February 20, 2012

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs" — the Maya Angelou prank show.



I dvr "Saturday Night Live," but I rarely watch any of it. But we got sucked into this week's show, with Maya Rudolph hosting, and that Maya Angelou imitation cracked me up.

The second link goes to the whole show, which includes Rudolph playing Michelle Obama in a "Cosby Show" spoof in which Fred Amisen has to play a merged Barack/Cosby character. Rudolph also plays Beyonce (with her new baby) in a scene that I didn't watch but heard Meade laughing at, and there was a very noisy segment called "What's Up With That?" about an incredibly irritating TV show. The real Bill O'Reilly appeared as himself in that sketch, and Meade seemed to find it hilarious, as I — 10 feet away from the TV — was trying to get through some work that I'd been putting off all weekend.

What made the show so funny? Has "SNL" gotten good again for some reason? Is Maya Rudolph a genius? Was it race? I see Ace of Spades is saying:
SNL Does Oddly Racial Episode for Black History Month

One sketch knocks the hypocrisy of sportscasters for making jokes about Jeremy Lin's race while getting all pissy about similar jokes aimed at blacks, and another sketch asks what it would take for Obama to lose the black vote.

Plus goofing on Maya Angelou.

Regarding that first sketch: I agree on the hypocrisy but I think the solution here is for everyone to lighten up, not for everyone to submit further to PC.

Saturday Night Live knows well that racial jokes are funny -- since they use them themselves a lot. Oh, they don't do it in a mean way, and they often (as here) have some kind of defensible thesis they can point to, but still. If you're using them, you're not really against them.
Isn't this the problem that drove Dave Chapelle crazy? I know Ace is trying to turn the tables on liberals. I think part of what's going on is that if there's a subject that you're not supposed to laugh about, when someone steps up and cracks jokes about it, it's especially funny. And part of why it worked is, I think, that there were some really great black actors playing, not racial stereotypes, but specific black individuals: Beyonce, Prince, Maya Angelou, Cornel West, Morgan Freeman, Michelle Obama. Specificity, not stereotypes.

Meanwhile, and speaking of Jeremy Lin, here's the NYT not-so-subtly accusing the American people of racism for getting so excited this year about Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow, when we haven't gotten comparably excited about a black athlete.

43 comments:

Robert Cook said...

Yes, Maya Rudolph is (and always has been) a genius!

Roger Sweeny said...

If Tim Tebow had been a black athlete, they could have run a story on how many people dislike him and think he'll never be a decent NFL quarterback. People's response to him is--how to put this?--mixed.

Fen said...

NYTsThe root of the question was that Tebow and Lin have received attention from the sports news media that seemed out of proportion to the time and duration of their successes

I think its pushback. Although inadvertant. People are tired of the PCBS homage to Black History Month. Tired of the diefication of Obama for merely being "clean and articulate".

How can we get excited about a "break-out" black athlete when we expect he'll be foisted upon us anyway, along with some lecture about our inherent racism? Its asking a bit much.

MadisonMan said...

Wm. C. Rhoden is probably just pissed that he can't sell books of his columns like white columnists can.

Gahrie said...

when we haven't gotten comparably excited about a black athlete.

Because as we know there is a real shortage of famous, idolized, newly-minted millionaire Black athletes in this country.....

Jay said...

From the NYT:
an important question for the 21st century. As we in the United States continue to dance around issues of ethnicity, using diversity as a diversion, we will continue to struggle with the pick-and-roll of race.


Well, I'm still waiting for this conversation on race that is supposed to be led by the Obama Administration. Where is it? I have a lot to say...

Sorun said...

In honor of black history month, let's go gaga over a black athlete. Umm..hmm..umm.... Any suggestions?

Pogo said...

Whitney Houston's BHM celebration went a bit too far, I think.

MayBee said...

The ESPN and Maya Angelou skits were hilarious. So was the talk show about voting again for Obama.

But the Angelou skit I could watch again and again.

Edgehopper said...

"we haven't gotten comparably excited about a black athlete."

Not this year--an athlete has to, you know, win more than one would expect to make people excited. Like LeBron James, Tiger Woods, or Michael Jordan.

Even then, it wasn't primarily about race in Tebow's case, it was about religion (no one got comparably excited about the other excellent white QBs heading championship bound teams--Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger, Eli Manning). Lin got people excited because he was unusual, a smallish Asian-American playing excellent basketball. The most comparable black athletes are the ones who won in sports where blacks don't usually play and win, like Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters in tennis. And they generated comparable interest for their sports.

