Thursday, August 19, 2010

Racism Masquerading as Comedy at David Hasselhoff's Roast

Comedy is used as a cover from many atrocious isms.  Want to say something sexist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, or racist?  Just call it a joke and watch how quickly this supposedly tolerant society goes silent.  When marginalized people complain that such language is anything but amusing, we are told that we are hyper sensitive. We simply need to learn to take a joke -- never mind that the attitudes being expressed are the reason that we remain second class citizens. Offensive comedy is about the right of a dominant body to ridicule a marginalized one.  Never are we to consider the social imbalance in this situation, because this is all about making people laugh, however; laughter is not a salve for everything.  In this case, laughter is dangerous because it is a sign that we have learned to view the oppressed person as less than.  The moment we begin to challenge someone's equality, we have stopped recognizing and acknowledging our shared humanity.

Comedy Central recently hosted a roast for David Hasselhoff of "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch" fame. (Of course you know I had to use an image him sucking in his gut) Being a fan of celebrity roasts (or in the case of Hasselhoff -D celebrity) the unhusband sat down to watch this.  Never have I been more thankful for the invention of headphones.   At any rate, it did not take long for so-called off colour humor to turn racist.  Here are a few examples:

Comedian Greg Geraldo: “Yουr liver іѕ ѕο shriveled, black аnd dead if you put your ear tο your side you саn hear it going: ‘Whаt you talkin’ about Willis?’”
Gilbert Gottfried: “Whеrе аrе all thе black guys that you [Lisa Lampenelli]claim tο bе having sex with? Dο you really think іn thіѕ day аnd age thеrе′s a single black guy whο′d bе caught dead inside anyone whο′s thе size of a slave ship?”
Lisa Lampanelli: I don’t want tο say David drank a lot, bυt hіѕ liver wаѕ ѕο black аnd bloated it could hаνе starred іn ‘Precious.’”

Whitney Cummings:
”Pam, уου’ve slept with Bret Michaels, Tommy Lee аnd Kid Rock. Why don’t you save yourself some time аnd drink a vat of Magic Johnson’s blood?”
Whitney Cummings (On Lisa Lampanelli’s Body): “They say womens’ bodies are like a wonderland — yours is more like a football field because it’s 100 yards and a lot of black dudes have sprained their ankle on it.”
Did you find it funny ha ha?   Here we have an event specifically designed to poke fun at David Hasselhoff and yet somehow the target of derision is Black people. Of course they did acknowledge between laughter and guffaws that they were being politically incorrect, but that did not stop them from continuing to joke in this manner. It seems as though these comedians felt that as long as they admitted that what they said was crossing the line, that it was acceptable to go on.  It is after all comedy isn't it.

Comedians like Red Foxx, Richard Pryor, Bernie Mack, Paul Mooney, Chris Rock have all pushed the envelope in terms of race.  Some have even gone as far as to use the word nigger in their act. There is a large difference between the jokes that men like Mooney make and these White comedians using Blackness as an insult.  Just because Black comedians joke about the Blacks and the Black community, does not give White comedians the right to take the same or similar tone and claim that is is all comedy and in good fun. You cannot erase race, it is omnipresent.  Comedy used like this is nothing more than an excuse for people to engage in racist behaviour.