March 28, 2014

Advanced comedy problem: make fun of one racially insensitive thing by saying something else that is racially insensitive.

Good luck! This is virtually impossible, unless you don't mind if a lot of the racially sensitive people get mad at you. You're promoting racial sensitivity — you've made that your issue — so how can you pull off your imitation insensitivity sensitively?

Stephen Colbert is a comedy professional, and he got in trouble and had to distance himself from a Twitter feed that goes out under his name but is really PR from the network Comedy Central.

All the PR hack was doing was quoting something Colbert — in his right-wing jackass character — said on his show:
"I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever."
That's hilarious in the context of the announcement, by Daniel Snyder, owner of a football team with a name that many people find offensive, that he's creating the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

Comedy is hard. I guess Colbert did well enough on the show itself, but taking the biggest laugh line and isolating it in a tweet exposed him. Most people who read that Twitter feed probably get it, so it works to drive traffic to the show's website, where you can watch the clip. But it's also easy pickings for those who have their own agenda.

Often it's your enemies who take your statements out of context, but with Twitter, you do it to yourself.

Or your network — getting followers for its promos by looking like you — does it to you.

The network really only wants the numbers, and if racists and racially insensitive assholes get a kick out of your insensitive asshole character, does Comedy Central care?

70 comments:

paul a'barge said...

Colbert voted for Barack Obama.

So did Althouse.

David said...

Comedy works best when it is funny.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Slightly off topic but I've always wondered about this.

Affirmative action for university seriously discrimiantes against Asians. Why is that not illegal race discrimination? If blacks had to have a higher SAT, etc than whites that would be wrong. Why is it OK to discriminate against Asians?

Why don't the Asian interest groups sue? If the Asian grievance community is too closely aligned with the Democrats why doesn't a "tiger mom" sue?

What am I missing here?

SteveR said...

Context is hard. Comedy is supposed to be funny, not a way to score points. Twitter is a good way to make yourself look foolish, especially when you let somebody else do the talking.

Sarah Palin can see Russia from her back yard, so she says.

rhhardin said...

Not caring what Chinamen think is equal opportunity with not caring what Blacks think today.

The offended meme has run its course with audience ratings.

Its opposite might do better.

Monkeyboy said...

We were constantly told that context doesn't matter, the victim has the right to determine what is racist and what is not, and that saying "lighten up it's just a joke" is an example of white male priveledge.

Until it's someone that they like who says it.....
Fen's Law strikes again.

El Camino Real said...

Bang Ding Ow.

halojones-fan said...

Well, you can be as racially insensitive as you want, just as long as the race you're insensitive to is white people.

Nonapod said...

Probably Twitter's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness: 140 characters. On the one hand, keeping things concise cuts through nonsense and keeps bloviation and pedantry to a minimum. On the other hand, there is often no room for context.

William said...

If Chinese gangsters chose nicknames like "Shrimp Boy" over monikers like "Fat Tony"', then no one will ever take them seriously.

Ann Althouse said...

"Colbert voted for Barack Obama. So did Althouse."

I voted for him before I voted against him.

jacksonjay said...

Well, you can be as racially insensitive as you want, just as long as the race you're insensitive to is white people.

Nick Cannon and the Wayans

Nonapod said...

I've always found Colbert's caricature of a right-wing blowhard TV host funny but somewhat infuriating at the same time. No doubt Bill O'Reilly is a very make-fun-able kind of guy, but there's no need to be so biased and 1 dimensional. I mean, holy crap, have a look at any of the ridiculous MSNBC hosts. That's place is a veritable clown college.

Fen said...

Noonan nails Colbert down as just another dope-smoking snarky nihilist Pajama Boy.

"Once about 10 years ago there was a story--you might have read it in your local tabloid, or a supermarket tabloid like the National Enquirer--about an American man and woman who were on their honeymoon in Australia or New Zealand. They were swimming in the ocean, the water chest-high. From nowhere came a shark. The shark went straight for the woman, opened its jaws.

Do you know what the man did? He punched the shark in the head. He punched it and punched it again. He did not do brilliant commentary on the shark, he did not share his sensitive feelings about the shark, he did not make wry observations about the shark, he punched the shark in the head"

"...less-good men become the kind of men who are spoofed on "The Man Show"--babe-watching, dope-smoking nihilists.Nihilism is not manly, it is the last refuge of sissies."


