Todd Phillips Says 'Woke Culture' Is Killing Comedy Movies

Joaquin Phoenix glaring in Joker

Todd Phillips' Joker is one of the most highly anticipated movies right now, with its theatrical release just days away. Phillips was tasked with giving the Clown Prince of Crime an origin story, without taking direct inspiration from the comics. The movie has been getting a ton of positive buzz ahead of its release, after great reviews and cleaning up at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals. But Phillips is primarily known for his comedies-- although now he's revealed he's disinterested in the genre following the rise of woke culture.

Years before he collaborated with Joaquin Phoenix on Joker, Todd Phillips had film success with The Hangover movies, and classics like Old School and Road Trip. One might assume the filmmaker will return to the genre after his DC debut, but Phillips doesn't seem interested in comedy anymore. Namely, because of the backlash that comes with woke culture, and how the conversation has changed within the film world. As he put it:

Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture. There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore—I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’ It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’ I’m out, and you know what? With all my comedies—I think that what comedies in general all have in common—is they’re irreverent. So I go, ‘How do I do something irreverent, but fuck comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head with this.’ And so that’s really where that came from.

Well, he certainly didn't mince words. It seems the way society has moved forward since Todd Phillips' time in comedy has made the genre undesirable for the filmmaker. As such, we should probably expect him to take on more gritty and emotional work like Joker.

For those unclear with the current terminology, being woke is the ongoing movement of being more socially aware, acknowledging privilege, and taking an active role in social justice. The way language and comedy has been used has been part of a conversation over the past few years, with certain comics taking the time to apologize for past missteps.

Related: Todd Phillips Actually Does Not Hope Everyone Is Going To Love Joker

But Todd Phillips seems to think this has made making a comedy movie far more difficult, as jokes have the potential to offend people, with backlash coming via social media. The pressure was enough to convince Todd Phillips to leave the genre altogether, dropping a F-bomb in the process for extra measure.

The flip side of this argument is that moviegoers can be just as passionate and angry when it comes to dramas. Joker certainly hasn't been void of controversy, and some critics took umbrage with the movie's message, and its potential to inspire violence. But the movie has also been praised by critics, so Todd Phillips should be able to pick which genre he's interested in moving forward.

Joker will hit theaters on October 4th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.