A Note on Controversial Theatre

The other day, I saw a “comedy” show that loved to push the boundaries with offensive jokes related to women, race, and political situations. To top things off, there were only like 12 people in the audience, so I felt compelled to put on that “here’s what I look like pretending to laugh” face whenever the actors looked in my direction. Needless to say, it was a long two hours.

When a piece of theatre is offensive or controversial, it can do one of two things:

A. Offend your audience

B. Create change

To be fair, I’m pretty sure that the motive of the company was not to “offend”, but rather to shine a light on bigger issues. Even though it was clear that they did not achieve this goal.

But how do some shows get away with presenting offensive material?

Easy. The level of talent has to be extremely high.

And! You have to have good intentions.

If you are not a well-intentioned, high-level performer, and you present offensive material, it’s going to:

A: Offend your audience

However, if you are talented and funny with good intentions, you can get away with it.


Because the audience is going to laugh whether they like it or not.

And from there, the audience tends to look inward.

“Why did I laugh at that?”

And that self-reflecting question is going to:

B: Create change

So if you are in the amateur theatre space, please stay away from presenting offensive material. Otherwise, just like in the show that I saw the other day, half of your audience will be gone by the time you wrap it up.

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