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YES, I CAN SAY THAT by Judy Gold


When They Come for the Comedians We Are All in Trouble

by Judy Gold

Pub Date: July 28th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-06-295375-9
Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Mixing memoir with manifesto, a veteran comic argues that when comedians’ freedom of speech is threatened, the whole culture suffers.

It’s terrifying out there right now for stand-ups,” warns Gold at the beginning of this funny yet scattershot book. With a president threatened by humor—and who considers it an enemy along with the expression of free speech in general—the author proceeds to show how cancel culture, social media campaigns, trigger warnings, thin skins, and what she clearly sees as the downside of political correctness have made comedians fear for their careers if they say anything that happens to offend anyone. “The best comedy lives on the edge of what’s acceptable,” she writes. “Jokes are nourished by tension; laughter is a release. Sharing laughs with others creates a sort of nonthreatening intimacy that increases our identification with one another.” True enough, but Gold’s argument needs a tighter focus and a sharper edge. The author delivers more of a rambling sprawl than most comedians would attempt onstage, mixing reminiscences of what it was like to grow up tall, Jewish, and gay with lists of comics who have challenged convention, along with page after page of some of their bits. Many of those bits work better than Gold’s own writing here, which could have benefitted from a stronger edit. Her tributes to heroes such as Lenny Bruce (“the Jesus Christ of the First Amendment as it relates to comedy”) and Joan Rivers (“my idol…the funniest and most fearless of women”) give credit where it’s due, and her relating of the price paid by comedians who have run afoul of the culture police is correct in its suggestion of overreaction. However, she fails to offer more of a prescription than “Lighten up, people!” Eventually, her argument loses steam.

A book that proceeds from a worthy concept but becomes padded and meandering in execution.