Rob Gilroy

Charlie Hebdo, The Interview and our right to satirise

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Image: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/GettyImages

Given all that’s gone on over the last few weeks, it’s a wonder I’m still allowed to voice an opinion in public.

In the past many things have tried to silence me – the press, my girlfriend, laryngitis – but they have all failed. When these challenges arise, the common thing to do is fight back – push against the obstacles and make your voice heard; rather like using a telephone booking service.

With the cancellation and subsequent un-cancellation of the Seth Rogan/James Franco film The Interview before Christmas, and the horrifying and distressing events in Paris this week, it seems our right to satirise is being challenged with increasing frequency.

It’s an upsetting thought that one group or another would see something we created as unforgivable and feel the need to silence it and us in the process. I just wish North Korea has taken umbrage with 40 minutes of Knocked Up instead – that editing process was in desperate need of a stronger hand.

I, like a lot of creative people, am standing up in support of Charlie Hebdo and the fact their voice was aggressively and violently challenged this week, but more importantly, I’m standing up in support of the people who were murdered. Killed just for creating something.

Yes they created something provocative, yes it was insulting to some (only a tiny fraction of who saw the need to overreact in such a horrendous way) but it was just art.

Art is brilliance, art is a life force, art can be anything; but it is not worth killing over.

There’s been a lot of talk online and over social media about showing support for the Charlie Hebdo victims by reproducing the images that sparked this whole sorry affair, as if that’s the way to get to the terrorists. Is it, or does it just inflame an already sensitive and dangerous issue?

Something I’ve found through my time doing comedy is that there is always a provocative joke to be made.

Whatever the situation, whatever the audience; there is always a joke that will split a room, leaving some people gasping for air and others just gasping. This knife’s edge of taste and trust can be cathartic but often we should ask; is the joke even worth telling?

Rape jokes have been a staple of stand-up nights for an alarming number of years now, and while they have subsided a little, there’s still enough of it around that it makes for a worrying and upsetting reality.

When I first started, those jokes were at the peak of their popularity; ironic bad taste layered with heaps of smug self-satisfaction. Yet of all those rape jokes, not one was worth hearing. It was shock value for the sake of it.

It feels similar with the response to this week’s events. Yes, it was truly horrifying but is the response of republishing crude images of holy figures really the best course of action – or is it just a confused attempt to offend?

Muhammad is not the one being ridiculed; it’s the majority of well-meaning Muslims, who don’t deserve the hatred and aggression that’s shown to them on a daily basis, that end up being mocked for believing in something.

I’m all for challenging taboos but if comedy should do one thing, it should punch upwards. Mocking a religion and its everyday followers is not punching up. Whether you believe in a god or not, you are mocking a group of people who need that faith in their lives, for whatever reason.

Punching upwards is mocking the idiots with guns who terrorised and slaughtered a group of people because they couldn’t ignore a doodle. I don’t know much, but punching up means attacking the people that are in a position of power over you, and if someone’s got a gun then they’ve got power over you. Let’s mock them.

My thoughts are prayers go out to the Charlie Hebdo staff and the families of the victims, as well as all the people caught in the cross fire of confusion, fear and anger.

Oh, and Happy New Year.