It’s The One With the Brutally Honest Actor: Friends star Jennifer Aniston is the latest celebrity to discuss the difficulties of working in comedy and making modern, apparently more sensitive audiences laugh.
Aniston, who has been working in film and comedy for nearly three decades, told the French news agency AFP that it’s become “a little tricky” to produce comedies because you have to be “very careful.” She said this is especially troubling because “the beauty of comedy is that we make fun of ourselves, make fun of life.”
Aniston, 54, lamented the past when she said: “You could joke about a bigot and have a laugh — that was hysterical. And it was about educating people on how ridiculous people were.”
She used her role as Rachel Green in the 1990s sitcom Friends as an example of how audiences have evolved over the years.
“There’s a whole generation of people, kids, who are now going back to episodes of Friends and find them offensive,” she said.
Aniston blamed the offensiveness on a combination of “things that were never intentional” and elements of the program that just lacked thought.
Friends, a comedy about six young people in New York, has long since been criticized for a lack of diversity. All of the show’s main characters are white. While actors of colour appeared sparsely in short cameo roles, the most prominent, non-white actor on the show, Aisha Tyler (who played Charlie Wheeler), appeared in only nine episodes.
Some of the jokes in friends have also been labelled transphobic or homophobic.
Co-creator of the sitcom, Marta Kauffman, said last year she was “embarrassed” and felt “guilt” over the lack of diversity in Friends.
“It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago,” Kauffman told the Los Angeles Times.
Friends ran from 1994 to 2004. It is one of the most profitable sitcoms ever created, bringing in reportedly US$1.4 billion since its initial debut.
As a result of increased sensitivity, Aniston said less comedies are being made today than in decades prior. Not having comedies, she said, is a tragedy.
“Everybody needs funny! The world needs humour!” she said. “We can’t take ourselves too seriously. Especially in the United States. Everyone is far too divided.”
Numerous popular comedians have already complained about producing comedy in the post-woke age. In particular, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock have been especially outspoken about cancel culture and comedy.
Still, Aniston charges on. In her latest comedy, Murder Mystery 2, Aniston plays Audrey Spitz, a detective solving the case of a kidnapped billionaire alongside her partner Nick (played by Adam Sandler). Murder Mystery 2 is available to stream on Netflix on Friday.