Less Woody Allen, more John Wayne.

And fuck you Colbert, frickin metrosexual pussy. Go spoon with Pajama Boy

Big Mike said...

@Bill, I've often wondered about that myself. According to an article written by Thomas Sowell, as governor of California Ronald Reagan was advised that if admissions to the University of California system were based on individual performance alone (i.e., without quotas) then the student body of Berkeley might be entirely composed of Asian-Americans. "What's wrong with that?" was Reagan's reply.

And I agree. There's no point in building up a strong faculty and then sending in students that aren't prepared to take advantage of those resources.

Ann Althouse said...

"We were constantly told that context doesn't matter, the victim has the right to determine what is racist and what is not, and that saying "lighten up it's just a joke" is an example of white male privilege."

Be careful with that expression "lighten up."

NotquiteunBuckley said...

If the way to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating, then Colbert is a filthy stinkin' racist who should be sued to near-suicide.

Amexpat said...

Well, you can be as racially insensitive as you want, just as long as the race you're insensitive to is white people.

Despite the faux outrage that some of the commenters have here, it's hard to be really offensive to white people. Is there a racial slur that you could sling at a white person that would really sting? The worst thing I can think of is "white trash", but that is based more on class than race.

Ann Althouse said...

"No doubt Bill O'Reilly is a very make-fun-able kind of guy, but there's no need to be so biased and 1 dimensional. I mean, holy crap, have a look at any of the ridiculous MSNBC hosts. That's place is a veritable clown college."

So… let someone else make fun of the liberal fool.

Where is that show?

I think it's been tried and not done well. It should be easy.

Predictable stock response that I'll make so you won't have to: Those people are already so ridiculous that it's unnecessary to exaggerate or imitate them. There's nothing more to do. It's beyond parody.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Fact: Asian-American college students had a higher rate of suicidal thoughts than White college students but there is no national data about their rate of suicide deaths.

Hagar said...

Jon Stewart is on target and funny at least part of the time.
Colbert is just nasty trying to be funny.

Monkeyboy said...

Despite the faux outrage that some of the commenters have here, it's hard to be really offensive to white people.

How about calling me a racist? Thats hurtful, or dismissing my opinions because you assume my life as some sort of float from one unearned priveledge to another?

Lyssa said...

mean, holy crap, have a look at any of the ridiculous MSNBC hosts. That's place is a veritable clown college.

The problem is, not enough people are familiar with them enough to get the joke. The O'Reilly parody works because it's recognizable and everyone knows his style.

Fen said...

Amexpat: Despite the faux outrage... Is there a racial slur that

Yah you lost me at "faux outrage", little Pajama Boy.

Amexpat said...

How about calling me a racist?

That's not specific to whites.

Fen said...

Ann: let someone else make fun of the liberal fool.

The point was that its not comedy, its liberal propaganda masquerading as comedy. Else, it wouldn't be noteworthy when Colbert or Stewart mocks the Left.

Monkeyboy said...

Automatically assuming I'm a racist is pretty much specific to whites, as is assuming I come from "priveledge" as is assuming my outrage is "faux"

Gahrie said...

Where is that show?

In the circular file of every TV producer in Hollywood and New York.

The closest thing out there is Redeye on Fox, but it plays at midnight.

EMD said...

Not caring what Chinamen think is equal opportunity with not caring what Blacks think today.

Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature - Asian-American, please.

Gahrie said...

Why don't the Asian interest groups sue? If the Asian grievance community is too closely aligned with the Democrats why doesn't a "tiger mom" sue?

That day may come. Out here in California the Democrats totally control the state. They recently tried to use this advantage to re-institute formal Affirmative Action policies that the people killed with Prop 209. The effort failed because three Democrats who happened to be Asians refused to vote for it.

Ann Althouse said...

"The point was that its not comedy, its liberal propaganda masquerading as comedy. Else, it wouldn't be noteworthy when Colbert or Stewart mocks the Left."

Why wouldn't a comedian have a political point of view?

Why is it "masquerading" as comedy? Comedians have opinion, so I don't get your point at all.

