Sunday, December 09, 2007

What's so funny?

I saw an interesting article on the NPR web site where the author had this to say:

" Race is a subject that Americans often approach with trepidation, because of the potential minefield of misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Nearly two generations after the end of legally sanctioned segregation in America, talking about race remains a thorny issue."But in the world of stand-up comedy, the subject of race is not so much a minefield, but rather a goldmine, an endless source of great material," says All Things Considered host Michele Norris. "That's because comedy provides a comfort zone to discuss uncomfortable topics -- a place where audiences can laugh at themselves and look past pain to acknowledge unvarnished truth."

So I was thinking, why is that? Why do we have to be telling jokes to talk about the serious issue of race with one another? I mean I love Dave Chappelle, and sometimes I even like Chris Rock; but it seems the reason most A-merry-cans love them is because they make the uncomfortable issue of racism funny. Racism shouldn't be funny, and we shouldn't have to be laughing to talk about that or any other shit. Some folks take offense because I spell A-merry-ca the way I do. Well guess what; until people in this fucking country realize that every thing isn't fun and games, I will keep spelling it that way. I mean I want to pursue happiness as much as the next guy, but it seems that's all we ever do in this bitch.

We pursue happiness while teenagers are acting out their shoot em up video game fantasies on real fucking people. We pursue happiness while the people we elect to lead us are lying to us about shit like torture and going to war. We keep laughing while an entire generation of young black men are slaughtering each other, while we just keep pumping more guns out there for them to get their hands on. Each one lighter, more powerful, and capable of shooting more bullets than the ones before. We keep laughing while the leadership of an entire political party has been infiltrated by a bunch of Neo Cons ,who are hell bent on making this country into a theocracy. All this while we laugh at Chris Rock's fucking jokes.

Yep, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And if the happiness doesn't seem to be coming fast enough, we will always have our comedians to help the pursuit go just a little easier.


Anonymous said...

spend some time studing american history and the answer to your questions will come clear. america is scared of black men. about 70% of our legislation is tied to controling black people. if a black man who speaks a cris rock monologue in a serious tone without the clown act would be considered dangerous and the white audience could leagelly kill them for plotting to over throw the system. check out the movie"minstrial man" the chis rock act is a survival skill. malcolm x would still be alive if he were a commedian like dick gregory. they both say the same thing. keep them laughing, it's good for your health.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Field, if you have time, check out this short post on "The Messy Conversation" over on Miss Profe's blog. It's coming from a different angle, but it's the same conversation.

Hugh aka Repairman

Anonymous said...

Richard Pryor said-
"I live in a racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do, and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that."

But I think he did way damn more than he may have thought he did on the subject of race in this country.

Great post Field!

Anonymous said...

Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle are activists in their own way.

Prometheus 6 said...

Analyze any joke and you'll see the heart of humor is a situation that, looked at one way, makes absolute sense, looked at another way is absolute nonsense, and you are compelled to see both sides at once.

What fits that description better than racism?

Christopher said...

Memba the Seinfield episode where Elaine was "allegedly" dating a black man?

George said to Jerry, "I don't think we're supposed to be talking about about this." Jerry agreed.

Humor has always been used as a way to open a door and broach a subject people feel uncomfortable talking about. In my world view people should talk not only about race and racism, but class and classism, being gay and homophobia too.

The only things I don't discuss is my weight and what I like to do in bed.

field negro said...

"Analyze any joke and you'll see the heart of humor is a situation that, looked at one way, makes absolute sense, looked at another way is absolute nonsense, and you are compelled to see both sides at once.

What fits that description better than racism?"

That was notebook worthy!

hugh, thanks for the link, I will check out that site.

"The only things I don't discuss is my weight and what I like to do in bed."

Well maybe I would discuss what I will do in bed with the person I am doing to with. (Sometimes surprises aren't good) And I will discuss MY own weight and no one elses. (Except Jason Whitlock)

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

Okay, Field, while I understand your sentiments, I view this from a different perspective.

I think it's effing brilliant how Chris Rock calls America out on her racism while making it funny. I've been to his concerts and while you laugh at his jokes, there's part of your conscious that's saying "Damn, he's right." That's brilliant in the sense of it being satire, and the fact that America has no clue that Rock is making a living off her while telling her the truth about herself.

Ever watch "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central? It's the same way Stephen Colbert uses his show to mock the ridculousness of Bill O'Reilly, by doing the same format O'Reilly does, and showing America how stupid O'Reilly actully is, and by default, how stupid Americans are who believe O'Reilly hook, line and falafel.

Sometimes, as an African-American, I have to laugh to keep from screaming and crying up in this bitch. My ancestors built this SOB that we call America, and if Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle can bring the pain of truth to America while making us laugh, it's not their fault that A-merry-cans are too caught up in their own perception of superiority to see that a Black Comedian are telling them to their fact that they really aren't shyt and making them laugh at it, and in turn, laugh at how stupid they really are.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

Sorry, I meant, "If Black Comedians" and "face".

