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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Miseducation of Dave Chappelle, part 2

Last Sunday marked the Comedy Central airing of one of the most controversial Chappelle's Show sketches: the so-called "Racial Pixies" sketch which ushered in the end of the Chappelle Show with Dave Chappelle at the helm. It was the "Pixies" sketch that Chappelle cited as a specific example of when the Chappelle's Show went wrong; a skit that caused Chappelle to question whether the show was combatting stereotypes, or merely reinforcing them. I was unprepared for the "Racial Pixie" sketch. As much as my earlier post applauded Chappelle for walking away from $50 million dollars in favour of his racial and moral integrity, I now have to re-examine the blame that is to be placed on Chappelle. Nothing excuses the "Racial Pixies". Not pressure to succeed, not a need to make people laugh, nothing. At some point, Chappelle sat in a conference room with Donnell Rawlins, Charlie Murphy, and Neil Brennan and said, "I've got a great idea guys; let's put me in blackface! I'll shuck 'n jive and everyone will laugh!" The racial pixies are incorrigible: Chappelle should not have been surprised that people would be laughing at the wrong thing. The sketch is designed to depict racial stereotypes at their worst, and place them as commentary to modern-day situations. What's funny is not the commentary that the minstrelsy is making on reality, but the minstrelsy itself. This is no more apparent than the punctuations of laughter we hear from the studio audience as the sketch airs. There is no question that, in the first sketch, the audience is laughing not at Chappelle confronted with a blackface pixie, but the pixie's cooning. The fact that there are more than just one kind of racial pixie doesn't make the sketch any more politically correct. Instead, as with Chappelle's "Racial Draft" sketch, Chappelle only succeeds in offending everyone -- but not equally. As electroman points out, even in this sketch, we see the different level of taboo each racial stereotype holds: though all of the other sketches show a close-up of Chappelle in either brownface, yellowface or whiteface, the first sketch refuses to portray a close-up of Chappelle with blackface on. This only suggests that Chappelle realized how wrong the sketch was and refused to let the camera pan-in on his face, knowing that he could not show that imagery on his show. Nonetheless, he has no qualms when it comes to himself in brownface, as with the Latino pixie sketch. Nor does he have a problem with portraying a buck-toothed, wispy-moustached samurai in the third sketch, first massaging and then committing seppuku on Lala's (of MTV) shoulder. In both these sketches, we are shown close-ups of the caricatures. In the final sketch, we see the White racial pixie, which seems to have been added on to the segment almost as an after-thought, as if Chappelle weren't quite sure what situation to put his Whiteface pixie in. The White pixie sketch differs from the others also because the White protagonist never listens to the White pixie, and all of the White "stereotypes" exist only in reference to Black stereotypes (for example, "Black booty", "Black dancing", "Black penis size") and do little to detract from the White protagonist's experience. Here, it's less clear if we're supposed to laugh at the White pixie and the White protagonist's struggle, or more at the Black stereotypes mocked by its juxtaposition to Whiteness, in general. It's obvious that Chappelle's sketch missed it's mark, but what's also telling is the fact that Comedy Central chose to air the sketch with an elongation of the first scene, showing two blackface minstrel pixies instead of one. This only suggests that Comedy Central knew what was funny about this sketch and edited it accordingly to increase the amount of racial caricature on-screen. Comedy Central further tried to cover it's ass by having Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlins ask the audience whether it found the skit offensive -- creatively editing the response to show Black people giving the White living room viewership the implicit "okay" to laugh at the coonery. Chappelle is no victim here. The moment he donned blackface to make his audience laugh, he should have realized that people would be laughing at the wrong thing. He set himself up to be the racial clown -- it should have come as no surprise that his eager-to-laugh audience would have found his racialized antics more accessible than the "message" behind the sketch. The message is only funny to those who understand -- the sketch isn't able to, by itself, explain racial politics -- and make it humorous -- for outsiders. Personally, I think television is better off without Chappelle at the helm. The pixies are inexcusable, but at least Chappelle will introduce no more of this filth to Comedy Central himself. And the racists who laugh at the racial pixies will survive: there's always Carlos Mencia. Edit (7/19): Courtesy of Mixed Media Watch, here is the Time Magazine article in which we first caught wind of the racial pixie sketch. Excerpted:

