Political Correctness is not a momentary phase. Get used to it.

BC5D4288I was recently reading a thread on a magic themed FaceBook page that was triggered by a complaint about a female audience member who complained about the use of the term “You guys…” when addressing an audience of men and women. I was more than a little shocked to hear her described as dumb. While this particular case is obviously a “tip of the iceberg” example, I am continually amazed at the myopic viewpoint the magic world tends to display in its inability to keep up with current trends. What are we—a bunch of ’50s Borscht Belt comedians caught in a Twilight Zone time warp?

The American scene has become VERY politically correct. My youngest daughter used to be incredibly apt to correct my errors in this area. She is now an English professor at UC Irvine and is amazed by the level of political correctness in her students. The world has changed and if you don’t want to be left behind, considered inappropriate, or just old–grasp this fact.AcornWorkflow-2015.01.08 13.12.40

If you don’t want to be considered old, rude, or maybe even irrelevant, then take careful note of some of these factors and perhaps re-think some of the phrases you use. Saying, “I have always said/done this,” is a pretty sad and sorry excuse for not evaluating the way you communicate. Think about how many words and phrases were used when you were younger that you would NEVER think of saying now! Jerry Seinfeld wrote a great article, well worth Googling, about this topic that is well worth reading at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/08/jerry-seinfeld-college-politically-correct-racism-sexism_n_7534978.html and now he will no longer perform in colleges because of the level of political correctness now demanded by the audience. He, of course, has enough money and fame to walk away from ANY kind of work he doesn’t want to do. Do you? Just as well worth reading is a letter that was printed in response at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-berteaux/jerry-seinfeld-politcally-correct-college-student_b_7540878.html

Comedy magic has a well deserved reputation for being sexist and politically incorrect, we each need to take a long, hard look at what we are saying and doing. I recently did, and made a few changes that were painless and appropriate. I am very glad I did and it has improved my work considerably. I’m lucky enough to still be getting “A level” gigs at great money, I want to keep it that way. If you still feel $_1that being onstage and pretending to steal a woman’s bra, while she assists you in a routine, is so worth the cheap laugh it gets you—you may be seriously out of touch. There are plenty of other ways to get a replacement laugh that are more in line with contemporary thinking, “It gets a laugh…” is not a valid response, neither is “But I do it with a guy onstage….”

For every one person who complains about politically incorrect remarks in a show, there are many more in the audience who probably feel the same way. I do a magical version of the old vaudevillian “Doctor Sketch” in my show that I have left untouched in it’s full politically incorrect glory, as a tip of the hat to a roots element in our work—however, it is a very obvious choice/decision that is nothing to do with any “ostrich head in the sand” form of failing to observe current trends.

Do you want a large (and pretty darn sophisticated) segment of your audience to think you are out of touch or offensive? Just my personal opinion, but I am a pretty savvy entertainer who has made a good living for a lot of years and plans to continue doing so until I decide to stop. Magic is pretty damn dated at best — just look at how many props look like they were designed in the Victorian era. A conscious decision to keep up with the times politically is a smart move that loses you nothing but gains a lot commercially.


~ by Nick Lewin on June 29, 2016.

11 Responses to “Political Correctness is not a momentary phase. Get used to it.”

  1. Great read, Nick. And I agree… I hear horribly inappropriate language and references used all the time at our local LA magic club.

    • There is a time and place for most things and no fixed rules, however there is a very real trend happening with younger educated people that we magicians would do well to act on.

  2. Thank you for saying this! I was part of that discussion, and was surprised at the responses that said political correctness has gotten out of hand and the audience is wrong. No, we’re wrong. Like it or not, magicians need to change with the social times. Unfortunately, most don’t and then wonder why we are seen as an outdated, silly form of entertainment only suitable for kids. If changing a few words in a routine or painting over Buddha on a prop bothers them that much, they probably shouldn’t be working with the public anyway.

    • Well I feel rather strongly about it! I personally I find the whole political correctness trend pretty stupid at times but I was writing as a performer.

      • For sure, political correctness has gone off the deep end. As performers, however, why ask for trouble? Unless you have an act with that persona, and very few do, there’s no need to use outdated terms or old stock lines that now come across as out of touch. IMO, You have to change with the times, even if you don’t like them.

  3. Yes! I love this post. Or, as my students would say, “this post is everything and I am so here for it.” I didn’t understand how much of a difference even small changes could make for someone until, my second year teaching, a student pulled me aside after class and thanked me for saying “y’all” instead of “you guys” (which was honestly just a habit) because it made her feel more welcome in the classroom. From then on, I’ve exclusively said “y’all” because it takes no more effort or thought on my part, and if it makes even a few people more comfortable, that’s great, because then they can focus better on what I’m really trying to say!

  4. Thank you Nick for sharing this and your insights are appreciated.

  5. I respectfully disagree. If one have a following of fans that expect a certain type of show and you take out material or change it because it could offend some one then you are doing a disservice to your following. A following I might add that pays your bills and expects a certain level of entertainment.
    Being politically correct is unnecessary in entertainment. Just watch any episode of Saturday Night Live. If you are a comedian on stage I certainly hope that people do not think you are serious about everything you say to entertain. If your patter is scripted properly for the laughs to happen then changing it might very well loose the comedy.
    Constructive criticism is fine and can be used effectively later on but changing your routine in the middle of a performance (or lecture) spells disaster in my opinion.

    • I don’t totally disagree with what you are saying. No-body who knows me would describe me as being politically correct! If you are intentional in what you say/do then, as I always say, there are NO hard and fast rules. I have kept my magical “Doctor Sketch” for many of my shows—but cut it from some. However, it is amazing how you can streamline certain material and replace it with other phrases and approaches though—without loosing a single laugh. It is a simple fact that (unless you are Amazing Johnathan or Jason Fell,) most people do not follow a magician just because he is politically incorrect! As I have discovered from this post it is a very hot topic at the moment though…….

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