Don't want Woozy on my tail for grammatical errors, ya know (LOL)

Mes Deux Cents said...


I must be the only Black person in America that thinks The Dave Chappelle Show is a "coon" show. I think the same about the Boondocks on tv.

Oh well.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

But Field, every time a white person opens his mouth about race issues in front of a black person they are shut down. . . well, maybe not every time, but very often.
I have an MA in Cultural Studies and I aint talkin classical music and art here, I'm talking about a course of study where I took classes on race issues in America, Black history, Chicano literature, etc., etc. It was all about social culture. I consider myself fairly well versed when it comes to racial issues in America. I try not to be a know-it-all and I am known for being a good listener in conversations as I'm always wanting to learn and get other's perspectives. Having said that, sometimes when I talk about racial issues to someone who is a minority I eventually end up getting some sort of hostile response and a "you don't understand anything" line of BS. Yea, I don't understand a lot of things including where you're coming from from a racial perspective. I haven't lived you life. I grew up a poor white kid, I really don't know much, but I am willing to learn whatever anyone has to teach me and to do so I have to ask questions that might make my ignorance and naivité shine through.
OK, to make this long winded comment maybe make sense. . . if we're going to begin having open discussion about race in this country, something that I think is going to HAVE to happen before we all really become free, everyone is going to have to let everyone else show their ignorance without having to be subject to the other participant's verbal wrath. If someone is standing there with an open mind, we've got to embrace that and view it as a good thing no matter how ignorant or uninformed or even misinformed they may be.
Oh, and the misinformed and ignorant need to turn the other cheek and keep listening sometimes.
hillbilly out.

Christopher said...

Speaking of race, what the fuck is up with Hillary Clinton's camp floating the claptrap that Barack Obama "isn't ready to run for president" and suggesting needs to stand down so Missy Fatsuit can be the Democratic nominee?

Now, anyone who has visited my blog ( knows I'm an Obama supporter and I write for several Obama websites. In the interest of full disclosure, I am biased for my man, Barack.

But Hillary's remarks reeked of racism - IMHO and I'm white and I could feel it, smell it and even taste it.

Who the hell does this she-devil think she is to tell Barack Obama, an accomplished, self-made American law professor and U.S. senator, that he isn't "ready" to be president?

Sorry for the rant but this Hillary hag just rubbed me the wrong way saying this about Obama.

field negro said...

christ prog. Don't get me wrong, I think satire and humor has it's place. Especially when used the right way. (As Chappelle, and sometimes Rock do it, hell I use it on this site from time to time) but ALL the time?

"But Field, every time a white person opens his mouth about race issues in front of a black person they are shut down. . . well, maybe not every time, but very often." won't be shut down here. And don't shut down, engage. Who shuts you down? Hopefully not the person you are debating with. Don't confuse a vigorous debate for anything else. Sometimes people have to just keep talking past the bullshit.

Yes chris, it looks like the Ice Queen's campaign is coming apart.I am going to have to put you in a head to head debate with my man Francis Holland (A huge Hilary supporter) and see who comes out on top :)

Christopher said...


It's been my experience that Le Hill's supporters are just uninformed about her policy positions and voting record.

Once they get the facts (and I'm always glad to make that happen), they flip on Le Hill and run from her like she has ebola.

Just saying..... :-)

Lola Gets said...

Im with the Christian Progressive Liberal on this one - sometimes I laugh to keep from crying (or stabbing myself in the heart with my favorite knife, but lets not talk about that now). I think some of these comedians play an important role in desentizing race and ethnicity so that people can actually talk about it and listen to one another.

Are all of these comedians positive all of the time? Of course not. But at least theyre saying something. Which is better than saying nothing.


Lola Gets said...

I also meant to say that I really like your new poem Field. You know youve made it when youve got other folks using you as inspiration for their compositions!

Christopher Chambers said...

Field, Chris Rock, like it or not, is about as close as anyone to Mort Sahl or even Lenny Bruce of the bygone public intellectual comic.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

I thought about what you said, Field, and I thought I'd add this observance to the mix to determine who's cooning and who's using comedy to poke their finger in the "man's" eye and call them on their bullshyt:

Chris Rock + Dave Chappelle = using humor to call bullshyt on the "Man".

Damon Wayans = D. L. Hughley + Eddie Griffin = Cooning performances. They say nothing constructive about race in America and don't care how far they have to go to sit on the lawn holding that lamp as long as massas like Don Imus cuts them a check.

I was through with Wayans and Hughley when they agreed with Imus that the Rutgers women were "nappy-headed hos". To me, that comment wasn't meant for those young sistas, but all sistas. Nothing in their defense of Imus served to elevate the constructive discourse on race in America; if anything, it set it back by 50 years.

Kawana Aminata Oliver said...

I'm loving this blog, Keep the Heat comming ;-)

gordon gartrelle said...

I'm not sure I understand this. Fighting supremacy and using humor to highlight its absurdity aren't mutually exclusive. Humor is a basic human coping mechanism, even for those suffering under the most brutal authoritarian regimes.