He was taping a sketch about magic pixies that embody stereotypes about the races. The black pixie--played by Chappelle--wears blackface and tries to convince blacks to act in stereotypical ways. Chappelle thought the sketch was funny, the kind of thing his friends would laugh at. But at the taping, one spectator, a white man, laughed particularly loud and long. His laughter struck Chappelle as wrong, and he wondered if the new season of his show had gone from sending up stereotypes to merely reinforcing them. "When he laughed, it made me uncomfortable," says Chappelle. "As a matter of fact, that was the last thing I shot before I told myself I gotta take f______ time out after this. Because my head almost exploded."

39 Comments:

Blogger nubian said...

i saw it on youtube. i was appalled. it wasn't funny, smart or attempting to critique racism--something in which chapelle says he originally tried to do. the racial pixie scketch was ridiculous. and mencia is awful as well. good analysis though, jen.

7/18/2006 06:59:00 PM  
Anonymous philly jay said...

I was wondering what you're reaction was going to be Jenn.I think dave pushed the limit to the point where there IS no limit to what he can and can not do.So far you're the only minority I know that thought it wasn't funny.

Most people I know personally, black, white asian, hispanic, they loved all the sketches.Especially the pixie.I personally chukled (Hey, I'm being honest here) a few times at the craziness of it all, and a little shocked that anyone would go that far.Some people would consider your complaints or even mine as P.C.ness gone too far.But if that's the case, what is the limit?How far are you allowed to go?Can we now joke about things like the holocaust?

7/19/2006 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Nicely argued, Jenn, and I think your assessment of the inequality among the various portrayals is right on the money. This sketch is a particularly sad failure, I think, because it started out with something to say, and then lost its point. The first scene, on the airplane, seems to posit a situation in which the character wants something, but is afraid to voice that desire because it would reinforce stereotypes. The pixie, then, is a representation of what he would turn into if he simply admitted those desires publicly (essentially, he'd become the blackface parody). That idea rings true to me: I think cheongsams are beautiful, but there is NO WAY I'd ever wear one.

The Latino pixie seems to gesture toward this idea as well, although not as clearly. And from there on out, it's all gone--it's as if by the time DC gets to the Asian and white characters, he simply can't imagine that there are situations in which they would be afraid to voice their desire because it would portray them as stereotypical.

Your point, however, is that the use of cooning has to be done incredibly carefully--something clearly ignored here.

7/19/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

KF, I agree that the sketches started somewhere understandable. In fact, the *idea* behind the sketch (how tough it is to not be a stereotype) is totally fine.

It's the execution that's the problem. Chappelle seemed to have a problem remembering that his job is to make the audience laugh, and that the sketch's punchlines are not going to be the Catch-22 most POC face.

PJ - you have to ask yourself -- in all of the scenes, what was it that you found funny? Was it that the protagonist was trying to navigate the real-world without being a caricature, or was it the caricature itself? Were you laughing at DC's reactions to the pixie or were you laughing at the Blackface pixie's cooning?

I think a comedian's responsibility is to find a way to make the audience laugh about something that's, on it's face, not terribly funny. But a good comedian can manipulate the audience to laugh at exactly what was intended to be laughed at, and even make a political point while he's doing it. Dave Chappelle seems to take the tact of throwing spaghetti on a wall and seeing what sticks. There was a way to do a sketch with the same message (and probably without minstrels) inoffensively -- Chappelle just didn't have that skill.

And as far as other POC finding it funny -- I'm not surprised. If anyone's going to *understand* the joke, it's going to be POC. But that doesn't mean that it's not terribly racist and offensive, too.

7/19/2006 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Dei Wong said...

I think you just dislike Dave Chappelle. Because there are so many others who do the same style of comedy. Eddie Murphy’s been know to do things as bad or worst than Chappelle. Richard Pryor’s stand up was pretty similar to Chappelle(Really the other way around). His show was pretty bad for its time. It got cancelled because Pryor wanted to get crazier. Chris Rock also does what you condemn Chappelle for. Look at the movies he puts out and tell me he doesn’t do similar things to Chappelle even his TV show does it. Carlos Mencia does similar things to Chappelle he’s just not as good. What about the things George Lopez does in his stand up and on his CDs? Those act are as bad if not worst than Chappelle. Suzanne Whang is known for this kind of comedy. Her Sung Hee Park character comes to mind. Dat Phan always does joke about ascents and mannerisms. Bobby Lee does this. I do think his Connie Chung impersonation is a little mean.

