Keri Smith isn’t proud of her role in bringing social justice comedy to the masses.
Smith helped secured a slot on FX for 2012’s “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” a late-night show that slammed “The Simpsons’” Apu as racist and wondered if comedians could ever tell jokes about rape.
“Part of the reason I enjoyed working with comedians was because I liked the idea of pushing my belief system through humor,” she said.
“Totally Biased,” like Smith at the time, was woke years before the term engulfed the culture.
It took time, but she eventually saw social justice for what she says it truly is, a religious dogma that treats people differently based on their skin color.
Smith now excoriates social justice tropes on “Unsafe Space,” her long-running podcast with co-host Carter Laren. Together, the duo examines the latest Cancel Culture headlines and the forces shoving it into our cultural institutions. The podcast boasts 35,000 subscribers, allowing Smith to fight back against the rising tide of woke culture.
Smith never set out to be part of the comedy ecosystem. She studied biological anthropology and anatomy at Duke University but took a few years off to save money for graduate school.
She saw a job posting to join Margaret Cho’s management team on a “feminist message board” and applied on a whim. The gig became her introduction into the world of professional comedy.
She learned the necessary management skills on the fly. She massaged business relationships, learned novel ways for comics to earn money and plotted comedy albums and tours for clients.
All the while she marinated in the growing social justice movement.
“By the time I was able to start my own company, I could choose which comedians to work with, ones who shared my ideology,” she says, including clients like stand-up Kristina Wong, with whom she remains friends despite their differences. “Sometime after that it became culturally dominant.”
Comedians began introducing woke elements into their act, even those who seemed an unlikely fit for that material.
“Jim Jefferies is suddenly doing woke material and almost preaching to people from a moral superiority position,” she says with a laugh. “I prefer the true believers.”
Smith’s own belief system started to change while she was hammering out opportunities for her woke clientele. That proved “problematic” in the truest sense of the word.
“I had built my career within this niche. I was known as the feminist manager,” she says. “When my beliefs started changing I was afraid to say anything. For six months I kept my thoughts to myself.”
She couldn’t stay silent forever.
“I became more afraid of the consequences of not speaking,” she says. “By speaking I knew I’d lose a lot of those connections and friends, and I did.”
She credits Jordan Peterson for helping her see the folly of social justice thinking. A friend sent her a video clip of the Canadian professor, figuring she would deem it “transphobic.”
Instead, she agreed with Peterson’s point of view.
“I came away thinking, ‘this guy’s not a transphobe. He’s making a really good argument about compelled speech,” she says. Peterson’s Biblically-tinged lectures also impacted her, including his “Tragedy vs. Evil” speech.
“It helped get me out of that resentful place in my life,” she says, coaxing her to address her problems rather than marinating in them. Social justice, she realized, is built around resentment, entitlement and “blaming other people about their status in life.”
“It’s poisonous to those who hold these beliefs for a long period of time. It severs their opportunities and makes them their own worst enemy,” she says. “It encourages you to view any mental health problems you have as your identity … the more of these oppressed identities you can check off, the more of a voice you get to have in this belief system.”
Any type of self-improvement can be seen as traitorous, she notes, like the blowback plus-sized singer Lizzo received after posting on social media about her desire to live a healthier lifestyle.
“She was trashed for days by her own fans who believed she was fat shaming and being part of the oppressive diet culture,” she says.
Smith understands what happens when a true social justice acolyte shares an independent point of view. It doesn’t end well.
“Nobody has friends in social justice. They just have allies,” she notes.
Just ask J.K. Rowling, the progressive author who contradicted elements of the trans movement last year and endured months, and months, of cancellation attempts.
Smith saw the cultural winds shifting earlier than many, one reason she started her “Unsafe Space” podcast in October 2018. The show serves as a cultural relief valve for both her and her listeners. She’s also keen on deprogramming those in the social justice religion, a task far easier said than done.
“I have to maintain empathy for people who believe all the things I used to believe,” she says. “Those people who believe in it sincerely can be reached, but not if you treat them in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated.”
Not every exchange ends like Smith would like, though.
She recalls a network executive admonishing her on social media with all the standard names – white supremacist, Nazi, etc. He had just attended a woke orientation session at a major media company and evidently left with an increased sense of moral righteousness.
She told him she left her woke groupthink because it tells people to treat each other differently based on their race and sexuality.
The executive swiftly agreed, to Smith’s horror.
Social justice philosophy takes well-intentioned people and “turns them into mouthpieces for racism and sexism. How clever is that?” she asks.
Smith remains hopeful that the younger generation, Gen Z, will start rejecting social justice dictums. She thinks it’s happening already.
“Young people especially crave authenticity … they crave what they’re told they can’t have,” she says. “They’re rejecting this woke belief system. That makes sense. Kids rebel, especially against an orthodoxy.”
She’s also heartened by The Daily Wire hiring Gina Carano, fired for allegedly hurtful social media messages, to make an independent action film for the site’s new movie platform.
“Instead of looking at Disney firing her in a negative light, I’m looking at it in a positive light,” she says. “What they tried to do is make an example of her. They’re gonna make a different kind of example for her.
“I hope more companies like The Daily Wire will move into that space. People are hungry for it. They want to see something authentic.”
So much of the Cancel Culture wave plays on our collective fears, something Smith says she learned to process in recent years.
“There’s nothing that I have that I fear losing. I consciously created this life the past few years so that would be the case,” says Smith, who works gig jobs between recording “Unsafe Space” episodes. “Go ahead, [cancel me]. I don’t care. I’ll get another gig job.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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