Russell Kane defends cancel culture era: 'At least we can joke about sex'

Comic Kane said Bernard Manning would find cancel culture less restrictive than social taboos he had to contend with onstage

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Stand-up Russell Kane has claimed former stars Bernard Manning and Victoria Wood would be less restricted by cancel culture today, than they were by social taboos they confronted while they were performing.

Kane said he didn't sympathise with the concerns of current comics, as he claimed causing offence now is more difficult than in the past.

Modern stand-ups operate in front of more relaxed crowds, said Kane. Comics simply must be intelligent enough to determine whether what they're saying is in-keeping with the sensitivities of their crowd.

Kane claimed that comedians today have greater license to joke about sex and to swear. But he didn't go along with the view that any topic can be used to make comedy, irrespective of the offence it could generate.

"I don’t believe it’s more difficult to be a comedian now, speech-wise, than it was," he said.

"If we were sat with Bernard Manning, Jimmy Jones, Victoria Wood, about to do a gala in the 1970s, the list of s*** you couldn’t say was much, much longer. I mean anything to do with any sex, any swearing — imagine not being able to use a swear word to emphasise.

"Yes there’s different things that you can be cancelled for, but they just replaced the other things that were much more difficult in the past."

Kane said when he first started touring, those that objected to his comedy weren't young attendees, but older people.

He claimed the people that left his gigs early were "always silver hair", and would mutter: "I’m sorry it’s not you, young man, you’re very nice on TV, but my wife, it’s a little bit coarse, we’re going to have to leave."

He told the What Most People Think podcast, "now all the people with silver hair, they’re the people who first watched alternative comedy, they’re people in their seventies, eighties crying with laughter the ruder it gets".

"People walking out, people aged 15 to 21, who are triggered or hurt — 'oh my god, it’s so controversial'," he added.

"So it’s not that it’s more difficult, it’s public speech where you’re trying to be provocative has always been difficult. It’s just difficult in a different way.

"The rule I follow is if everyone’s put their hand in their pocket for 20 to 50 quid to come and see me, and someone leaves and they’re upset and they’re crying in their car, who am I to have done that to that person?

"But that’s the working-class ethic come through. That’s the only reason I would never punch down, not because of some lefty Guardianista moral thing.

"If there’s a couple from Nigeria in the front row and I do some horrible joke making fun of British Nigerians and they’re crying in their car, I feel like I’ve failed in my job, which was for them who spent their money — maybe they booked a hotel and had some dinner — my job is to make them laugh, not to be so edgy someone leaves crying."

In 2010, while on the Australian television show Good News Week, Kane made a joke about autistic children, which prompted an apology from the TV network.