Comedy has always been an outlet for pushing limits and crossing lines. But there was a time not so long ago when comedians got arrested for what they said in their acts. And now that we live in an everything-is-offensive culture, the march towards censorship is quickening once again.

Political correctness has gotten so bad that Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and other top comics have vowed never to perform at an American college campus. What once were bastions for free speech have turned into safe spaces, where any thoughts contrary to what’s accepted by the progressive snowflakes is shut down.

I recently wrote about a new documentary on this very subject, Can We Take a Joke?. Comedians like Gilbert Godfried, Adam Carolla, and Penn Jillette discus this vital question. But there are others who are also committed to carrying the torches for the godfathers of comedy that blazed a path of free speech before them.

The daughters of Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce are speaking together for the first time ever in an exclusive interview with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. What they have to say about the state of comedy today shows just how far backwards we’ve gone.

Lenny Bruce is the iconic pioneer of shock comedy — bringing what people said behind closed doors to the national stage. Famously, he was arrested multiple times in the early 1960s on charges of obscenity because of what he said on stage. A decade later, it was George Carlin who found himself in cuffs after performing his “Filthy Words” routine, also known as “the seven words you can’t say on television.” While Richard Pryor was never arrested, his obscenity-laced act gained him fans and critics alike.

Kelly Carlin said her father’s job was to find the line and then cross it. It was something he admired in Bruce, one of his heroes.

“The thing about the problem of comedy these days is there’s not a lot of lines left to cross,” Kelly said.

Kitty Bruce added, “There’s too much correctness going on.” Back when her father performed, offended audience members would either grumble or leave. But now, she said, audiences are getting more aggressive and in some cases are rushing the stage in outrage.

“What I’m finding is now audiences are so divided because of this thing called political correctness,” Rain Pryor said. “It’s like we’re afraid to laugh at what is painful… we’re afraid to go to that line and cross it. And then if we do cross it, we’re not crossing it for the sake of enlightenment, we’re now crossing it to say, [expletive] you.'”

According to Carlin, it’s not the government whose doing the censoring these days, but corporations, the media, colleges, and diversity groups, the latter being the most “progressive” of the bunch. And because that group is the most sensitive of all, “We’re self-censoring now,” she said.

These same progressives have forgotten that mere decades ago, Lenny Bruce was being arrested for talking about religion in his act, making Carlin give the most dire warning of the interview:

“If we’re not careful, we could go back there.”

Watch the full interview below:

About The Author

Mark Meckler

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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