Aparna Nancherla for Playboy

Hot Take It or Leave It

Can’t wait to post about the latest trending topic without considering both sides? Aparna's with you

When I agreed to write a hot take on hot takes, my first thought was Damn, Daniel, back at it again with the meta plans! (My brain is now essentially a series of doctored memes.) Next, I went to the dictionary to figure out what exactly I had agreed to. Merriam-Webster describes a hot take as “a published reaction or analysis of a recent news event that, often because of its time-sensitive nature, doesn’t offer much in the way of deep reflection.” Lacks deep reflection? Perfect. Very on-brand for humanity’s current iteration.

Let me back up, though. You should know my credentials. I’m well-versed in strong opinions. I’ve been a stand-up comedian for the past decade-plus. By its very nature, stand-up is all about hot takes. You’re onstage, your voice authoritatively amplified, and, usually in a stylized or performative way, you’re expounding on theories such as why religion and gay rights are not mutually exclusive, or pointing out some otherwise unquestioned absurdity in life. Like, when will the world be ready for “Mambo No. 6”? (Answer: Anytime—but more Monica this round, please.)

Even the most abstract version of comedy has a point of view (which is just a fancy way of saying opinion). If people are laughing, they don’t necessarily care if they don’t agree with what you’re saying. In fact, the standard response to stand-up is a series of equally strong opinions, as some of the audience will think you were “funny” and others, mostly on YouTube, will tell you to “kill yourself.”
Like hot takes, stand-up comedy can be reductive. You have to sacrifice gray areas for the simplicity of the joke.
By virtue of my profession, then, I’m going on record as pro–hot take. And like many comedians, I spend a lot of time on Twitter—the land of hot takes, as opposed to the opposite, which you might call freezing nonsense. Everyone with the gumption to start an account, which we now know doesn’t even require sentience, can dissent and polemicize to their heart’s (or algorithm’s) content.

Within free social-media platforms, the hot take is hand-clap emoji, 100 percent emoji, fire emoji. But woe unto the content creator who missteps. Most people—celebrities or not—are one tweet or viral moment away from being “canceled.” The outrage pendulum swings all kinds of ways.

The positive end of this is accountability movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. The more cautionary trajectory is expecting the same rigid good-versus-evil paradigms that often marginalize groups in the first place, painting their members as complete heroes or villains, forgetting that nearly all humans are a mix of both. It’s scary to admit, but we all make mistakes. No one has a perfect take on everything, and nuance is crucial to understanding even those we perceive to be already on our side. (Oops, I’m veering into deep reflection now, and that’s the opposite of clickbait—it’s click wait.)
Like hot takes, stand-up comedy can be reductive. You have to sacrifice gray areas for the simplicity of the joke. If you include every point of view, you dilute the punch line. That’s not to say those views shouldn’t be voiced—in fact, giving voice to nuance is often how progress happens. But it’s also the reason hot takes can’t account for everyone and everything.

In fact, in this very piece, by trying to acknowledge multiple angles of the what and why and how of hot takes, I essentially milked mine down to a tepid pudding. But perhaps that’s why we find hot takes so comforting: They’re decisive in a way the adult world often isn’t. But beyond all the absolutes, it’s nice to remember that many of us are trying our best. Tepid or not, that’s worth at least a pudding, if not more. (And if you freeze the rest of that pudding? Pudding pops!)

Related Topics

Explore Categories