Are Words Violence? A Look at You Can’t Joke About That, by Kat Timpf

Larry Christopher
4 min readJun 3

I was not familiar with Kat Timpf before listening to her audiobook, You Can’t Joke About That. This isn’t really significant or surprising, as she’s best known as a Fox commentator and I haven’t watched any cable news programs in over a decade. She’s also a comic but unless someone’s had a Netflix special, I’m not exactly up to date on that world either. Nonetheless, I’d rank this as one of the most interesting and important books I’ve read in the last few years.

You Can’t Joke About That addresses the increasingly humorless and intolerant nature of modern society, whether on social media, the entertainment industry, or politics. It’s disconcerting having lived through so many decades (the 70s, 80s, and 90s in my case) where so much humor that was everywhere years ago would not even be tolerated today. Even a show like Saturday Night Live, which has existed through all those decades, has devolved into a sad caricature of itself, only making the safest and most politically correct jokes. Same with other late night comedy, if it can even be called that anymore.

I’ll summarize a few important chapters/points Kat Timpf makes in You Can’t Joke About That.

It’s Especially Important to Joke About Difficult Topics

One of the main points of the book is that it’s harmful, both for individuals and society to avoid joking about topics that are difficult or controversial. Of course, in today’s climate, people are getting more reluctant to approach anything but the most innocuous subjects (and this category is getting ever smaller, as almost anything can be offensive to somebody). An especially bad sign that Kat mentions is that college campuses are among the least tolerant, with “progressive” campuses now adopting the Orwellian practice of making comedians sign a form promising not to offend anyone.

Again, where will this end? Today we can’t joke about race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, or body shape. Isn’t it also potentially “hurtful” to joke about one’s food preferences, style of dress, musical tastes, occupation, and so on? The absurd conclusion of all this is a world where everyone lives in a bubble that can potentially be punctured by the wrong word. This brings us to another important chapter in…