But to be honest I have no problem with any of these comics and there routines. I doubt if they were to stop stereotypes will follow. For the same reason I doubt they help to enforce them. How many Caucasians are after Jeff Foxworthy or the makers of Jackass. I'm betting they know it is not a realistic representation of them. Even though they are the majority and run the media its still a question to think about why they are not threaten by stereotypically jokes aimed at them. The only way to combat stereotypes is to push more positive representation. But it would take everyone within those groups to work together and for the groups to work with one another. There is more than enough money within each of those groups to put out more positive content. But do you see that happening no?

I don’t see Chappelle’s jokes as a factual representation of my community as a whole. I see no reason for anyone to come at him for Blackface or any of the others I mention for Yellow or Brown facing. Those who would answer “just because someone else does it” or “We are not talking about those other people” that’s not a real answer. Why single out Dave Chappelle? Is it because he has a larger medium to broadcast from?

7/19/2006 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Dei Wong, you're wrong. Dave Chappelle proved his comedy can do no more than rehash stereotypes to American audiences. He donned blackface and cooned in that Pixie sketch; people laughed at Black people watching that episode, not with them.

The subsequent Rainbow Coalition Pixies only display his extreme disadvantage when discussing other groups. Both White Pixies lampooned Black stereotypes, and they made no comment about cultural Whiteness on par with the irredeemable, buck-toothed, English mispronouncing Asian Pixie, the gaudy, criminal, drug addicted, "how many Latino stereotypes can we place in one sketch" Latin Pixie, or the shuckin' & jivin', chicken-obsessed minstrel Black Pixie, so obviously improper to the show's creators that we never see any closeups of Dave in blackface.

It's like Dave rewatched Spike Lee's Bamboozled (as evidenced from the direct ripoff from Tommy Davidson's "Sleep 'n Eat" costume design) and learned absolutely nothing. Just like Davidson's "Cheeba", eventually Chappelle walks away from the network to save what little of his soul remains. But the damage is done, the blackface filmed. Chappelle stood as one of the most popular and profitable Black comedians in America at the end of the second season. He was above simple blackface; why degrade your reputation a la Ted Danson at the height of your career?

Other famous and successful Black comedians, especially those you've mentioned, do not waste time disrespecting their race for cheap laughs. They may comment on absurdities in Black culture, but this over-the-top anti-Black humor would never escape the lips of Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock. They are above ComicView.

Dave Chappelle was finally on the fast track to super-stardom, and he felt it necessary to produce a sketch that plainly laughed at bizarre and racist caricatures of minority groups. (One can't say he did the same for White people, since the White Pixie mostly rehashed anti-Black stereotypes involving penis size and rhythm.) Now, just because some people of all races like to laugh at racist caricatures of Blacks, Latinos, and Asians, doesn't mean those caricatures are any less negative or racist.

Further, everyone's exposed to a tidal wave of positive, pro-White media input continuously, so much so that the blue-collar antics of Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy often stereotype poor Whites or rural Southern Whites alone. The point? On a racial level no White person need identify with those stereotypes or be identified by them, whereas racial minorities in America simply do not possess such cultural freedom.

As a Black man, I can walk into any corporate boardroom in America with impeccable business suit and briefcase in tow and exude those disgusting stereotypes in some co-workers' mind without my consent; no White man of equal stature and dress would call to mind Jeff Foxworthy or Hee Haw in that boardroom.

Dave played himself. We saw minstrelsy in the late 1800's; now in 2006, Chappelle appealed to those same base desires among Americans to lampoon Black people as ignorant chicken-eating slaves no matter what they achieve, and Latinos and Asians as people who can never speak the cultural lingo of the United States (or the English language itself). Frankly, Chappelle's Pixie sketch cemented what some of us already knew about him - he's no revolutionary.

Dave Chappelle left Comedy Central because of fame, money, and his inability to handle a success that never prevented him from perverting his own melanin for cheap White laughs. He's a disgrace.

