Do we now live in a world where people can get killed for their comedy?

-Ben Lee Deguzman, Air Tabigue -Ramon Gil -Rich Kiamco, Ryan Dacalos

-Ben Lee Deguzman, Air Tabigue
-Ramon Gil
-Rich Kiamco, Ryan Dacalos

Filipino American artists and comedians are trying to make sense of the murder of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and their editor allegedly by terror elements. Charlie Hebdo is the irreverent magazine in France that is known to satirize politics and religion and other institutions that are symbols of stodgy Establishment. The magazine has published caricatures of both the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ, prompting some to label it as “irresponsible” and disrespectful of the followers of both Faiths.

‘The FilAm’ reached out to comedians, artists, and cartoonists and listened to their thoughts on whether the terror attack in Paris has a chilling effect on free expression as well as their work as artists and entertainers. Here’s what they have to say.


I’m not surprised. Even in the U.S. the South Park cartoon had an episode which had Comedy Central censoring Muhammad’s image and name. The creators received death threats and decided to move forward with the storyline anyways.

Religion is a sensitive topic. There are so many cartoons that have treated Jesus in humorous manner. As a working, touring comic in U.S., you get to express what you believe in, and people will listen if it is funny. There are always people who don’t have the same point of view. Quite frankly, I don’t care. I’m going to tell jokes the way I want to tell them.


People throughout history were killed or persecuted for their stance on different subject matters. But I think in light of recent events, it’s so tragic that it could happen to anyone who wants to express himself or herself artistically. Whether or not any of us in the entertainment industry is really more exposed than we were a few years ago is hard to say. But by a small increment, it certainly feels that way.

Not going into specifics, but I remember going on the Internet to see what people thought of an old project I worked on. I ran into a comment from an unhappy customer. And he was actually asking if anyone would like to join him to storm the place I worked at to gun people down. I mean seriously? Even in the toxic world of message boards, how is something like that okay?

I don’t feel any artist should feel the need to stifle their freedom of expression. And I don’t even think I have to say it. Political satire will never cease to exist unless someone finds a way to mind-wipe the opinions of the entire human population.

Ex-IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on the cover of Charlie Hebdo. The French economist and politician is known for his womanizing ways.

Ex-IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on the cover of Charlie Hebdo. The French economist and politician is known for his womanizing ways.

Comic book writer and artist

If you taunt a lion, he will bite you. Not everyone in the world values freedom of speech like we do. Some value their faith above life whether theirs or someone else’s. We may not agree with them but they exist and we need to recognize that. No one should be killed for what they think or say, and the terrorists should be brought to justice, but as artists, we may have the right to express ourselves but we shouldn’t be naive to the consequences of our actions or the responsibilities of our power as communicators.


It’s a rough balance. The creative process is volatile and messy, but social media can grab a joke or idea that’s not polished yet or ready to be seen or released. Someone is always going to be offended. Comedy is honest and can be a brutal and aggressive art. Without protecting this freedom of expression — even if it offends — how can we live? Without that freedom we are living in tyranny, people can chose to dislike or disagree with something or not look or watch or listen. Most of the time if we ignored offenders they wouldn’t have any power. Sometimes it’s the reaction that gives it momentum. There is nothing much in the art itself.


There is a line in comedy. Some believe it doesn’t exist until you get the response you didn’t want to get. Not everything should be a joke. That’s way too liberal a standard I don’t agree with. Plus, I don’t find the Charlie Hebdo depictions of minorities and faiths funny. Once you translate them, they just come off as hateful.


So sad what happened to those cartoonists, and my prayers are with them and their families. For comedians no topic is off limits. Comedy is also another form of freedom of speech. But sometimes it can be risky depending on how far you go with it. I have seen comedians threatened after shows for jokes they told, and someone was offended. Because almost all jokes have a target, whether it’s a family member, co-worker, significant other, gender, race and even religion. Not everyone will agree with your opinion or find it funny. It’s no different than those who draw cartoons. Personally I never received a threat for a joke I told. The only thing they did was moan or walk out.

red line

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