In a May 17 interview with The Breakfast Club, outspoken comedian Chris Rock shared his thoughts on the cancel culture phenomenon, saying he feels it curtails creative abilities and is also “disrespectful” to both artists and their audiences.
As a veteran in the comedy industry with decades of experience, the 56-year-old explained how it affects their craft. “It’s weird when you’re a comedian because when your audience doesn’t laugh, we get the message. Like you don’t have to cancel us. … They’re not laughing,” Rock said, according to Complex. “Our feelings hurt. … I don’t understand why people feel the need to go beyond that.”
Rock also said he feels it is “disrespectful” for outsiders to determine how audiences should react to a joke as it ends up affecting the relationship creatives have with their fans. That notwithstanding, the Everybody Hates Chris actor also said it’s only human to commit mistakes.
“Honestly to me, it’s people disrespecting the audience,” he said. “What happens is everybody gets safe and nobody tries anything. Things get boring. I see a lot of unfunny comedians, unfunny TV shows, unfunny movies because people are scared to make a move and that’s not a good place to be. We should have the right to fail because failure is a part of art. It’s the ultimate cancel.”
Over the last few years, a handful of creatives and other prominent people have found themselves in hot waters and to some degree “canceled” over their past statements and/or actions some people have deemed to be offensive. Some have even lost endorsements and gigs as a result.
In 2018, comedian Kevin Hart had to step down as host for the 91st Academy Awards after some people called for his head over past homophobic tweets. The said tweets, which he reportedly posted between 2009 and 2011, were resurfaced after he was announced as host. The comedian and actor was granted an ultimatum to either apologize or step down and he opted for the latter. He, however, later apologized.
In the aftermath of the incident, Hart, on a number of occasions, spoke about the negative aspects of the cancel culture phenomenon. Addressing the topic in an interview with Deadline last year, the Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man actor said society is becoming too comfortable with it and people are being allowed to “control and dictate the start and finish of peoples’ lives.”
“I don’t want to be in a world where we forget how to forgive, where we forget how to be people,” he said. “I want to understand the place of feeling, and emotion and love, and that comes from a place of forgiveness.”