Free to Choose Mini-Doc Captures Chilling Attacks on Comedy

October 7th, 2023 1:30 PM

“Lenny Bruce would be impossible today.”

So says Svetlana Mintcheva, the director of programs at the National Coalition Against Censorship. Mintcheva shares that observation in a compelling new docu-short called “Crossing the Line in Comedy.”

The video hails from the Free to Choose Network, a group established “to build popular support for personal, economic and political freedom.”



The video arrives at a chilling time in western culture. The woke revolution has scared many people into silence, fearing the “wrong” opinion could cost them their jobs or make them social pariahs.

Just ask J.K. Rowling. Or Dave Chappelle.

Comedians are routinely censored by Big Tech platforms under dubious circumstances. Others face professional blowback for uttering the “wrong” jokes targeting the “wrong” demographics. Sometimes fellow comedians are the ones trying to shut them down.

Groups like PEN America railed against so-called “book bans,” ignoring the obvious issues with sharing pornographic books in schools nationwide.

Hollywood, an industry built on free expression, is mostly silent as Cancel Culture pummels art, comedy and the ability to say what isn’t popular or conventionally accepted.

Free speech is now a partisan issue.

Conservatives, by and large, support more expression and less guard rails on speech. Progressives, many beholden to militant Leftists, demand censorship to suppress “hate speech” or “misinformation.” And, since the Left controls the U.S. government, the media, academia and Hollywood, it has a unique ability to suppress speech as it sees fit.



Comedian Judy Gold defies the mold.

Yes, she’s one of President Donald Trump’s fiercest critics and a rock-ribbed liberal. She’s just as passionate about defending free speech. She even wrote a book on the subject.

“Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for Comedians We Are All in Trouble” explains why restricting humor is anathema to a healthy culture.

“The real question is who decides what is appropriate? Is it the government which decides what’s appropriate? Is the dean of the college gonna decide what’s appropriate?” she asked in the video, adding stand-up comedy, by its nature, is a work-in-progress that demands a chance to organically mature.

Sometimes it’s just a college student or two eager to shut down jokes that make them feel uncomfortable.

We watch comedian Nimesh Patel get hurried off the stage at Columbia University for telling a joke that highlighted cultural bigotry. It’s the kind of clip that, sadly, didn’t get mainstream media attention.



“Crossing the Line in Comedy” doesn’t point fingers, at least not yet. Future installments may do so. For now, it’s stating the case against speech suppression and asking those who might do so to reconsider their actions.

Political comedy is part of the western tradition dating back to Aristophanes and his classic anti-war play, “Lysistrata.”

And, as Mintcheva notes, there’s often a programatic reason for demanding others stay silent.

“‘I’m offended’ has become an argument for, ‘shut up,'” Mintcheva said in the video.