7/19/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous bertie said...

K-Fluff hit the nail on the head. I actually think the black pixie was dead on. The humor was meant to arise from the absurdity of letting other people's racial hang-ups affect your actions. (ie, a hungry guy on a plane scared to eat the in-service chicken meal because of some stereotype). The over-top nature of the pixie (in my opinion) merely represents/highlights the irrational nature of these internal debates one has in those moments. I do believe that the pixie was unnecessary because the same joke/premise could have been achieved with shots of Dave looking uncomfortable at having to eat fried chicken in public. Much like the jewish audience member was able to get a laugh from noting that he overpaid tabs to combat negative stereotypes of jews without a little jewish caricuture popping up pinching pennies together. I think the problem with a skit of such nature (especially the use of pixie) is not the content but the context. The new context of Dave's show is an ever increasing "mainstream" audience. The majority of Chappelle's growing audience have never had the actual internal debate/concern he was trying to poke fun at. While they might understand the joke on an intellectual level---its just not that funny if you've never actually gone thru the premise of the joke (and it was only kind of amusing if you had). Thus all that's left to really laugh at for many is the pixie's behavior.
I agree that the remaining pixies seem like afterthoughts with no real link to the original concept of the skit. If he wanted to tabkle whites--why not use an Irish guy scared to accept a drink in a social setting because of negative stereotypes -- even though that does not address whites as a whole it more honest than having the white pixie be a spring board for rehashing black stereotypes.

7/19/2006 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Dei Wong said...

"They may comment on absurdities in Black culture, but this over-the-top anti-Black humor would never escape the lips of Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock. They are above ComicView."

Look at the crazy stereotypes Chris Rock puts in his movies.
You saying Dave Chappelle doing what he is doing for the sole purpose of money without regard or is willfully bashing his race. Making him seem like a black version of Lewis Hallam Jr or Thomas D. Rice is just crazy.

Before you go making those two Comic above saints compared to Chappelle. You should know that even Richard Pryor said once that Eddie's comedy was to mean. Eddie himself even apologized for some of his 80's material talking about AIDS and homosexuals. How many types have you seen Chris Rock in movies or in skits show insane stereotypes of black people.

"We saw minstrelsy in the late 1800's; now in 2006, Chappelle appealed to those same base desires among Americans to lampoon Black people as ignorant chicken-eating slaves no matter what they achieve,"

You are just wrong. Now I am convince you just don't like the guy. Because if that was your stance on this kind of you would be after Everyone.

You would be after Eddie Murphy for in according to your stance for making all black men seem like loud mouths that make every of word out of their mouth a curse or Underhanded schemers who don't work honest jobs. Who make it big by savvy street wise and hustling demeanor. You would be after Richard Pryor for him making all black men seem like the fresh out the hood/ hated whitey attitude is common practice. The Waynes Brothers would on your shoot to kill list. You would be after Suzanne Whang for making everyone think all Asians speak bad English and act like Sung Hee Park. You would be after George Lopez for making people think Hispanic people live a life similar to Cheech and Chong.

If that is your stance against this kind of humor? You would be on the back relentlessly of people like Sahara Silver. Who not only does racist jokes but is unapologetic to anyone who they offend. If Dave Chappelle show was as bad as you say far more people would be after his head and far sooner than now.

" Further, everyone's exposed to a tidal wave of positive, pro-White media input continuously, so much so that the blue-collar antics of Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy often stereotype poor Whites or rural Southern Whites alone. The point? "

The point is you should watch more TV. No one has never seen the bubble headed blonde a stereotype focused at both poor and wealth Caucasians. The Super gullible Caucasians who is wealthily and is easily conned out of his money. Sometimes he is so stupid he is just oblivious to his situation no matter how dangerous it may be. Question in the 70s what did African Americans do when they felt they weren't being represented enough or in a light that they liked? Started their own thing and until this day the image the as kicking, hardnosed no shit taking, sex machine with more mojo than any other man alive(even the Caucasian male)and willing to challenge the all powerful enemy The Man so to say African American is style alive today. So if you don't like what your seeing put your own stuff out there.

"As a Black man, I can walk into any corporate boardroom in America with impeccable business suit and briefcase in tow and exude those disgusting stereotypes in some co-workers' mind without my consent; no White man of equal stature and dress would call to mind Jeff Foxworthy or Hee Haw in that boardroom."

