Open Thread: Misogyny, Race, and Comedy

by Latoya Peterson

I am opening a separate thread on this because it is difficult not to ignore. (I just did not want it discussed while discussing the New Yorker cover.)

So, while at a Obama fundraiser, Bernie Mac decided to perform his usual schtick*:

Speaking to about 600 donors at a downtown hotel, Mac joked that he did not understand why Obama would want to run for president.

“I’m proud of him because politics is dirty, especially with Republicans,” he said. “People like rumors. They are going to say things like, you know, ‘You was in the club with Lil’ Kim and you and Kanye West got in a fist fight.’”

Mac went on to riff about hope and offering himself as a running mate, but then added that the campaign might not want him because “I cuss,” which he did, according to a pool report of the event.

“Being a president is tough ’cause you’re not just running the country. You got to run your family too,” Mac said. “Having a black first lady is different. You’re still going have to do the dishes and the laundry and all that…’You got to pick up the kids. You didn’t pick up the kids?’ ‘I just came from Korea, talking about nuclear weapons.’ ‘You were on Air Force One and you couldn’t stop to pick up the kids?’”

He then decided to pull out this hoary old joke:

Toward the end of a 10-minute standup routine at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago, the 50-year-old star of “The Bernie Mac Show” joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity, and used occasional crude language.

“My little nephew came to me and he said, ‘Uncle, what’s the difference between a hypothetical question and a realistic question?’” Mac said. “I said, I don’t know, but I said, ‘Go upstairs and ask your mother if she’d make love to the mailman for $50,000.’”

As the joke continued, the punchline evoked an angry response from at least one person in the audience, who said it was offensive to women.

[Ed Note – Joke ends like this: The joke continued with the mother saying she’d sleep “with anyone” for $50,000 — and then continuing to include Mac’s daughter hypothetically answering the question in the same way . “Hypothetically speaking, we should have $100,000. But realistically speaking we live with two hos.” (Source)]

“It’s not funny. Let’s get Barack on,” a man shouted from the crowd, which paid $2,300 each to support the Illinois senator.

About 15 minutes later, Obama tried to smooth things over with a joke of his own.

“We can’t afford to be divided by race. We can’t afford to be divided by region or by class and we can’t afford to be divided by gender, which by the way, that means, Bernie, you’ve got to clean up your act next time,” Obama said. “This is a family affair. By the way, I’m just messing with you, man.”

I made this post an open discussion because there are many different angles from which to view this situation:

1. Why are “universal” jokes ones about gender, including the differences between men and women’s roles in the home?

2. Is there a such thing as an “in house” joke? Why would Bernie Mac tell black-oriented jokes to a mixed crowd?

3. Why would he even go there with the “two whores” joke at a political function? Why is that joke so popular anyway? And is there a deeper aspect to be explored within black gender relations as to why the joke is troubling on multiple levels?

4. What is with Bernie Mac calling Barack a “man’s man?” Does that put his comments into a different light?

5. Why do so many jokes involving black comedians when speaking about the Obamas revolve around images of a demanding, castrating Michelle expecting Barack to jump on demand?

6. Was this a wise message to send as Barack is courting the “women” vote? I am not so sure what the women vote means – it is simpler to say the HRC voters, but it is being presented as a monolithic women vote.

7. Why is it that when I first heard about this story, I zeroed in on the black first lady joke and paid little to no mind to the whore joke. Melissa McEwan focused on the whore joke, and added the black first lady part as an after-thought. I am wondering what that says about how different groups of women approach gender based attacks.

8. There is a larger question of how gender/gender roles are approached in marginalized communities, but I am pretty sure that is going to have to be its own thread. But, in the meantime, feel free to leave your ideas.

The above eight main ideas are what I took from the situation. Feel free to discuss and debate those, or add your own.

Floor is open.

*What is it with people hiring certain comedians and not paying attention to the content of their work? It reminds me of the Black Enterprise/Eddie Griffin gaffe.