America has had biting social satire since at least the mid-’50s (Lenny Bruce). We’ve gone through many convulsions as a society, but we’re still (again) in the midst of racial anxiety and social upheaval (rich-poor gap, Donald Trump’s xenophobia). Ian Edwards’ comedy often deals with issues of social discomfort around race and identity. More than any other profession, stand-up comedy is about getting to the truth of who you are, and becoming at ease with that. Edwards discusses comedy not as one single thing but as several, distinct things. Comedy is an antidote to taking life too seriously — an equivalent to sex, and a way to safely express truths that aren’t politically correct.
Ian Edwards: I like a comic who can make people realize how stupid they are and how over serious they're taking something. And like somebody that can do that can calm like a rough sea because the last thing anybody wants to do is look stupid while they're trying to be serious. And sometimes when you get emotionally caught up in something, only humor can cut through all that seriousness to show people the real point of the thing and how stupid they look. And that's when people will back away from all this dumb serious stuff and just be like if I don't laugh right now, I'm going to look like an idiot and let me just relax. So I think that's what comedy is for.
Even sometimes, like when I'm in a relationship and I was serious about something that was so important to me and then later on I realize I'm a comic, why didn't I — why did I take this moment so serious? That was so dumb of me. Like my comedy is not just for onstage; it's for moments like this when things are getting heated between me and my girl I'm supposed to use this to help and I didn't. Like what an idiot. You feel stupid because it can solve so many things.
Comedy is like sex. Like if a lot of people didn't have sex, they'd be worse human beings. But because they're having sex, you don't see how bad they could be. So then there's pleasures in life that kind of work like something to keep the migraines away. It's like if we didn't have sex, if we didn't have comedy or just other things that make us happy, there would be a bunch of people walking around with migraines. Imagine if everybody in the world had a migraine. There’s a way to be irreverent and PC. Like there’s a way to do it where you close all the loopholes for people to attack you, but you can say things that people do not like. So I think that’s my approach. Just for a protection mechanism, like as a comic you want to be able to say what you’ve got to say, but you also have to protect yourself because people can attack you and take you down. Like you’re going to go up and on your way up and when you get to the top you’re going like bring you down and you worked hard in this business and you don’t want people to just destroy everything you have. I’m going to say this thing, but I’m going to figure out mathematically how to say it so that nobody can prove this equation wrong. So I’m going to say this and there’s nothing you can do about me saying it because of the way I say it. So you try to make it difficult, but I still got to say it.