Do you really think if Chappelle or comics like him would stop that what you described wouldn't happen. I sure as hell don't. Step back into reality because those comics go away doesn't mean silly stereotypes will follow.

Dave Chappelle is not some idiot willing to drag his race through the mud without a care for profit. If that was the case Spike Lee would not deal with him and would have spoke out loudly against him long ago. Mos Def or Kanye West wouldn't be his show if things were the way you claimed them to be. Over all far more people would be against him. I think you have been unfair in your criticism of Dave Chappelle as a comedian and as a person

7/19/2006 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

This is in response to this post in the Sex and Race LJ which doesn't allow public commenting.

Thank you for linking and commenting on this post. Just so you know, the post you linked is part 2 of an original rant I had on Dave Chappelle in which I criticized mainstream media for demanding more explanation from him, unwilling to accept what seems intuitive to most people of colour: he was sick of selling out. The post is here.

That being said, just because we as POC can relate to the circumstances in which a racial pixie might appear, doesn't make the yellowface, brownface, blackface or whiteface acceptable. Chappelle facilitated a situation in which his audience would be encouraged to laugh at coonery -- and if the reason was good enough for Chappelle it's good enough for me: there's nothing excusable about reinforcing stereotypes.

And what do you mean by "racially secure"? By connecting level of interaction with racial security, you (and the sketch) are arguing that Whites and Asians are less susceptible to race and racial quandries than Blacks. I strongly argue against such an statement, particularly concerning Asians who are certainly not in the racial majority and are marginalized by almost every discussion of race politics out there. Perpetuating such racial hierarchies does nothing to further race relations in America -- it only pits us against one another. While I "got" it, I hardly think it's an appropriate interpretation of the sketch -- to me, it only adds to how effed up the whole thing was.

7/19/2006 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

DW, just to put it out there, this thread isn't about Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, or Richard Pryor, who have, on occasion, made jokes that are more offensive than funny. They are beyond the scope of this thread, and certainly if there was reason to discuss a specific joke of any of these comics, we could discuss the race politics ramifications of those. Just because Chappelle shares a race with those comics doesn't mean that they all have to be discussed interchangeably.

Nonetheless, I will bring up one example: Margaret Cho. And yes, I love her comedy, but I am most uncomfortable when watching her shows in which a predominantly White audience laughs at her imitations of her "overly Korean" mother. Cho takes the easy route there -- she makes jokes where the punchline is about how funny and racialized her parents are. That, too, reinforces stereotypes about Asians, even if it's not intentional. And, as an Asian person, while I recognize my own parents in her imitation of hers, I have to also recognize that those sitting around me are not laughing at the same thing I'm laughing at.

DW, I can only speak for myself (and not James -- he can speak for himself), but I certainly don't just hate Chappelle. If I did, I wouldn't be able to articulate the arguments I did above. What this post argues is that what Chappelle did was unforgivable and that he should know better; it makes no argument about Chappelle as a person.

This is a criticism of Chappelle's work. Let's keep it on that level. And with that, there is a big difference between Chris Rock's N*ggas vs. Black People bit and Dave Chappelle donning burnt cork and dancing to banjo music, not only in what is being shown or the medium of communication (auditory vs. visual) but in the audience (insider vs. outsider language).

7/19/2006 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Radical Hapa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/19/2006 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Dei Wong said...

Nice Jubilation Lee icon.

" They are beyond the scope of this thread, and certainly if there was reason to discuss a specific joke of any of these comics, we could discuss the race politics ramifications of those. "

Chappelle's comedy falls in the category of people like Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, The Waynes Bros. and many others. But it seem to me that the point your are trying to make is that Chappelle has crossed the line. His humor has gone into a area none of the others would dare follow. I'm just saying I think your wrong. Do research on any of the people I have listed some may not be as bad but many are equal to Chappelle in style of humor. The ones who are not as bad are far from being saints compared to Chappelle. Chappelle draws creatively from many of the people I have listed. Sometime directly recreating shits.

