WEST PALM BEACH – A Metrican invasion didn’t really concern comedian Robert Mac until last week.
Now, thanks to perhaps a great Metrican insurgency, Mac finds himself one of the latest victims of cancel culture.
At a corporate stand-up comedy show, adopting the persona of a not-so-bright problem solving character, Mac suggested that the simple cure for global warming might be to switch to the metric system. He noted that such a change would cause an immediate temperature drop of about 50 degrees. (100 degrees Fahrenheit is only 37.8 degrees Celsius).
Mac then pointed to a person in the audience and suggested that the man might be worried about an influx of said “Metricans” into America.
That proved to be the trigger. It didn’t even matter that Metricans isn’t, technically, a group – or even a real word.
“The director of the organization had to call me and say I had a couple people who said, ‘We can’t hire this guy again,’ because these young Mexican-Americans took offense to this term, Metricans,” Mac said.
No habla, Metrica. Global warming advances unfettered as a lucrative corporate gig crosses the boarder into Cancelville.
“The guy who had to let me go was rolling his eyes and said, ‘I’m totally on your side, but in this culture I have to tell you this and let you go,” Mac said.
Mac, who has appeared on Last Comic Standing, The Learning Channel, Comedy Central and has two Dry Bar specials to his credit during two-decades as a stand-up comic, never expected to be affected by cancel culture. He’d always been lumped in with the so-called “clean comics.”
But in the past couple years he’s suddenly triggered people more than a half-dozen times. And now it’s costing him work.
“I never really worried about it until recently because I’m starting to feel it – especially this one a week ago,” Mac said.
Aside from the lost paychecks, what seems to bother Mac the most is that no one told him the rules of comedy had changed. Or even that there were rules.
And why is society allowing a relatively small portion of the population determine what can and can’t be said, who can and can’t be employed?
“We are catering, even caving, into a sensibility that is only three percent – or whatever it is – of the population,” Mac said. “It’s a small part of the whole, and we have to walk on eggshells around them.”
Losing the recurring Metrican job without being afforded the ability to adapt his set didn’t sit well with Mac. He thought, at the very least, the incident could open some sort of dialogue about the trigger and how the jokes could be adapted – or dropped – while still keeping the job.
“In all honesty, I really want to know, if the rules have changed, who makes the rules?” Mac said. “Is it comedians or the people in the industry? Is it the most vulnerable people in society who are most likely to get triggered? Is it the media gatekeepers? Or is it the HR department of the company? It’s starting to hit home now. I’m frustrated and curious to know where it’s going to go.”
Mac will risk breaking more unspoken rules when he performs twice in South Florida this weekend, on Saturday night at the Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce and Sunday night at the Palm Beach Improv. Local comics Casey Peruski and Mark Christopher will also take the stage as part of both shows.
A veteran touring comic comfortable in large comedy venues, cruise ships, corporate settings and even video conference comedy shows, Mac also teaches comedy writing classes.
He’ll conduct one such comedy writing class on Saturday afternoon at the PB Improv, during which he will likely address joke writing amid the current surge of cancel culture.
“In the old days when I taught this class I would just say, ‘You joke about the things that interest you,’ Mac said. “But now I have to take a step back and say, ‘Make sure that your audience won’t take too much offense.’ Having said that, an audience at a comedy club is going to be a lot different and more forgiving and more lenient than an online corporate client.”
Despite his recent issues with corporate clients, Mac isn’t about to, well, cancel those shows. They’re too lucrative.
He is, however, adapting the way he approaches those clients.
Now, before performing a corporate gig, Mac provides the company’s human resources manager or hiring agent with links to many of his bits and asks them to select which of his bits best would work best for their employees or group.
“I’m putting it all on their shoulders. and if something doesn’t work I can say, ‘Well, you told me it was OK to do that,’” Mac said. “If they get any sort of complaint it’s on them and not me.”