MayBee said...

I think one reason SNL is better this year is they are relying less on Kristen Wiig. She can be very funny, but she can be too much, letting her annoying joke go on too long.

Rialby said...

"We are a nation of cowards on race" until white people talk about race. Then we're just racists.

Amexpat said...

here's the NYT not-so-subtly accusing the American people of racism for getting so excited this year about Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow, when we haven't gotten comparably excited about a black athlete.

I didn't read the NYT piece as I'm close to my allotted 20 articles and didn't want to waste it on this. But I think that novelty rather than racism is the driving factor in Linsanity. Not only are there not many Asian players in the NBA, he's a Harvard nerd as well.

I think the same forces worked in Obama's favor in 2008. If Obama was white and had a "typical" family background, there would not have been a lot of excitement about his candidacy.

Tank said...

Sorun said...
In honor of black history month, let's go gaga over a black athlete. Umm..hmm..umm.... Any suggestions?


Victor Cruz

More successful than expected.

Religious.

"Clean and articulate" - Hat tip to Joe Biden.

New Jersey.

Black.

Rialby said...

The NY Times is right. America has never gotten behind a black athlete like they've gotten behind Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin. Never.

Heck, are there even any athletes who are black?

Will Cate said...

It was one of the best SNL's I've seen in years.

Rialby said...

"But I think that novelty rather than racism is the driving factor in Linsanity. Not only are there not many Asian players in the NBA, he's a Harvard nerd as well."

Oh yeah, and the fact that he plays in NYC, the media capital of the world, where if someone sneezes loudly in a sports venue it's international news. And the Knicks have sucked forever.

MadisonMan said...

I am so sure Lorne Michaels is thrilled he got a lot of old people to laugh.

The Drill SGT said...

Gahrie said...
Because as we know there is a real shortage of famous, idolized, newly-minted millionaire Black athletes in this country.....


There is only so many 15 minutes of fame to be apportioned. With 1000 black millionaire athletes in the NBA/NFL alone, the allocation is about 1 second each. The Only Chinese American in either gets a full 15 minutes.

PS: I expect that if there was a 15 y/o black girl trying to make the last spot on the next olympic figure skating team, she'd get a full 15.

PPS: I seem to recall the Jamiacan bobsled team got 15 a few years ago.

Rialby said...

One more comment on the accusation from the NY Times on our shameful racism.

The Left hates the fact that Americans have been getting behind Tebow and Lin because both are squeaky clean and Christian.

Fans tend to be naturally drawn to athletes they can admire for both their athletic prowess and personal reputations. When someone comes along who is both good at what they do and can be respected off the field, that's a good thing. The Left doesn't agree.

t-man said...

There was a media frenzy over Michael Vick.

Peter said...

On the other hand, if an Asian kid gets a perfect score on the SAT's, no one will care. Linsanity really comes down to excelling in a field of endeavor where people like you seldom succeed.

The Drill SGT said...

PPPS any Black History Post deserves
a Morgan Freeman - Mike Wallace Youtube clip...

William said...

While black athletes are not always as celebrated as comparable whites, they do have a much greater ability to survive scandal. Ray Lewis walked away from two dead bodies. No white athlete could continue playing after such an incident, much less stay out of jail. Jayson Williams shot his white servant while horsing around with a shotgun. He was convicted of manslaughter. Reverse the races, and it would be first degree murder. Michael Vick is simply not a likeable person. He's an exceptional athlete, but there is nothing worthy about this puppy torturer. All of these guys have been treated with exceptional leniency by the press.

edutcher said...

One odd thing about black history is that entertainers and athletes get the same standing as people of real achievement; i.e., Elisha McCoy, Frederick Douglass, etc.

After all, the first black entertainer of note was Scott Joplin, you'd think they'd want to go with other things, but the Lefties run all that and that would encourage black kids toward "acting white".

Like somebody we all know.

Rusty said...

William said...


The soft bigotry of lowered expectations.

cassandra lite said...

Where have you gone, Michael Jordan, William Rhoden turns his bitter eyes to you.

bagoh20 said...

Until recently, I thought Tebow was black. I don't follow sports much, but of course heard about him often in the press, but never saw him. I just assumed he was black for some reason.

David said...

Of course we are racists. No one ever got excited over Michael Jordan, Rafer Johnson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Jessee Owens, OJ Simpson, Bill Russell, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Ray Lewis, Arthur Ashe, Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Oscar Robertson and Pete Maravich.

Give me a f-ing break.

As to Maya Angelou, someday read "Now I Know Why The Caged Bird Can't Read" by Francine Prose.

