Comedy and Free Speech

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ESSAY TOPIC & INSTRUCTIONS:
Freedom of speech remains one of the most revered and protected rights in America. At the same time, it represents a right constantly under attack. Art is often the site of conflict. Through American history, writers, painters, and all types of entertainers have been accused of taking it too far. For example, Lenny Bruce was arrested across the country 4 times for obscenity in the early sixties, and a decade later George Carlin was arrested for his infamous “Seven Dirty Words” in Milwaukee. Many consider rape, incest, suicide, racism, and other universally recognized taboo topics off limits. Still, many comics staunchly defend their right to free speech and find a way to weave in these controversial and touchy topics into their routines.
Using this classic essay strategy, construct an argument that responds to the free speech debate as it relates to a wide spectrum of comic forms. Overall, consider the gravity of sensitive topics, especially on victims of trauma and tragedy – keeping in mind that audiences often selectively choose topics that offend while accepting others that don’t. Ultimately, should the purveyors of humor limit the scope of their comedy in the name of decency or should freedom of speech be without constraint? Incorporate at least three sources to make your case.

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