" Just because Chappelle shares a race with those comics doesn't mean that they all have to be discussed interchangeably. "

If Chappelle's humor was so bad wouldn't more African American in the media be on his case? Look at the guest he has had on his show many are people who are know for speak out and calling others out on that sort of thing. If his humor was so grossly mean spirited Chappelle have had to start explaining long before he did.

7/20/2006 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger kfluff said...

DW--the idea that "If Chappelle's humor was so bad wouldn't more African American in the media be on his case?" seems to indicate that only African American responses reflect the "right" responses to Chappelle's humor. Jenn's critique here is not invalid because other notable African Americans aren't in agreement.

One of the most interesting things about the responses to this post (including the post over at Sex and Race LJ is the way that people are so quick to defend Chappelle. I have to admit, I like the guy, despite some of his significant missteps--like this skit. But what is it about him that inspires such virulent defense, such loyalty that nothing he does can be criticized?

7/20/2006 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

DW--the idea that "If Chappelle's humor was so bad wouldn't more African American in the media be on his case?" seems to indicate that only African American responses reflect the "right" responses to Chappelle's humor. Jenn's critique here is not invalid because other notable African Americans aren't in agreement.

One of the most interesting things about the responses to this post (including the post over at Sex and Race LJ is the way that people are so quick to defend Chappelle. I have to admit, I like the guy, despite some of his significant missteps--like this skit. But what is it about him that inspires such virulent defense, such loyalty that nothing he does can be criticized?

7/20/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Dei Wong said...

" the idea that If Chappelle's " humor was so bad wouldn't more African American in the media be on his case?" seems to indicate that only African American responses reflect the "right" responses to Chappelle's humor. Jenn's critique here is not invalid because other notable African Americans aren't in agreement. "

What Kfluff you trying to say I think Jenn is wrong because
notable African American are not up in arms and she is not African American? NO.

If you read both of my post you will see all I have been trying to say is it seems Chappelle is being viciously attacked for a brand of humor that not only him but many take part in some far worst than him.

I have only been saying it appear Chappelle was being painted in a light which he did not deserve.

When you question the guys work to the point where your start to state how could he put this out there and he is just black facing. You are no longer just criticizing his work you are taking a shot at his integrity. From I have seen, from what others have said of the guy, and the fact that many others of every race have done and still do what he is supposed to be guilty of. I have to say he doesn't deserve level of scrutiny he has been given here.

" But what is it about him that inspires such virulent defense, such loyalty that nothing he does can be criticized? "

Don't you think your getting a little carried away?

What makes you want to condem just him even though others do the same if not worst.

7/20/2006 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Dei Wong (in sarcastic translation): "Don't be mad at my favorite coon. All those funny comics make fun of Black folk!"

Seriously, the entire "everyone does it so it's not wrong" perspective does not challenge Dave Chappelle's blackface in the Racial Pixies sketch at all. Wong, you provide no condemnation whatsoever for the brownface, the yellowface, or the anti-Black whiteface.

None of the other comics you've mentioned use blackface in their sketches to my knowledge. That gaudy racial makeup literally applies anti-Black hatred to the human face in order to further express anti-Black stereotypes and prejudices. Dave Chappelle lost all credibility with his audience when he sunk so low and blackened up.

What's worse, Dave Chappelle knew his actions were wrong. Take this quote from Neal Brennan from the May 23, 2005 Time article: "Dave would change his sketches so much, and it just got to the point that the show never would have aired if he had his way," says Brennan. "He would come with an idea, or I would come with an idea, pitch it to him, and he'd say that's funny. And from there we'd write it. He'd love it, say, 'I can't wait to do it.' We'd shoot it, and then at some point he'd start saying, 'This sketch is racist, and I don't want this on the air.' And I was like, 'You like this sketch. What do you mean?' There was this confusing contradictory thing: he was calling his own writing racist."

I think Dave Chappelle realized he could no longer play the coon for any amount of money, Dei Wong. You are trying to excuse his playing the coon.

7/20/2006 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Dei Wong said...

I guess George Lopez and Suzanne Whang is next on your list. They dress up as stereotypical images of their races just as bad as Dave Chappelle.

So him painting his face is so much worst than Some Asian dancing around doing crappy martial arts and speaking bad english. Its much worst than a some Hispanic person eating tacos and wearing a sombrero. Its so much worst that some Black guy always dancing to rap music and threatening to shoot someone.

