, I Can Say That

When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble

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This was one of Nick Gillespie's "Reason roundtable recommendations" last August. It was available at Portsmouth Public Library, so I put it on my get-list. These recommendations don't always work out.

The author, Judy Gold, is a standup comedian. My expectations were for an amusing, but full-throated defense of the venerable concept of freedom of expression.

In other words, I expected the book to be funny. My first disappointment. Perhaps Judy's humor doesn't translate well to the printed page, but I made it through the entire text without laughing once. I smiled a few times, but it was nearly always when she was quoting some other comedian. She does that a lot.

So, not funny. Worse, the book wasn't so hot on freedom of expression either. Instead, the defense, such as it was, was pretty much restricted to comedians. Judy is not to be mistaken for John Stuart Mill. Political Correctness? "I'm all for it," she states. Except for comedians. Judy says not a word about poor (unfunny) saps who lose jobs for dissenting from woke ideology.

And (despite the book's title) Judy has rules for things You Can't Say, even if you're a comedian. N-word? If you're a person of pallor, that's out. "Jokes about Jews" are OK for her to make, because she's Jewish. OK for others? "It depends on what the joke is and who's telling it."

The book is repetitive, profanity-laden (Judy's fond of the F-word), and unfocused stream-of-consciousness rambling. Unless you're fascinated by anecdotes about comedians in trouble with The Man, it will be totally uninteresting. We learn much about Judy's likes, mostly other comedians. (They've returned the favor by effusive blurbs on the cover.) We also learn about Judy's (multitudinous) hates. Trump. Ivanka. Pence. Jerry Falwell. Hecklers. Censors (but primarily comedian censors). Many insults are directed at Judy's hates. She punctures the preachy advocates of traditional morality, while being just as stridently and intolerantly moralistic herself. Her political views are shallow reactionary leftist, fine. But I can't detect any indication that she's anything other than a "free speech for me (and my peers), but not for thee" hypocrite. (One minor exception: she quotes Ira Glasser in a couple places. Glasser is a principled free-speech advocate.)

Bottom line, if you want a funny defense of liberty, I'm pretty sure you have to go to someone like P. J. O'Rourke.