Thursday, March 16, 2023
A recent newspaper article about our 2023 festival featured the unfortunate headline, “Festival of Trigger Warnings” and the subheading, "’For those who have sensitivities, they’ll all be stomped on,’ Dean Jenkinson says of upcoming comedy festival.”
Out of context, it would seem the festival has decided to take a hard, calculated turn to the alt-right. That we’re fed up with trying to navigate everyone’s precious feelings and we’re now presenting a week’s worth of programming taking gleeful delight in giving two big middle fingers to all those damn snowflakes.
Far from it.
Please allow me to put those (admittedly clunky and ham-fisted) comments back into context.
Those comments were made extemporaneously about one specific show out of more than 35 – less than 3% of our festival content. They were made about a roast-battle style show, where being offensively funny is the point. It’s a long-running comedy format beloved by many. But it’s not for everyone. And that’s fine. Not everyone likes every style of music. But when you buy a concert ticket, you know what you’re getting – you don’t accidentally find yourself listening to death metal when you were hoping for smooth jazz.
Joking about painful sensitive things, whether they be personal, or cultural, or historical, is one way humans process trauma. But it’s not the only way. And for some, jokes about trauma can be further traumatizing.
We post content warnings for the same reason food labels post allergy warnings – so the customer can make informed decisions. “This show contains jokes about sensitive subject matter” isn’t a middle finger to those with sensitivities; it’s a warning given out of kindness and respect, like “This product contains peanuts.” We don’t want you hurt by our content any more than the makers of Snickers want to put people in anaphylaxis.
Winnipeg Comedy Festival takes its responsibility to its audience and its responsibility to its artists very seriously. We want to give comedy audiences a wide variety of options, and a solid sense of which shows are for them. We want to give artists the freedom to express themselves in a framework and context that sets them up to succeed.
The only thing we’re interested in “stomping on” is the false notion you can’t do both at the same time.
Artistic Director, Winnipeg Comedy Festival