Category Archives: comedy

WNYC Presents: Funny Or Racist?

by Kendra James

There was a lot of good discussion on racial comedy at last night’s panel featuring Arun Venugopal, Desus NiceCrissle West, Jeff Yang and Guy Branum and we’ve summed a good deal of that up in our Livetweet Storify below. The panel was broken up into sections with each new topic introduced by a different video or comedic soundbite, and everything was going along swimmingly with very thought provoking (and hilarious) banter tossed back and forth between the participants.

It was during the Q&A that things got, as one might say, quite real after a discussion about Sarah Silverman’s use of blackface on her Comedy Central show.  A realness which made for the highlight of the evening as West was forced to keep it all the way 100 with an audience member who really did try it. The exchange can be found around 1hr 19min in in the livestream link, but also transcribed in part below:

Audience Member: My name is Alan Rich, I’m a discrimination lawyer … Crissle, one thing that you said about Sarah Silverman– I get the impression that you take her work at face value.  And I think that so many comedians who are really funny — I don’t think that she’s making fun of black people in any way shape or form about black people when she does blackface. Because those of us who know the history of blackface is that not only white people did blackface, black entertainers had to do black face to get jobs.

Crissle: Wow, so you have to be really white to make that statement. That is just the whitest thing–

Audience Member: It’s a comment about how ridiculous we as a society can be.

Crissle: Can we not? I’m really not about to do this.

Audience Member: I’ve never walked out on Paul Mooney, so you have to give me a pass.

Crissle: And you’re a discrimination lawyer? Holy God. Sooo… I’m  gonna go ahead and address that by saying first of all that I can absolutely say that you’re racist for being a white woman in 2014 or whenever it was that she did this to put in blackface and go on television. Yes I can absolutely call you racist for that. you know the history behind it and you did it anyway. That is racist. I can say that. I’m a black woman, I’m gonna just go ahead and take my word over yours on that. That’s racist. And I don’t like her for it.

Audience Member: [Sic] Tell her! But you don’t know her. You don’t know what’s in her mind.

Crissle: Where is my access to Sarah Silverman? I don’t have to know her– I don’t have to know what’s inside Sarah Silverman’s head. I’m looking at her actions because her actions are what she’s presented to me. She didn’t put put a book called Sarah Silverman’s Diary here read my innermost thoughts and see how I came to these fuck ass conclusions that I have here today. She got on TV in blackface and decided that that was funny and it was not. And you as a white man trying to tell me that my feelings are invalid because I don’t know her is a crock of shit … and that’s why I get on my show every week and say what I need to say because white people like you feel like you have a goddamn point.

Panel Q&A sessions can be difficult for anyone with Acute Second Hand Embarrassment Syndrome (ASHES, in my opinion the worst kind of ashiness a Black person can get), so I really appreciated how the situation was handled. Plus, having only just started listening to West’s podcast The Read (which she records alongside Kid Fury) about a week ago, I felt particularly privileged to be able to hear her give a Read live and in public.

It is a nonnegotiable fact in  my life that white people in blackface constitutes a racist act.  Context, intent, the word ‘subversive’, and the names Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman do nothing to change my mind in that regard. Context and intent don’t change the fact that there comes a time in every Black parent’s life where, for instance, they have to do something like sit down and explain to their children why there are radically different pictures of Black celebrities such as this,why one image is better and more appropriate to imitate and aspire to, and why such a beautiful woman was forced to allow herself to be treated as such.

Josephine Baker

Hi.Lar.I.Ous. (Images of Josephine Baker)

I suppose things are funnier when you have the luxury of skipping conversations like that altogether.

Colour commentary aside, WNYC and The Greene Space hosted a great night for us and all in attendance for their continuing Micropolis series. Readers of The R can look forward to another livetweet from the space next week when we head back to cover a live recording of Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu’s podcast “Another Round,” which will also feature The Butter editor Roxane Gay.

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‘Hey Adam … Let’s Talk': The #NotYourHollywoodIndian Q&A

By Arturo R. García

Earlier this week we covered the burgeoning campaign against Adam Sandler, Netflix, and their Ridiculous 6 project.

During our coverage, we caught up to Megan Red-Shirt Shaw, who devised the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag in the wake of the mass walkout by a group of Native American performers, and talked about how the tag came together, how she feels about the defense of the film as “satire,” and where the campaign goes from here.

Let’s start at the beginning: describe, if you would, the moments when you first heard about the actors walking off the Sandler set. How did you go from there to getting the tag together?

Megan Red-Shirt Shaw: I was definitely upset, but also empowered by their decision to take a stand. It’s really difficult to hear that people within our communities are being dishonored – especially in ways that seem like “vintage” issues — the old Western and “Cowboys and Indians” films we’ve come to know really well. I went on Twitter to see what different voices were talking about and realized there wasn’t a hashtag consolidating the ideas. I looked through the original article by Vince Schilling and saw the quotation by Allie Young about being a “Hollywood Indian.” I knew that was what we had to get trending.
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Event + Podcast Spotlight: The Soul Glo Project

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By Emily Schorr Lesnick

Walk into a comedy club or watch a Comedy Central  special and you might drown in a sea of Whiteness; a sea of White maleness. With Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah hosting late night shows, the tide is turning, but those two shows stick out as anomalies because of the overwhelming presence of White faces. While there is certainly diversity within White men, there can also be a lot of similarity.

Six years ago, Keisha Zollar, a New York comedian and actor, set out to create other pools of comedy. She created The Soul Glo Project, a diversity variety show whose title is a nod to the jeri curl product in Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America. “Soul Glo was a show built on diversity that started in the East Village of New York,” says Zollar. “It was often a complaint of many performers who didn’t fit the strict, improv or sketch aesthetic that they wouldn’t get stage time.  The Soul Glo Project was born out of myself, Rob King and Horse Trade Theater wanting to make a more diverse performing community.”

