Dan Aykroyd Is Right About Comedy and “Cancel Culture”

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Dan Aykroyd has had a long and successful career in Hollywood. If it isn’t Ghostbusters, then you probably know him from Saturday Night Live or The Blues Brothers or any number of things. The point is that he’s a comedy genius, but he also recognizes that comedy has to change and adapt. The offensive joke just isn’t the choice.

Talking with The Hollywood Reporter for the upcoming release if Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Aykroyd was asked point blank about comedy and cancel culture. He responded,

There is enough range in humor where you don’t have to go scatological and you don’t have to go pulling any divisive cards to get a laugh. There is so much in the world to comment on that is outside the realm of offensiveness. As a writer, you can go to other areas and have successful creative endeavors. Scatological humor is fun. It’s easy laughs. But there is more intelligent writing that can happen if you stay away from the offensive material that should be rightly canceled for its hurtfulness. Who can be the subject of an impression today? That’s an area of discussion. Can I do my James Brown imitation? He was one of my best friends. I do his voice pretty good. But maybe I shouldn’t anymore.

I’m glad that Aykroyd brought up impressions, too, because Saturday Night Live is notorious for having someone who is simply “good at it” doing an impression, and often, it’s someone who should not be. So, he’s right. That is an area of discussion we need to approach, and I hope more comedians are open to this line of thinking. Isn’t that the entire point of comedy? To take the time to stop and observe the world and poke at it but not attack or offend?

Aykroyd is right that comedy can and should evolve

So often, recently, comedians have been crying out about comedy and how this “cancel culture” we’re living in is killing whatever good comedy is out there. I argue that if you’re offending people, it’s not comedy, and it’s the cheap and easy joke versus the more intelligent one. I’m happy that Aykroyd seemingly agrees with me.

Comedy doesn’t always age well, and that’s fine. We’re saying that it should adapt with the time, and things that have aged poorly should be handled without going on the defensive. As Aykroyd pointed out, he had a good James Brown impression and knows that he should not do it. That kind of awareness seems second nature and obvious, but it is shocking just how many comedians want to say whatever they want and blame the audience for their reaction.

Comedy is subjective, but comedy that targets people or harms entire communities isn’t funny; it’s offensive. Making the more intelligent joke that doesn’t inflict harm is the better move as a comedian and a person.

He’s right, and I’m glad that Dan Aykroyd said it.

(image: Columbia Pictures)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.