Because they didn't paint their faces their comedy won't cause people to look at me in an ill light.

Man someone mimicking a black people as a ghetto mindless thug blasting, doing crappy dances, and always pulling a gun is still blackfacing. Is it not blackfacing because there is no paint.

Blackfacing, Yellowfacing, Brownfacing is on TV daily. Just because the paint ain't there doesn't make it any bit less than what it is.

I still think Chappelle doesn't deserve to be roasted for a problem he didn't start and without his show would still rage on.

7/20/2006 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

"Blackfacing, Yellowfacing, Brownfacing is on TV daily. Just because the paint ain't there doesn't make it any bit less than what it is." - Dei Wong

Now this is absolutely correct. Amen. This is the reason mainstream hip hop stars do not deserve the public respectability and accolades and exposure that come from being on Oprah.

No one's saying that Suzanne Whong or George Lopex are not culpable; when they demean their races for laughs, they should be publicly scrutinized.

But Dave Chappelle's recent Racial Pixies sketch promoted anti-minority stereotypes and prejudices in no uncertain terms, openly using the history of the minstrel show in America to degrade American minorities today. It's incorrigible, and the fact that he blackened up to perform this coonery deserves special rebuke in my opinion.

But I must say I've enjoyed the debate, Dei Wong. Kudos.

7/20/2006 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Dei Wong said...

Same to you take it easy.

7/20/2006 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

"Blackfacing, Yellowfacing, Brownfacing is on TV daily. Just because the paint ain't there doesn't make it any bit less than what it is."

Great, great, great, great point. Excellent point. You are 100% right.

Perhaps there is a somewhat unfair scrutiny of Chappelle -- at least not recognizing that he's not an isolated case of coonery.

And certainly there seems to be a reluctance to call out comedians who use racialized humour to perpetuate stereotypes. All I can say in my defense is that this post WAS originally intended to only discuss Chappelle's cooning and was never intended to give a free pass to those other comics.

7/20/2006 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Dot said...

I'm not a member of the aforementioned Sex and Race community, but I watch it pretty closely and decided I fit the description of the "Dave Defenders".

Perhaps I'm giving Dave more credit than he deserves. I don't think so. But the thing about blackface is that any racially conscious black person would have a serious problem corking up because of all of its implications, and I am very much of the opinion that black entertainers who do it (and aren't representing a particular historical period in a film, for example) are doing it ironically and cathartically-- completely in opposition to why white people dress up in blackface to act vicariously and foolishly through the black body. Dave is the son of two political human rights activists; there is nothing gleeful, funny, or coonish about his blackface. I read nothing but frustration through that portion of the sketch, and while the Brownface (which was clumsily executed, I'll admit) and Yellowface sketches were considerably less pained and more problematic, I can only imagine that it was because he was working with his creative staff and each section was based on their particular experiences with internalized inferiority (and in the white guy's case, being corny, which is an entirely different anxiety). I don't know this is how the sketch was written as a fact, but if that's the case, it would make perfect sense to me as to why the blackface sketch is really the least funny, most agonizing and hit me the hardest.

Someone upthread quoted Neal Brennan's take on Dave's acknowledgement of the racism in his sketches-- I wouldn't take Neal's words at face value because if you (hypothetically speaking) believe white privilege exists, you believe that there is a disconnect with white people understanding internalized racism and how it manifests. POC struggle with this daily and no matter how good one of my white friends is and how comfortable I feel joking about race on a surface level with them, I would absolutely never ask them to speak on my behalf regarding how I felt about my own colonization.

Sorry if this is disjointed and doesn't really address anything; I've just been thinking about this a whole lot and haven't found the words to describe it yet.

7/21/2006 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

To me, I wouldn't take Neil Brennan's word for the sketch's racism. I would take Dave Chappelle's word that the sketch was racist and offensive -- this is, after all, his show.

And Chappelle has not only gone on record saying he felt the sketch was racist, but has voiced that he would prefer if no one ever watched it.

