It’s often said that the best way to kill comedy is to analyze it and that feminists can’t take a joke. Indeed, this was largely the online response to the debate between Lindy West and Jim Norton over comedy and rape jokes, which took place on FXX’s late-night sociopolitical comedy talk show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell (2012-2013) in May 2013. Humor scholars frequently use Mikhail Bakhtin's (1984) notion of the medieval carnival as a way to theorize the ideology that stand-up comedy is a space in which hierarchies are inverted, social codes are disrupted, and polite behavior is thrown out the proverbial window. As Jim Norton argues, “if you’re trying to be funny,” no subject should be off limits. But who has the cultural authority to decide what counts as funny? I use these clips (which I’ve edited from the extended sixteen-minute segment) as an example of the ways in which cultural and social capital (Bourdieu 1984) determines who is permitted to set limits on comedic speech. In the intro to the debate, Jim Norton is framed as the expert on comedy, while Lindy West is framed as a “staff writer” and “feminist,” despite her being a comedic writer as well as a fan and performer of stand-up comedy. Because what counts as comedy is still largely defined by masculine norms, Jim Norton is able to freely comment on the craft of comedy while Lindy West is seen as an unfair critic and humorless feminist trying to spoil everyone’s fun. Ironically (but unsurprisingly) after Jim Norton argued that comics shouldn’t be harassed for saying funny things, that it is “selfish” for people for people to try to silence speech, and that comic speech has never led to violence, his fans overwhelmed Lindy West with online death and rape threats to the point where she quit watching and performing stand-up comedy (West 2016). Notably when Patton Oswalt, a well-respected white, male comic, came out against rape jokes months later, he was largely praised by the critics and left alone by comedy fans. As evidenced in this debate, the authority to critique comedy still resides with comics who adhere to a rigid set of standards set by the historically male comedic sphere, while those who seek to shift comedic standards are often forced out of conversations about comedy and out of the comic sphere altogether. Works Cited: Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Indiana University Press, 1984. Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Harvard University Press, 1984. West, Lindy. Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman.