Seth Rogen Wants Comedians to Understand Comedy Changes Over Time

Credit: Kevin Mazur/2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards
Time and taste don't always align. 

One of the things I appreciate about Seth Rogen is that he doesn't shy away from tough questions. In a recent interview on Good Morning Britain to promote his book, Yearbook, Rogen took comedy and jokes head-on. 

After being asked about material and jokes he wrote years ago, the comedian said, “There are certain jokes that for sure have not aged well, but I think that’s the nature of comedy. I think conceptually those movies are sound, and I think there’s a reason they’ve lasted as far as people still watching and enjoying them today. Jokes are not things that necessarily are built to last.”

Rogen continued, “To me when I see comedians complaining about this kind of thing, I don’t understand what they’re complaining about. If you’ve made a joke that’s aged terribly, accept it. And if you don’t think it’s aged terribly, then say that.”

Rogen said acceptance is better than bemoaning that tastes and times change.

"To me, it’s not worth complaining about to the degree I see other comedians complaining about,” Rogen said.

I think this is an important shift in the way many mainstream comedy people have viewed cancel culture. For far too often we've heard that comedy is not possible because people are afraid of being canceled. But what's actually the case is that time changes tastes and improves cultural understanding. 

After being asked by Good Morning Britain hosts if Rogen would have to search Twitter to delete his controversial jokes, Rogen said, “I was never a comedian that made jokes that were truly designed to target groups that were subjugated in some way. Have we done that without realizing it? Definitely. And those things are in our movies and they’re out there, and they’re things that I am more than happy to say that they have not aged well.”

Rogen continued, “But in my Twitter, I’ve never made a joke that’s outwardly horrific in some way, and if you have, I would question why you did that."

Rogen said that writers should face their mistakes.

“Saying terrible things is bad, so if you’ve said something terrible, then it’s something you should confront in some way, shape, or form," he said. "I don’t think that’s cancel culture. That’s you saying something terrible if that’s what you’ve done.”

Of course, times change, and the jokes society found funny can lead to cringes now. No one is saying you can't be funny today, but you have to be okay taking things back or addressing them later. There are offensive statements or mean ones that come out in poor taste or anger that aren't really comedy, so people aren't being canceled for making jokes, but for being jerks. 

There's lots of nuance here, but I think Rogen is right. If you want to make a comedy, you have to be okay apologizing later or owning what material doesn't age well. 

Let us know what you think in the comments.      

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5 Comments

Ah safe comedy...nothing better.

Unfortunately it's not just a case of saying "Hey, I'm sorry that didn't age so well." to the offended. Full destruction of one's career and life is in order.

May 27, 2021 at 7:51AM

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Evidently, the author of this piece didn’t want to give his brain cells a run for their money since he’s confusing cancel culture (an authoritarian fad that used to be domain of religious zealots and has now, inexplicably, migrated to the left) with healthy disagreements (which are a pillar of a free democratic society). Cancel culture doesn’t stop at simply agreeing to disagree with a comedian who says a joke they don’t like or a person spousing a political opinion they don’t agree with; if it was just that, it wouldn’t be cancel culture, it would a simple difference in taste and opinion. Cancel culture, however, doesn’t stop there. Cancel culture aims to destroy the reputation and livelihood of those they deem not pure (woke) enough. In other words, they don’t stop until they get rid of the comedian who said joke that offended them or the person who dared have a different political opinion than them. And that’s what fascists do, not liberals. How we went from Berkeley and the free-speech movement to Evergreen and safe zones and cancel culture, and accepting this new form of authoritarianism boggles me. The great comedian George Carlin (a true liberal) said it best: “political correctness is fascism with manners, it is intolerance disguised as tolerance”.

May 27, 2021 at 10:43AM, Edited May 27, 10:43AM

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Joshua
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Is this ripped straight from a talking piece on Fox News or something? These aren't builders or physicists or zookeepers whose jobs are completely unrelated to what they say, getting 'cancelled' or 'destroyed' because they had 'nonconformist opinions'. These are people whose entire careers are based on making people happy and entertaining them. That's your job. If you can on longer do that because audiences don't find you funny anymore, you've failed at your job. It's not cancel culture, it's just business being changed by the tastes of consumers.

If you made your living joking about shit like racism, sexism, rape or paedophilia, you have no one else to blame for your shit jokes. I think it's remarkable it took so long for audiences to decide they deserved better than that.

May 28, 2021 at 4:55AM

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Joshua, you nailed it on the head. The fact that people can interpret what you said as "straight from Fox News" is dumbfounding.

Kirk, to your point you're saying a comedian's job is to make people happy and entertain them? I think that's a narrow definition of comedy. Comedians (or the 'joker/jester', as we know it through archetype) are not just jumping fools entertaining the masses, their roles in the earliest of times are to hold a mirror to society, often in bleak jest to shine light on topics or perspectives we wouldn't willingly consider at our own discretion. That often means venturing into uncharted waters, crossing cultural taboos and -- GASP -- saying something potentially offensive. There's a slew of legendary comics that continue in this role. It's essential. It's their job.

The second you put limits on anything and deem it 'untouchable,' in speech or comedy, you're not 'progressing' but regressing. Let me stop right here and say, "No, I do not mean you should be allowed to espouse hateful rhetoric that incites violence." I also don't believe you can say anything without repercussions. What I AM saying is that a comic should not be bound by puritanical standards so that the lowest threshold of tolerance is sheltered from a potentially offensive statement in jest. That's like banning steaks because children can't chew them. Where 'woke culture' goes awry isn't WHAT they think is offensive (that's subjective and free to hold for every person), its insisting that the offenders are destroyed for the act of offending. And yes, there is a very real DEMAND to destroy those that dare offend the far leaning left-wing AND right-wing.

Before you think I'm ripping some lines from Fox News, know that I don't find all jokes funny either. Like you, I don't particularly take a shine to racism, sexism, rape or pedophilia jokes. I think they're dated and low hanging fruit that weak comics cling to for shock value. But do I think they should be destroyed for uttering them? No. What should we make of them then? Exactly this: Change the channel. Don't attend their shows. Ignore them. If they're truly 'failing at their job' then their audiences will dwindle and that good ol' chestnut of capitalist theory will take hold. To revisit the food analogy, "If you can't/don't eat steak, don't order it." But don't shut down the steakhouse.

This reactionary, puritanical cleansing of all things deemed unholy -- ERP -- sorry, I got mixed up with the first wave of cancel culture, ie. religious fundamentalism -- is not what I'd call progress. The world, in my opinion, is getting better through education and dialogue. Shutting down and destroying those who transgress these "lines of decency" works no better than the prohibition did for alcohol or the war on drugs for, well, drugs.

Please consider what I said without dismissing it as right-wing, FOX news bullshit. I can assure you I detest nothing more than that faux, scumbag, profit driven shit pot of pseudo news spewing, hate inspiring, lowest denominator appealing populist crap. I'm a moderate liberal, if you can believe it.

May 28, 2021 at 6:43AM

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Braden
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Rogen has thrown his bro Franco under the bus! NOT COOL! This time will pass, if anyone wants to get their mind blown listen to the album "American Idiot" by Green Day, it's so prophetic about America. "Controlled by the media, the mindf*ck America"

May 28, 2021 at 5:40AM

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