7 Bad Ass Comedians -- Including Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor, George Carlin -- Who Refused to Sell Out
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But it was in 1973 that his politics caught up to him. Defiant against profanity laws and the ridiculous nature of words being seen as dangerous, he delivered a variation on his famous "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" speech (shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits) on New York’s progressive public radio station WBAI. The FCC promptly pounced, filing with the U.S. Supreme Court. Amazingly, the ruling was in WBAI and Carlin’s favor, stating that the routine was not indecent, and that the FCC could prohibit "adult" programs during the hours kids were up. It was a small step for a man, a giant step for comedy.
4. Paul Mooney
In the great American tradition of comedians mining race relations for bits, Mooney’s one of the best and most unflinching, having written for great shows from Pryor to "In Living Color" to Chappelle. And like his cohort Pryor, who declared he would no longer use the n-word in his routines after a life-changing trip to Africa, Mooney made a similar change of his own. It was nominally less revelatory, though, and definitely less joyous. In 2006, white comedian Michael Richards -- best known as Kramer on "Seinfeld" -- went on a racist tirade during a stand-up act, repeatedly calling a member of the audience the n-word. In disgust, Mooney declared he would never again use any form of the word. "We're gonna stop using the n-word," he said in a CNN interview. "I'm gonna stop using it. I'm not gonna use it again and I'm not gonna use the b-word. And we're gonna put an end to the n-word. Just say no to the n-word. We want all human beings throughout the world to stop using the n-word."
5. Judy Tenuta
The longtime feminist and early enlightener of midlife crises everywhere -- her "sorry about your penis" joke from the ‘80s remains classic -- Tenuta’s sarcasm and punch garnered her a huge following of gays and lesbians through the years. And so, in 2008, right after California legalized gay marriage for that brief and idyllic time, Tenuta became an ordained minister in that state in order to marry her same-sex-loving fans, whom she calls "gay love slaves" and "lesbertarians." Alas, as the gay marriage issue is tied up in California courts, Tenuta’s marriage-granting is sidelined, and she’s been relegated to Lady Gaga spoofs.
6. Patton Oswalt
He is best known for dominating the commercial end of things, writing for MADTV, acting on prime-time sitcoms and doing voice-overs for animated films like Ratatouille. But in the mid-2000s, spurred by the Bush administration, his left trajectory seemed to become increasingly visible, with more stand-up in his repertoire and W criticisms at the ready and organizing benefits for our old friend, former presidential candidate John Kerry. He even shouted out AlterNet! What up, Oswalt! Bush altered everyone, true, but now Oswalt’s influencing the culture more than ever, writing columns for Wired, appearing in the "United States of Tara" and making great statements on serious topics like Egypt and Obama.
7. Pee-Wee Herman aka Paul Reubens
This one’s more of an honorable mention. In the late ‘80s, Pee-wee Herman, the infantile man with a gray suit and a devious chuckle was doing everyone a favor with the imaginative show, "Pee Wee’s Playhouse," which was lauded for its multiculturalism and open-mindedness. In 1987, he told Rolling Stone, "I'm just trying to illustrate that it's okay to be different — not that it's good, not that it's bad, but that it's all right. I'm trying to tell kids to have a good time and to encourage them to be creative and to question things."