Rowan Atkinson is taking a stand against “cancel culture.”
The actor spoke with the Irish Times about his new Netflix movie “Man vs Bee” and how he sees the rise of “cancel culture” as antithetical to comedy.
“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.”
The star was asked whether comedy should only be aimed at people in authority, but he thought that was too limiting.
“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?” He explained. “What if there’s someone extremely smug, arrogant, aggressive, self-satisfied, who happens to be below in society? They’re not all in houses of parliament or in monarchies.”
According to Atkinson, comedy should have no restrictions in a truly “free” society.
“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.”
The comedian has previously taken shots at “cancel culture”, comparing it to a “medieval mob.”
“It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn,” he said at the time.
Elaborating on that point, he argued that social media takes jokes out of their context to purposely stir up anger.
“Not all jokes are for everyone,” said Atkinson.