I'm saying if you don't like where they are going with their comedy, you should look for other comedians, not demand that they achieve political balance.

That's a weird demand!

Scott M said...

Would this be meta-comedy?

Amexpat said...

... assuming my outrage is "faux"

I said "some" of the commenters, not "all" or even "most". Why would you assume that I would assume that you were part of the "some"?

I hadn't noticed you here before, so I had no basis for assuming anything about you. I do respect that you responded directly to my comment - so my first impression is that you are serious.

Zeb Quinn said...

Maybe the root of the problem is with the "sensitiviy" levels.

Scott M said...

I think it's been tried and not done well. It should be easy.

This is not a very erudite assumption. Doing a comedy show that's on daily is one of the hardest things in entertainment to pull off competently, let alone knocking-it-out-of-the-park good.

It all comes down the staff. If you don't have a good staff of writers (meaning, not only funny people, but a group of funny people that feed on each other's concepts/statements), you're dead in the water, no matter how many greenlights you get from the suites.

Yes, it's been done and it's not been done well yet. Why is that? Don't know. The writing staff was most likely unable to hit a groove and stay in it.

"It should be easy."

I give you a lot of props for many things, AA. This isn't on that list.

CWJ said...

"Context is hard. Comedy is supposed to be funny, not a way to score points. Twitter is a good way to make yourself look foolish, ..."

Twitter is the perfect example of the medium being the message. If context is important to your communication, then Twitter is not the right medium for your message.

CWJ said...

Amexpat,

Offensive language to whites tends to be ethnically rather than racially based. If you don't think so, then just call my wife a Polack and let me know how that worked out for you.

Also, I think your dismissal of Monkeyboy's comment was a bit pedantic. As a practical matter, racism as an American evil is pretty much deployed exclusively against whites.

Astro said...

'PR Hack'?
Who said anything about Puerto Ricans?

Scott M said...

"Context is hard. Comedy is supposed to be funny, not a way to score points.

Decades of "yo mama" jokes say otherwise.

Monkeyboy said...

I said "some" of the commenters, not "all" or even "most". Why would you assume that I would assume that you were part of the "some"?

Noted, consider it a general comment then, as I don't assume you think I'm a racist.

However faux outrage and being told to "be a man" is a common response to complaints about desrimination from those designated priveledged. That ties in to my original point that just because there are not specific hateful words being directed at white poeple, mens that there is no bigotry directed at them.

Nonapod said...

personally I'm not looking for political satire from a conservative standpoint, my guess is that that sort of thing would as lame and 1 dimensional as Stewart and Colbert are. I'm just looking for more balanced satire.

I think it is at least within the realms of possibility that more balanced and genuinely funny political satire could one day happen and it could be very popular. There is actually a small collection of at least slightly right of center comedians, commentators, and entertainers out there. You've got guys like Adam Carolla, Nick Depalo, Colin Quinn, Dennis Miller, Greg Gutfeld, Penn Jillete... YMMV on how genuinely funny you find each of these people but they are at least critical of the liberal media complex.



Neo said...

One the other side of history, who said ...

"Well, we’ve progressed as a society, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right?"

Sigivald said...

Should anyone care at all?

Shouldn't we treat the people who are upset about this exactly how they deserve - by ignoring and indeed ridiculing them?

(I don't even particularly like Colbert, because his schtick contains too many cheap shots that play to his base [which is a shame, because he's a good comedian for all that].

But this? Getting upset over this?

Idiots.)

furious_a said...

It's context, all the way down.

Scott M said...

You've got guys like Adam Carolla, Nick Depalo, Colin Quinn, Dennis Miller, Greg Gutfeld, Penn Jillete... YMMV on how genuinely funny you find each of these people but they are at least critical of the liberal media complex.

Everyone always forgets Carlos Mencia. Listen to his stand-up. It's about as common sense conservative as it is anti-PC.

jacksonjay said...

Ask Raffi Williams about being dismissed as "white" and therefore dismissable. "Shoulda blowed up that Twitter first!"

The Crack Emcee said...

Neo,

“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American. That argument doesn’t make any sense to me."

