Here we go again.

Add Joe Rogan to the list of disgruntled funny people (nearly all of them over the age of 40) who think that undefinable monster ‘wokeness’ is making the world unsafe for comedy.

“Wokeness killed the comedy movie in a lot of ways,” Rogan griped to comic Tom Papa on a recent episode of his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience

“What was the last good comedy movie that was released?” Rogan asks. “It used to be you would be able to (say) Something About Mary, Kingpin, you could just snap them off.” 

(Psst, Joe -- those comedies are from the 1990s.)

He mentions This is the End, the apocalyptic comedy with Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen, as a more recent example of a movie that’s both raunchy and funny but rightly notes that it was released in 2013, nearly a decade ago.

Rogan sees a weird double standard in what’s acceptable on the movie screen in 2022. A film like 2000’s American Psycho, he argues, could get made today because everyone would understand it’s not an affirmation of serial killers. 

“But there's a weird thing that happens when you're making fun of something,” Rogan says, “like it’s supposedly an endorsement.” 

Rogan believes there’s still a market for the foul-mouthed, R-rated comedy, but “the backlash would be absolutely real,” he says.  “ How many people would get cancelled because of it? “How many people would get attacked because of it? How bad would the studio get protested?” 

OK, here’s where Joe Rogan has it mostly right -- movie comedies, R-rated or otherwise, have virtually disappeared from theaters. But good news: A few R-rated laughers are on their way this year, in addition to the already released Jackass Forever:

The Bubble, a Judd Apatow pandemic comedy; 

Senior Year, with Alicia Silverstone as a prom queen who wakes up from a 20-year coma;

House Party, a LeBron James-produced update on the Kid ‘n Play classic;

Judd Apatow’s Bros, about two gay men with commitment issues

Still an abbreviated slate. But is the reason political -- or economic? 

We haven’t had an R-rated comedy gross more than $100 million at the box office since 2017’s Girl Trip. (We’re not counting genre movies like Deadpool -- that’s a superhero movie with some funny lines.) There were nearly 20 blockbuster R-rated comedies in the 2000s -- either the studios stopped making good ones or audiences decided they wanted to buy tickets for something else. 

Can the streamers pick up the slack? Amazon Prime recently brought us Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and The Big Sick, with their R-ratings and decided lack of political correctness, apparently unafraid of Rogan’s promised attacks and protests. 

And Netflix has proven it's not afraid to air controversial comedy -- just look at the streamer doubling down on Dave Chappelle (four more specials!) after his altercations with what Rogan would call the “woke crowd.” So why not air more R-rated comedies? The answer is likely algorithms. If the numbers bear out that what Netflix viewers are really watching are dopey Adam Sandler movies, then it’s dopey Adam Sandler movies that viewers will get. 

Contrary to what Rogan maintains, the marketplace is getting what it’s telling the studios it wants. If the comedy movie has been murdered, audiences are the only ones who can bring it back to life. 

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Top image: The Joe Rogan Experience

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