In a Daily Telegraph interview posted this past weekend, comedian, writer, and actor Stephen Merchant explained that a stifling political correctness is forcing comedians to tiptoe around controversy these days.
The co-creator of the original The Office complains that
It feels like we’ve come from a point when I was growing up, where the Right, if you like, were dictating what could be said and done and seen – where Mary Whitehouse [20th century British anti-liberal activist] was the figurehead of censorship. And increasingly now it feels like it’s the liberal agenda that dictates what can and cannot be joked about. People are being leapt on because they happened to use the wrong terminology about Bruce Jenner, or Caitlyn Jenner, or whatever his name is now, or her name: there I am making mistakes. I’ll probably get in trouble for that.
I don’t want the headache of having to navigate [the criticism] on Twitter for three or four days because someone has misinterpreted something I said in an interview. I can’t be bothered. I don’t want to have to get into battle with people over 120 characters because they thought I was rude about the Pope. I feel like we’re living in an age now where everyone is constantly apologising for everything they say. A stand-up comedian says a joke. What? Wait a minute, it was a joke. Jesus Christ.
Echoing a criticism voiced recently by comics such as Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, Merchant said, "This idea that we have to police ourselves, that we might say the wrong thing and upset someone or something. It’s not fun. It’s just not fun."
I don’t think The Office would have got off the ground if we’d made it now. I think it would have been shut down. I think the BBC would have been too jumpy.