Jennifer Aniston spoke recently about the state of comedy and what’s considered funny – and what’s not – on the occasion of the debut of her new Netflix comedy Murder Mystery 2 with Adam Sandler.
“Comedy has evolved, movies have evolved,” the former Friends star told French news agency AFP.
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“Now it’s a little tricky because you have to be very careful, which makes it really hard for comedians, because the beauty of comedy is that we make fun of ourselves, make fun of life,” she said, before getting specific.
In years past, “you could joke about a bigot and have a laugh — that was hysterical. And it was about educating people on how ridiculous people were,” said Aniston. “And now we’re not allowed to do that.”
In fact, that’s not even considered funny anymore to many people, she says.
“There’s a whole generation of people, kids, who are now going back to episodes of Friends and find them offensive.
Friends has long been skewered for its all-white cast and the fantasy scenario of six twentysomethings being able to afford Manhattan apartments.
Show co-creator Marta Kauffman spoke out last year on the lack of diversity both in front of and behind the camera and her part in it.
“It was after what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of,” said Kauffman. “That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”
As a result, she pledged, “I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of color and actively pursue young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on.”
On the show’s 25th anniversary, Out looked at both its enduring appeal and reminded readers that “Friends is still really, really homophobic.”
The male characters “showed a noted discomfort and disdain toward LGBTQ+ people,” according to Out. Specifically, the publication cited Chandler’s aversion to his transgender parent (played by Kathleen Turner) and an episode in which Ross “insists his male nanny must be gay.”
Out observes that “nearly anytime LGBTQ+ people are brought up through the show, it’s played for laughs” — whether it’s the running joke that people think Chandler is gay or a bit where Joey convinces an acting student with whom he is competing for a role that the character should be played “homosexually.”
The publication also calls out a tendency on Friends to trade on “gay panic for cheap laughs.” One example cited: Joey and Ross freak out after accidentally falling asleep together on the couch. “What happened?” Ross screams, before insisting, “We fell asleep — that is all.”
Aniston said about the show’s blind spots, “There were things that were never intentional and others…Well, we should have thought it through — but I don’t think there was a sensitivity like there is now.”
The actress then made a plea for more comedies, even given new sensitivities.
“Everybody needs funny! The world needs humor! We can’t take ourselves too seriously,” she said.
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