Jennifer Aniston has been starring in comedies for nearly 30 years, from the launch of NBC’s “Friends” in 1994 to the upcoming release of her latest Netflix movie “Murder Mystery 2,” which means she’s had a front row seat to watching comedy tastes change over three decades. Aniston recently told AFP (via Yahoo News) that “comedy has evolved” so much that it’s a bit tricky these days to be funny.
“Now it’s a little tricky because you have to be very careful, which makes it really hard for comedians, because the beauty of comedy is that we make fun of ourselves, make fun of life,” Aniston said. “[In the past] you could joke about a bigot and have a laugh — that was hysterical. And it was about educating people on how ridiculous people were. And now we’re not allowed to do that.”
“There’s a whole generation of people, kids, who are now going back to episodes of ‘Friends’ and find them offensive,” Aniston added. “There were things that were never intentional and others… well, we should have thought it through — but I don’t think there was a sensitivity like there is now.”
Aniston concluded: “Everybody needs funny! The world needs humor! We can’t take ourselves too seriously. Especially in the United States. Everyone is far too divided.”
“Friends” has been called out in recent years for its lack of diversity. Cast member Lisa Kudrow once made headlines for saying if the show ever returned or got rebooted. Kudrow made sense of the show’s lack of diversity by saying “Friends” creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman had “no business” telling stories about people of color given their own backgrounds.
And for shows especially, when it’s going to be a comedy that’s character-driven, you write what you know. They have no business writing stories about the experiences of being a person of color.”
All six main characters on “Friends” were white, and the show rarely featured actors of colors in prominent roles across 10 seasons and 236 episodes. The likes of Lauren Tom, Gabrielle Union, Mark Consuelos and Craig Robinson appeared on the show in small supporting roles, while Aisha Tyler, the most prominent actor of color featured on the series, only starred in nine episodes.
Kauffman announced last July that she was so “embarrassed” by and feels such “guilt” over the lack of diversity on “Friends” that she donated $4 million to create the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies at Brandeis University. The program will “support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora.