Quoted: Kate Rigg on Racism and Comedy

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

Warning: Explicit Language

Is there stuff either of you won’t make comedy about? Is there anything you think will always be off-limits?

Kate Rigg: Not to me. [...] That’s a very personal question, though. Do I think that people should get up on stage and wantonly use racist language? No, I do not. However, I do not think that racist language should be banned from a comedy stage, and I’ll tell you why: Because a word is not really the problem. It’s hatred, and it is oppression, and it is racism that is the fucking problem – and you [can't] hide the fact that racism exists by going, “You can never ever say this word on stage, it’s bad!” I do a show called Chink-O-Rama and I have another one called Birth of a nASIAN. And I would rather someone go home and say, “Oh my god, I heard a comic say ‘chink’ today! It was really confusing! Because what she was actually saying was that nobody should say the word ‘chink’ but she said the word ‘chink,’ so now I’ really confused!” There, to me, my job is done. Someone’s having a discussion about race and culture.

When I load that gun, I know how to pull the trigger so I don’t hurt anybody, you know. Someone like Michael Richards hurt somebody, but that’s not because he said the word “nigger.” Guess what, motherfuckers? Don’t be afraid of the word, be afraid of the fact that Michael Richards screamed at an audience member and said, “I’ll fucking hang you and stick a fork up your ass!” That’s the fucking problem. He wasn’t deconstructing the meaning of racism, which is a very important part of what we do. As court jesters, we have to say, “Hey see this word that everyone’s been using for a hundred years? It’s fucked!” But just banning language? You’re actually stopping thought and discussion, and we can’t move forward. Now, we’re stuck. Everybody’s walking around on eggshells. Suddenly, it’s okay to say “kike” and “chink” and “dyke” – but you can’t say “nigger?” Suddenly, you’re starting to quantify racism.

[...]

Kate, was Sarah Silverman saying “chink” in her one bit about jury duty different from you saying chink?

KR: You know what, it actually was not. Because her joke was not about the word “chink,” it was about racism. It was actually a very good joke, a very socially responsible joke. And everyone freaked out : “She said ‘chink’!” I’m offended when I see comics get onstage going “…and then I went to the Laundromat. Ching-chong, ching-chong, ching-chong!” Then I’m fucking offended. When someone tells a joke about Asian people and there’s no actual joke – the joke is the Asian people. The joke is [racist-comic voice] the funny way they talkie-talkie! “They don’t use proper diction! Only verb and noun! Verb and noun!” I just heard a comic that I respect doing that fucking joke the other night. An Asian comic. And I was like, “Dude! Write a punch line or you’re just being racist!”

— Excerpted from “A Good Offense” written by Andi Zeisler, in the Loud issue of Bitch Magazine.