To clarify: I put "rape jokes" in the headline, for brevity, because rape culture in comedy is a frequent and contentious topic 'round these parts. But the true heart of Patton Oswalt's expansive essay is much more universal. It's about bubbles—how all of us live in our bubbles, hide in our bubbles, and judge others through the distorting, refracting walls of our bubbles.
And then, ultimately, it's about popping bubbles.
There is a collective consciousness that can detect the presence (and approach) of something good or bad, in society or the world, before any hard “evidence” exists. It’s happening now with the concept of “rape culture.” Which, by the way, isn’t a concept. It’s a reality. I’m just not the one who’s going to bring it into focus. But I’ve read enough viewpoints, and spoken to enough of my female friends (comedians and non-comedians) to know it isn’t some vaporous hysteria, some false meme or convenient catch-phrase.
I’m a comedian. I value and love what I do. And I value and love the fact that this sort of furious debate is going on about the art form I’ve decided to spend my life pursuing. If it wasn’t, it would mean all of the joke thief defenders and heckler supporters are right, that stand-up comedy is some low, disposable form of carnival distraction, a party trick anyone can do. It’s obviously not. This debate proves it. And I don’t want to be on the side of the debate that only argues from its own limited experience. And I don’t need the sense memory of an actor, or a degree from Columbia, or a moody, desert god to tell me that.
I’m a man. I get to be wrong. And I get to change.
If anyone out there is on the fence, ever, about the power of public self-reflection and owning your mistakes, watch the response to this essay and tell me Patton doesn't come off like a fucking boss.
It's long, but you should really go read the whole thing.
Images via Getty.