Soul Glo is an inclusive comedy variety show, featuring diversity in the type of acts and the background of performers. “As an immigrant whose first culture is not American, I found some comedy shows and their themes to be alienating,” said NYC-based comedy performer and Soul Glo co-host, Anna Suzuki. “But when I joined the Soul Glo team as a producer, I was immediately embraced as a vital part of the mission; my voice mattered. It’s been a very gratifying experience.”

Soul Glo started in the East Village at Under St. Marks in 2009, moved to the Upright Citizens Brigade in 2011, and is now moving to Silvana in Harlem for a renaissance. “We hope to create an positive, low cost comedy experience to build a sense of community in Harlem,” shares Zollar.

Soul Glo prides itself on its range of performers, from folks getting on stage for the first time to more well-known performers, like Roc Nation’s Cipha Sounds, SNL’s Natasha Rothwell, Mulaney’s Seaton Smith and performers you don’t know (yet) who got on our stage and said “this is my first time doing stand up.” Audience member Johnnie Jackow reflected on the show: “Each performer shared his/her comedic talents that was not only incredibly funny but also so relatable. Its truly amazing to see how a packed house can roar with laughter from each performance. Yes the show highlights diversity in comedy but how our experiences cross color lines I think shows how more alike we are than different.”

The Soul Glo Project also launched a podcast as a forum for longer conversations about diversity and identity in comedy. The podcast, available on iTunes and Soundcloud, has featured comic Hari Kondabolu, Racialicious’ Kendra James, reality TV star Sabrina Vance, creator and actor Jen Bartels from TruTV’s Friends of the People, and The Experiment Comedy’s Mo Fathelbab.

The Soul Glo Project has a free live show coming up on Monday, April 20 at 7PM at Silvana in Harlem, NY. The show, celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, will feature stand-up comic Sheng Wang, spoken word artist Kelly Tsai, J-pop group Azn Pop and have improv led by Catherine Wing and Nicole Lee.

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An Empty Panel: On The Nightly Show’s Diversity In Comics Discussion

By Arturo R. García

You would think that a discussion of comics and diversity on The Nightly Show would be a home run.

You would be wrong.
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#WeAreAllNatives Parody Ad Skewers Cultural Appropriation

Comedy troupe Stupid Time Machine just released a great parody ad in time for Thanksgiving. In their words:

A Thanksgiving ad for Urban Outfiter’s new We Are All Natives collection – “Indian wear for the rest of us.” Filmed on spec by sketch comedy group Stupid Time Machine, the parody urges Urban – already famous for their controversial Kent State Massacre and The Holocaust Themed Apparel – to tap into something hipsters can’t get enough of: white people in headdresses.

(Thanks to CJ for the tip!)

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Funny Business: The Racialicious Review of Cantinflas

By Arturo R. García

It was perhaps inevitable that Sebastian del Amo’s Cantinflas would fit Charlie Chaplin into the proceedings. Much like Richard Attenborough before him, del Amo finds himself needing to make room for not just a performer, but a singular persona.

And there are moments when it feels like a more introspective film wants to burst through amid the usual hagiography. But a few choices do make this take on Mario Moreno and his life’s work more interesting than the trailer would have you believe.

SPOILERS under the cut
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Cheap Rent and Racism: The Lie Guys Social Experiment

Competitive rental markets mean that tenants can put up with some seriously strange requests from landlords and potential roommates in order to score a decent place. No cooking, no dogs, no shoes in the house are all standard requests – but what would happen if the stated policy was “no black people?”

The Lie Guys set up a ad for a room on Craigslist, then Skype recorded the responses.

Transcript and follow up bellow the jump. Continue reading

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Exploring the Problematic and Subversive ‘Sh*t People Say’ [The Throwback]

Since we took a look at Jenny Yang’s “If Asians Said The Stuff White People Say” yesterday, let’s revisit January 2012, when Latoya examined a similar vein of internet-based comedy that took on stereotypes from various communities.

By Latoya Peterson

So all this started with “Shit Girls Say,” which now has over 11 million views:

Created by Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey (and boosted by the star power of Juliette Lewis), “Shit Girls Say” went viral by taking a male perspective on common things “women” do and presenting it as humor. Internet forums filled with comments like “Omigod, all my friends do that” or “that is so me.” The sketch proved to be so popular, there are now three episodes, probably with more in the pipeline.

However, everyone wasn’t laughing at “Shit Girls Say.” Quite a few people noticed that the “girls” referred to in the top video were a certain type of woman, an experience that was not shared by all. Others noted that the humor that made the video funny was actually rooted in sexist stereotypes. Over at Feministing, Samhita explains:

While, I usually applaud men in drag, I can’t help but be critical of these characterizations of women. Are some of these stereotypes uncannily true? I’m sure they can be. But that’s the problem with stereotypes, it’s not about whether they are true or not, it’s that they are used to disempower people or deny them certain privileges. And I get that it is comedy, but it’s like the most boring and lazy comedy possible. You know, let’s make fun of girls cuz we already know everyone thinks they are dumb and annoying tee hee. These videos might as well be beer ads.

And Lynn Crosbie, writing for the Globe and Mail, notes:

Girls, or young women, who already speak largely in the interrogative and treat the world of men as another, completely inscrutable species, have enough on their minds already. They are already sexualized to the maximum. Must their every word be a potential joke?

Girls speak casually about inane things. Girls speak, too, about sexual violence and quantum physics. They talk about fear and art, children, murder and opera; philosophy, blood, sex and mathematics.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing is also some stuff a girl said.

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