Like whites who "don't think" about race, Kobe's about to get some "sense" put into him - Oh, he already did. From Twitter:

"“Travon (sic) Martin was wronged THATS my opinion and thats what I believe the FACTS showed. The system did not work #myopinion #tweetURthoughts."

Now, if we can only get whites to "think"….

The Crack Emcee said...

Scott M,

"Everyone always forgets Carlos Mencia. Listen to his stand-up. It's about as common sense conservative as it is anti-PC."

If, by "common sense conservative," you mean "notorious for stealing from others" then, yeah, he's an excellent example of conservative values- which, like conservative "colorblind" racism, just isn't funny.

Amexpat said...

Offensive language to whites tends to be ethnically rather than racially based. If you don't think so, then just call my wife a Polack and let me know how that worked out for you.

True, ethnic slurs can really sting amongst some "white" ethnic groups. So much so that that no pro team would consider using "Polack", "Wop", "Yid", etc as a team name.

"Redskin", is at least just as offensive as those ethnic slurs. So, I do think Native Americans have a point protesting the name, even though there may very well be some faux outrage amongst some of the protestors.

Scott M said...

which, like conservative "colorblind" racism, just isn't funny.

Thanks for the valued opinion, Cripus.

DrSquid said...

@ AmexPat: once in boot camp some black dude called me a "pink motherfucker". What do you think, nasty enough?

autothreads said...

Mell Brooks and Richard Pryor knew how to do it.

Excuse me while I whip this out.

Drago said...

crack: "Like whites who "don't think" about race, Kobe's about to get some "sense" put into him .."

massa don' like nobody wanderin' too fur from the plantation....

Drago said...

crack: "If, by "common sense conservative," you mean "notorious for stealing from others" then..."

LOL

Why oh why couldn't Carlos be more like those "thinking blacks"?

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/03/17/movies/art-buchwald-awarded-150000-in-suit-over-film.html

Apparently cracks biggest hurdle to success is in figuring out a way to steal someone's potentially "successful" schtick.

Instead, he's left with your run of the mill race hustler scraps.

halojones-fan said...

"it's hard to be really offensive to white people"

Right, because stuffwhitepeoplelike.com isn't a JOKE, white people really ARE like that, right? It's not RACIST if it's ACTUALLY TRUE, right?

"The worst thing I can think of is "white trash", but that is based more on class than race."

But if I say "hey you black guy, where's your do-rag, do you like rap music," people don't say "oh those are class-based insults". They say "fuck you you fucking racist".

The issue is not, actually, that white people are particularly harmed or attacked by race-based stereotypical humor. The issue is that we're told that all racism is always inherently bad and should never be allowed...but then we see that racism is, somehow, ok when it's white people you're making racist generalizations about.

CWJ said...

"Redskin", is at least just as offensive as those ethnic slurs."

Amexpat,

I would not be so sure. In fact I really question your use of the qualifier "at least." That seems to me to be a stretch.

I see you keep moving the goalposts somewhat, but that's OK. You ought to factor in intent. None of the ethnic slurs you mentioned have ever been used positively. Indeed, no fans or owner would ever "nickname" their team negatively. The counter example of the Fighting Irish is perhaps overused, but nonetheless apt. The intent (for both teams) is we're tough, we will win, don't mess with us.

Granted, it was a different time when the "Redskins" acquired their nickname. But 50 years from now it will be a different, different time.

Gahrie said...

Trayvon Martin was a thug who fucked with the wrong guy, and got what he deserved.

If Zimmerman had been Black, no one would have ever heard of St. Trayvon.

Gahrie said...

"Redskin", is at least just as offensive as those ethnic slurs. So, I do think Native Americans have a point protesting the name, even though there may very well be some faux outrage amongst some of the protestors.

Call me when you have forced Notre Dame to change the name of their mascot.

Amexpat said...

@CWJ,

I agree that intent is a factor, but the reaction of an ethnic group to how an outside organization depicts them is even more important.

The intent with "Fighting Irish" and "Celtics" is positive and I would think that no reasonable person of Irish descent would have a problem with those names. Also, a good chunk of both teams fan base are of Irish descent, so those names come across more as a recognition and celebration of this rather than an appropriation of a another's group's identity.

I agree that "Redskins" was not chosen with bad intent and had to do with the toughness or ferocity associated with Native Americans of years past.

