Bonnie McFarlane, a 10-year-plus veteran at Just For Laughs, is performing in the Nasty Show for the first time in her career. The notoriously open and freewheeling comedy series presents an opportunity for McFarlane to cut loose.
McFarlane doesn’t consider herself particularly nasty. However, the Canadian comic believes the show could be a safe space to reveal – or rehash – some of her more unsavoury jokes. Although they aren’t as explicitly shocking as one might expect. “I’m not talking about sex, it’s not graphic in that way but I deal with a lot of topics that maybe make people uncomfortable,” said McFarlane.
McFarlane isn’t shy about discussing topics that might make folks tug at their collars or glance away from the stage. And she’s unapologetically transparent in her beliefs. While she doesn’t hold back on the current state of gun control and abortion laws in the United States, McFarlane says that in recent years she needed to shelve several controversial jokes.
“There was a time where the audience would know you’re a good person but you’re just making jokes about being a bad person,” McFarlane said. “Now they won’t really give you that leeway.”
Things are so polarized right now and you could really get into trouble saying certain things on certain shows, she says. One time McFarlane received backlash for a joke about wishing her husband had a peanut allergy because it would be easier to get rid of him. People were upset because they believed it was insensitive to families who have lost loved ones to peanut allergies. McFarlane is sympathetic to their arguments. But where do comedians go from here as this culture of political correctness continues to grow, she argues.
“I understood that they were upset, these are people that lost children to a peanut allergy,” she said. “But that means then now that everything is off the table.”
The comedy industry is going in two directions, says McFarlane. There’s the anti-censorship, freedom of speech camp and the politically correct camp. But she doesn’t lean heavily towards one side or the other.
The Cold Lake, Alberta native believes some comics are prone to pushing the boundaries too much. They might benefit from toning down their material from time to time, she says. But on the flip side, censorship isn’t necessarily the way to go.
“People get very angry, quickly now about certain words, certain things,” said McFarlane. And while many within comedy are pushing for what they believe is a positive change, forcing comedians to walk on eggshells while they perform isn’t the answer.
McFarlane admitted that on several occasions she modified her material to appease the masses. “You do think a little more about what you’re writing down, I’m not a socio-path, I’m a compassionate person,” she said.
But more often than not, McFarlane is willing to embrace the haters. Not all of her jokes are homeruns, and sometimes they’re a little too edgy. But that’s just the way she is. Telling jokes is her coping mechanism to real-world situations.
“For me that’s how I deal with things, I make jokes,” McFarlane said. “I’ve had crazy stuff happen in my life and that’s how you deal with it, you make dark jokes.”
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