Rowan Atkinson, one of the funniest comedians ever born–think “Mr. Bean”–is crusading for a restoration of free speech in the United Kingdom: and the rest of the Western world, for that matter. After all, it’s virtually impossible for comedy to exist if you’re not allowed to insult, shock, embarrass, or poke fun at anybody. And it has always been an indispensable safety valve. There comes a point where you just can’t keep any more frustration bottled up without the whole thing exploding.
But in Britain the law, if we may call it that, boils down to this: You can be arrested and punished for just about anything you say, on the grounds that someone, somewhere, might possibly be offended by it.
Another factor to consider: a tyrannical government can be undermined by comedy. Maybe even overthrown, if the satirist’s barbs are sharp enough.
We need comedy! I don’t believe we can keep our sanity without it.