However, it is reasonable for Native Americans to take offense at using "Redskin" for a team name (would you ever refer to a Native American this way?). An initial lack of bad intent shouldn't allow an organization to continue using a name that is an ethnic slur.

Unknown said...

I think it is fascinating and a real change in perspective to learn that when the 'Redskins' team name was adopted the coach and 4 members of the team were indeed Native Americans.

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/10/08/how-many-native-americans-think-redskins-is-a-slur/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Redskins_name_controversy

I am pleased that Asian Americans are standing up to this comedian for his racism. For once I agree with Crack Emcee. There is just too much racism to be found among lefty comedians. - see Michael Richards

Jim S. said...

Reminds me of John Mulaney's routine about the "worse word": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC2vOLaTBLE

CWJ said...

Amexpat,

Fair enough as far as you go. But once again, you move the goal posts. Who mentioned the Celtics? And who has suggested that "Celtics" is anything other than positive? So I think you have a point that the Celtics represent the local fan base. But so what. It's not as clear at least to me that the same argument holds as strongly for the Fighting Irish. So I suspect your reason for bringing in the Celtics was to support an otherwise weaker argument with a superficial equivalence.

As far as the remainder of your comment goes, it is just way too coy.

"Redskins was not chosen with bad intent" No! It was chosen with positive intent!

"An initial lack of bad intent..." Again no! It was positive intent. Why are you saying such things. Do you not see the difference?

Look, I have no brief for the Redskins, and people are free to take offence, but I'd take their complaints more seriously if they acknowledged the positive good will of the initial namers. I've not seen much evidence of that. Instead, I've seen anachronistic outrage.

Now if anachronistic outrage can be equated with faux outrage, we've finally moved the goal posts back to your original comment. Cheers.

EMD said...

This now comes to mind.

William said...

I recently saw a Craig Ferguson bit where he made fun of the Germans and didn't mention Hitler. So it can be done.

Unknown said...

Lol, these guys want to play the over-sensitive PC game but they're shocked (Shocked!) when it bites them in the ass. Recently feminists have been finding out just how painful it can be when they inadvertently step into crosshairs.

In a similar vein, I always laugh at professors and college students who call for some communist people's revolution. "Dude, you do realize you'll be one of the first ones up against the wall?" It never occurs to them.

dhagood said...

@althouse:

I voted for him (obama) before I voted against him.

and thus does althouse win the internetz for this fair friday. well done, madam.

Zedediah Grimm said...

So the @colbertreport uses a direct quote from @stephenathome spoken on his show and all I've heard today is how "@colbertreport is a COMEDY CENTRAL account, not Stephen Colbert's account!" And no one acknowledges that the @colbertreport was quoting him VERBATIM?

Karmas a real bitch, huh Steve? Liberal idiot.

Amexpat said...

@CWJ

The lack of bad intent I was referring to was that there was no intent to slur an ethnic group when "Redskins" was chosen.

However, I'm not sure if portraying an ethnic group as ferocious savages would be considered positive.

Yes, I did add the Celtics to the discussion. Celtics is not in anyway derogatory, but the use of the team mascot of a leprechaun to depict an ethnic group might be if it were used by an organization that had no connection to the Irish. It's a matter of an ethnic group defining themselves and not being defined by outsiders.

I suspect that there is some faux outrage among the Native Americans protesting. It's becoming a high profile issue that various individuals or groups can try to leverage for their own purposes. But it's not fair to characterize their outrage as anachronistic. They are responding to the name and image as they perceive it today. The original intent of the Redskins organization is not relevant.


pinkmonkeybird said...

Political correctness is sooooo boring. Can't we all agree we've come to learn how boring it is and move on?
Hey! Wouldn't it be great to live in the post-pc, post-liberal America?

The Crack Emcee said...

pinkmonkeybird said...
Political correctness is sooooo boring. Can't we all agree we've come to learn how boring it is and move on?
Hey! Wouldn't it be great to live in the post-pc, post-liberal America?


Nope - I tried it, and these guys drove me insane. Better to live in a world where whites get a clue.

True, they complain, heckle, harass (as always) and give us the nashing of teeth, but - hey - better them than us for a change.

No, this is better, much better indeed,...