Anthony Jeselnik, Louis CK, and the Ever-Shifting Definition of Offensive Comedy

Just as the news broke on Monday that sociopathic dreamboat Anthony Jeselnik’s Comedy Central show The Jeselnik Offensive was canceled (to no small amount of glee from certain New Zealanders), Huffington Post Live released a video interview with Artie Lange, where the recently sober comic addresses his past use of the word “faggot” and other offensive slurs. “Times have changed, comedy has changed,” Lange says. “We live in a more enlightened time where you should think twice before you speak, because we’re talking about people.” While Lange was only referring to himself, it was a very timely comment for Jeselnik, who has built a career out of manufacturing public outrage. But this ultimately begs the question: was Jeselnik canceled for being too much of a button pusher? Or, perhaps more importantly, should he really be considered offensive if he’s doing it on purpose?

Halloween is the perfect time of year to take the pulse of moral outrage in society. Julianne Hough was moved to tweet a public apology after the outrage surrounding her black-face “Crazy Eyes” costume from Orange Is The New Black. Similarly, a 22-year-old from Michigan has been receiving threats of rape and torture after proudly posting a pic of her “Boston Marathon” costume on Twitter. While both of these are considered “too far” in the eyes of the public, the two are wildly different in their intent: One was based on ignorance, the other on provocation.

Anthony Jeselnik