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What does comedy, the peppered moth, and President Obama's position on marriage equality all have in common?

They've evolved. But, as the saying goes, change doesn't always come easy.

Those moths had to put up with pollution. Obama had to deal with political pushback. And Seth Rogen was forced to come to the realization that some of his old jokes were actually pretty terrible, now that it's 2016 and all.


Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Rogen recently admitted that a few of his old movies totally crossed the line when it comes to offensive jabs.

In an interview with The Guardian, Rogen reflected on how his own comedy has changed to be more cognizant of how a joke can go too far:

“It’s funny looking at some movies we’ve made in the last ten years under the lenses of new eras, new social consciousness. There’s for sure some stuff in our earlier movies — and even in our more recent movies — where even like a year later you’re like, ‘Eh, maybe that wasn’t the greatest idea.’”

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV.

One movie that's particularly cringeworthy?

“There are probably some jokes in ‘Superbad’ that are bordering on blatantly homophobic at times,” he said, noting that the film had been trying to reflect the immaturity of high schoolers. But still, he said, the jokes were "glamorizing that type of [offensive] language in a lot of ways.”

His comments get at an important topic: the evolution of comedy.

Sure, comedy shouldn't be forced to adhere to anyone's rules. But isn't comedy best when it's actually relevant to the times?

Evolving comedic standards are why Eddie Murphy wouldn't strut on stage in 2016 and drop gay slurs at the expense of AIDS patients (like he got away with doing way back when). It's why Trevor Noah admitted to being an "idiot" for tweeting out sexist and anti-Semitic jokes in 2012 — "you should not like [the jokes you cracked] back then, because that shows that you’ve grown," he explained. And it's why Amy Schumer decided to confront her own racist routines from years ago.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics' Choice Awards.

In one of her old standup sets, Schumer told an insensitive joke suggesting Hispanic men are rapists. The joke resurfaced last summer, and many people weren't pleased. So the comedian dealt with it, head-on:

“I wrote this joke [two] years ago. I used to do a lot of short, dumb jokes like this. … Once I realized I had more eyes and ears on me and had an influence, I stopped telling jokes like that on stage. I am evolving as any artist. I am taking responsibility and hope I haven’t hurt anyone. And I apologize [if] I did."

Sarah Silverman (who, by no means, plays it safe) also thinks comedy shouldn't be an exception to the rest of society — it should "change with the times" and "change with new information," too:

“I caught myself a few years ago fighting ‘gay.’ I [said] ‘gay,' like, ‘that’s so gay.’ … And then I stopped myself and said, ‘What am I fighting? I have become the guy from 50 years ago who said, ‘I say colored. I have colored friends.’ … It’s not hard to change with the times, and I think it’s important."

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Even Patton Oswalt — who detests political correctness — said he "gets to be wrong, and [he] gets to change" when it came to his own failures in grasping the nuances of why a particular rape joke (told by a different comedian) was a bit of a problem:

"There is a collective consciousness that can detect the presence (and approach) of something good or bad, in society or the world, before any hard 'evidence' exists. It’s happening now with the concept of 'rape culture.' Which, by the way, isn’t a concept. It’s a reality."

Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images.

Comedy — like basically every other thing in the universe — needs to evolve to stay relevant.

It should be edgy. It should makes us uncomfortable at times too (Schumer just proved that sometimes uncomfortable comedy is exactly what this world needs).

But as Rogen hinted at this week, if you're punching down with a lazy joke that doesn't belong in 2016, you should probably ask yourself if the punchline's really worth it.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


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