Kirk Parker said...

They had Cornel West playing himself, right?

traditionalguy said...

The NYT article twisted itself into incomprehensible propaganda pretzels.

Tebow and Lin were the QB and the Point Guard that turned teams around. Cruz was one more of several receivers that the team's star QB Manning throws to.

But it MUST be double secret racism against Black NFL players, which is so bad that it is never seen.

cassandra lite said...

David said: "...Peter Maravich."

Peter Maravich? Uh, one of these things is not like the other.

bgates said...

The root of the question was that ___ received attention from the ___ news media that seemed out of proportion to the time and duration of their successes

Jeremy Lin has played about a week in the NBA. He went to Harvard.

Tim Tebow has been an NFL starter for most of a year. He spent a lot of his childhood in the Philippines.

Yeah, if there's anything the NYT hates more than a guy who becomes a celebrity based on a tiny amount of work experience and a Harvard degree, it's a guy who becomes a celebrity based on a tiny amount of work experience and formative years spent in an eastern Pacific archipelago.

bgates said...

Or western Pacific, for that matter.

Nathan Alexander said...

Honestly, Linsanity isn't about his Asian heritage.

It's just a great story, regardless of race:
Ignored, cut, only got a chance to play at all because of injured and missing stars.

Then he scores Franchise Player levels of points, leading to an improbable string of wins.

The reaction would be exactly the same if Lin were white or black or green.

Only about 10 people in the history of the NBA have started off their career with that kind of scoring in their first series of starts.

He may not keep the pace. But yeah: he's set an All-Time Great pace.

How many All-Time Greats are there?

Kobe got more hype, but produced less in his first 10 games.
Garnett got more hype, but produced less in his first 10 games.
LeBron got mroe hype, but produced less in his first 10 games.

So: do we have to have affirmative action for blacks in our sports fandom, too? Really?

Mark Nielsen said...

Hey, in the world of professional athletics, Lin and Tebow *are* the diversity.

Steve Austin said...

SNL was tremendous the other night. The racial part could be completely pulled off because Maya Rudolph is the product of a interracial marriage. She can skewer either side and is an excellent comedian.

The other thing to remember is that this show had Justin Timberlake in a couple sketches. He is really good in cameos.

Plus white Madison folk singer crew got skewered badly as well with the appearance of Bon Iver in the Beyonce sketch. If you can watch one skit from the other night, that would be my choice.

Lyle said...

The truth is that Tebow and Lin have unique stories.

Tebow was a college phenomenon who will his team to victory. Then he gets in the NFL with everyone knowing he isn't cut out to play QB in the NFL. He's not good enough. Yet, the Broncos start him and they make it into the playoffs.

Lin is a nobody from nowhere, who puff, is dominating in New York City.

Cruz, Vick, and Cam Newton aren't on the same level. Plus, Vick and Newton have some negative stuff dragging them down. They're simply less angelic. Newton also threw too many interceptions... but he is a special player and will have day in the sun in the future probably.

lawyapalooza said...

No white athletes get a pass for horrible behavior? How about Ben Roethlisburger? Mark Chmura. Mark McGuire. On the flip side, Plaxico Buress goes to prison for 2 years for the crime of accidentally shooting himself (note that in WI, a safety coordinator for the DOJ just did the same thing and everyone laughed about it, no charges filed).

SNL was great, as it always is when thye bring back Maya Rudolph, AMy Poehler, or Tina Fey.

Bob Ellison said...

Proof that time travel is possible: Diane Rehm interviewing Maya Angelou.

furious_a said...

... when we haven't gotten comparably excited about a black athlete.

Like when moviegoers turned out in droves to see Michael Oher's story in "The Blindside"?

furious_a said...

Tim Tebow (and the Broncos' defense -- read some of the more competent sports coverage about Tim
Tebow's field mgmt skills and how until the New England game he ensure that his defense didn't face short fileld) turned around a failing season and led the Bronco's to the playoffs. The public displays of piety, as much as his race, drew add'l attention.

Jeremy Lin is rescucitating (sp?)an
at-best mediocre Knicks franchise in the media capital of America. Of course he is going to receive disproportionate coverage.

These two remarkable young men are mirrors as much as they are windows.

Given the rise and fall of their own Jayson Blair, the NYT has some nerve questioning out-of-proportion coverage of athletes w/as-yet-short careers.

Marshal said...

"when we haven't gotten comparably excited about a black athlete."

Yeah, if only that Tiger Woods guy got some of this Lin pub.