In medieval times, the court jester played an important role in society. While others were forced to observe a strict etiquette of politeness and deference to royalty and nobility, the jester was the one person in society who was free to speak his mind.
Jesters could tell powerful people what they often needed to hear. Disguised as entertaining jokes and ramblings, the jester could hold a mirror up to the elites, point out the emperor has no clothes, and speak truth to power.
Often there are things we need to hear, but we don’t want to go through the pain and embarrassment of addressing them. For whatever reason, shame, laziness, pride, we ignore social problems and allow them to fester and grow.
This weekend, Ricky Gervais made headlines with his opening monologue at the 2020 Golden Globes awards. Surrounded by many of the elites in Western society and viewed by millions at home, he told them some things they’ve needed to hear for a long time.
“… Apple roared into the TV game with The Morning Show, a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China. Well, you say you’re woke but the companies you work for in China—unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?
So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg.
So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God and f*** off, OK? It’s already three hours long. Right, let’s do the first award.”
Many comedians today have forgotten their purpose in society. Instead of pushing the boundaries of what can and cannot be said, they toe-the-line for fear of causing offence. Instead of speaking truth to power, they pander to it.
Ricky Gervais is one of the few successful comedians today who understands what his role in society is.