An ethical issue

25 Aug

I believe it’s generally agreed that if you’re in the audience at a comedy show and you heckle a/the comedian or are disruptive in some other fashion, you make yourself a more-than-fair target for the comedian’s jokes. However, I’m not sure anybody’s ever considered the opposite question; what I’m wondering is if the rights and responsibilities also cut the other way. Take this situation. Maybe you’re not paying attention, or you happen to be of a different gender or race from the majority of the people in attendance, and that catches the comedian’s attention. Maybe (s)he’s trying to connect with the audience after getting on stage or his/her material has been bombing and (s)he’s trying another tack. But whatever the case may be, if you’re just sitting there not doing anything and the comedian randomly decides that (s)he’s going to interact with you in particular whether you agree or not, are you:

(a) prohibited from

(b) allowed to

(c) required to

respond and give as good as you get, philosophically speaking? After all, isn’t the whole issue one of reciprocity and not starting anything you can’t finish? I wonder if people consider such considerations equally binding upon the comedian.

In other words, if a comedian gives an audience member grief and the audience member returns the favor, who’s the asshole? Both? Neither? Discuss.

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