You should be interested in TAN's piece on the lack of mainstream black satire that wrote for for EbonyJet:

Also, check out my response:


For something real funny, check out chickenhawk Jonah Goldberg pissing himself from fear of Yale's hemp-and-granola set while nodding his head in approval at a commenter who compares him to and/or mocks Huey Newton:

Mark said...

Dave Chapelle. Part of his genius is that his humor is pretty damn close to the "uncomfortable" line. I admit that sometimes Dave makes me squirm a little bit, to his credit.

As for last post, Frazier or Ali? Being a kid, years ago, I was for Frazier, but now, in my time machine, I'm behind Ali all the away. Is it because, at a distance and knowing what I know now, he is safe?

As for the manicures, that's fine by me. I hear that Julius Erving used to get manicures, and Michael Jordan learned it from him.

Woozie said...

I'm all for making anything that can be funny just that. But I do agree on the count that race relations often aren;t taken seriously because all people-not just white people-want to laugh and joke about it in lieu of rather than in addition to serious dialog.

I know you know that video games don't create spree killers, and I know you know that guns are not the problem, the lack of education, the lack of a substantial culture, and the lack of real opportunities among youth are the problems.

rikyrah said...

Chris Rock is pretty on point.

" A Black 'C' student can't get the manager position at Burger King. A White ' C' student can become President of the United States."

Tell it, Chris!!

Dave Chappelle - I go back and forth, but there are some sketches in the Chappelle show that are just so utterly brilliant, they dazzle.

I just refuse to put Rock and Chappelle in the same category as a DL Hughley or any of the Shufflin' Wayans. I can't do that.

must be the only Black person in America that thinks The Dave Chappelle Show is a "coon" show. I think the same about the Boondocks on tv.

I have to admit, I only bought the first season of The Boondocks on DVD because I wanted that Martin Luther King up from a coma episode - I doubt it will ever be seen on commercial tv again. But, THIS season. It is unbelievably good. I feel, when I watch it, like I did when I watched the Second Season of The Chappelle Show - the bites,and I mean huge bites at everyone are just ' wow'. I don't think McGruder can keep it up, but the brutal truths that McGruder displays about ' The Community' are on point for me.

Speaking of race, what the fuck is up with Hillary Clinton's camp floating the claptrap that Barack Obama "isn't ready to run for president" and suggesting needs to stand down so Missy Fatsuit can be the Democratic nominee?


This is it. This is all they have. Look at the polls, research the polls's the ONLY area in which she has an advantage over Obama...the ' readiness' question.

I, on the other hand, believe the 'experience' question is complete BULLSHIT.

What the hell 'EXPERIENCE' does she actually have? I don't consider being MARRIED to someone Executive 'Experience'. If that is the case, then tell me where to go to contribute to the Laura Bush for Governor of Texas Exploratory Committee, because she will have the same level of 'EXPERIENCE' that Hillary did when she ran for the Senate.

Hillary Clinton is NOT entitled to the Presidency of the United States because she stood there, and took being publicly humiliated by that man because of his infidelities.

But, Christopher, that's the answer to your's all they have left. And, I mean that.

I've been Black in A-merry-ca all my life; and I know what the damn ' experience' question means. You aren't reading anything wrong at all. You see what it means too.

That's why you've got Handkerchief Heads like Andrew Young talking about Bill Clinton dating more Black women than Obama..

And, FN, your boy, Shelby Steele, going on NATIONAL TELEVISION talking, and I quote " THAT HILLARY CLINTON IS BLACKER THAN BARACK OBAMA."

Folks are losing their damn minds.

Anonymous said...

What do you suggest we do, Field? Many times laughter is the only thing we have to help ease a little pain. While I agree that many of the jokes that we laugh at--but probably don't even find funny--are a cover for some of the emotional hurt that we endure every day. Communities across the nation are indeed having intelligent discourse about race. We know that simply talking about race and racism won't solve the problems, but what else do we have? Sometimes laughter removes the hurt and pain. Should we simply not laugh anymore? If we can't laugh at our foibles, then what do we have? While laughter may not be the answer, it doesn't hurt that badly to engage it a little bit every now and then.

RedLipstick said...

Paul Mooney is a race man...period. He is also a comedic genius of the highest order. The reason? Besides the Whites in his audience, he makes black people feel very uncomfortable. It's one thing to admonish White people for their lack of understanding but he makes Blacks feel foolish for not comprehending the nuances and subtleties present in race relations in this country.

You may laugh at first, but then you almost always have an "aha" moment where something clicks. I suppose you have to bring the information to the masses the best way you can.

Joel said...

Using comedy to make a deeper point goes WAY beyond just Chappelle and Rock (who I consider to be true American socio-politiical geniuses).

Shakespeare and Voltaire used comedy to make all kinds of observations about human nature. Or think of court jesters, Greek theater and all kinds of vocal legends from various parts of the world that were passed down to offspring that often contained wisdom wrapped in humor.

Humor is one of the most effective ways that human beings can transmit ideas, imo.

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