It certainly seems counter-intuitive to me to defend Dave Chappelle, citing his reasons for leaving Comedy Central as being justified if he felt the sketches had become racist, and then to argue that the racial pixie sketch WASN'T racist or offensive. Either Chappelle is right and he accepts any blame that we place on him (which he does with his rejection of the $50 million and public frustration that Comedy Central aired the skits) or we say the pixie sketch wasn't racist, in which case Chappelle was NOT justified in rejecting the $50 million dollars (or at least then his stated reason for leaving is not satisfactory and we have a right to demand further explanation).

I take the former stance. The sketch was racist. Chappelle realized it and left. He need not explain his reasons for leaving or turn down the money and I find any demands for further exposition racist, but I think Chappelle would agree that he deserves some criticism for creating the pixie sketch in the first place -- to me, that's why he left for Africa in the first place. He needed to find a way to reconcile himself with the fact that he donned blackface for a white audience.

I simply do not understand how one can defend the circumstances under which Chappelle left and then say that he was completely wrong in calling the sketches racist.

7/21/2006 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

One more thing: as an Asian American, I take great offense that the Yellowface and Brownface is basically being swept under the rug in this whole debate.

If we're going to be discussing racial pain, what about the racial pain I felt by seeing the resurrection of the slanty-eyed, buck-toothed yellow clown on contemporary television?

7/21/2006 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Dot said...

I can only speak for myself when I say that I've never said at any point that the sketch wasn't racist; that ended up being the whole POINT of the sketch. But I think you and I can both agree that racism is a little bit more complicated than that.

Dave's not perfect, his politics aren't perfect and I don't feel ashamed of him for having a disgustingly uncomfortable moment taped on camera. That's what this is all about-- issues of internalized inferiority. No one is saying that Dave's a hero for yellowfacing, brownfacing and blackfacing it up for a white audience for $50 mil; we're saying that it's a really complicated piece of film (and you even say yourself that he said it should never come to light) and that no minority who's ever honestly discussed issues of racism (be it in the style that you personally prefer or not) should ever be attacked for succumbing to colonization. That's how the system WORKS. On Dave Chappelle's Block Party, he and ?uestlove from the Roots talk about how Dave wasn't meant to reach white people, that was never who he wanted his core audience to be, and once he learned he had a different audience, he stopped. I think that's very noble a decision and that's all I can say to defend it. If you want to still find criticism with him, that's certainly your right, but I think POC pitting ourselves against each other is defeating the purpose of antiracist work in the first place.

7/21/2006 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

You all are just regergitating what you have read. You were pre-warned about the sckecth and you pre-judged. The show jumped the shark last season actually. But Dave Chappel is cool. He is not responsible for race relations any more than Oprha Winfrey is responbile for single handedly saving the lives of black people in Africa. He's a comedian. He makes me laugh. When can we watch comedy that is about middle class and hgiher end living and shopping and existing, when that becomes our world. The majority of us must be able to relate. I went to college in both France and Japan. I speak both French and Jap and am an accountant. But I think Tyrone sckecth is funny as hell. Im from Brooklyk and tyrone is my dad.

Relax its just comedy.

Be appaulded at Al Shaprton's show. He on there butchering verbs and carrying on with all that mis information and rhyming ans shit and he's not trying to be funny.
Take up a new cause guys

7/23/2006 10:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Michelle, while it may be true that Dave Chapelle shouldn't be reponsible for race relations, an unfortunate side effect is that he is no matter what he does. I believe he actually recognizes this. What I mean is that Dave is catering to a mostly white audience, and no matter what he does, most white people are going to take him to be a representative of black people, no matter how wrong it is.

"Jap" is not a language, it's a racial slur (albeit one that only Japanese-Americans recognize. If you asked Japanese they would think it's okay, but they don't have to deal with the slur on a regular basis.) The problem is exactly what you're talking about: there's humour that is empathetic (it's happened to us or it can happen to us), and humour that is "point and laugh" (it's not happening to us, and it's funny because they're getting hurt.) The racial pixie sketch possibly falls into the latter, and example like Bobby Lee's Connie Chung sketch also fall into that category.

Why do we care about what white people think (and therefore care little about Al Sharpton, whom white people have written off anyway)? Because we have to (in a society with majority white people, and white people in power). We can't avoid it.

As for "take up a new cause", congratulations, you have just proved you have the privilege to do so. We don't.

7/24/2006 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I am really sick of the straw man that is "Dave Chappelle isn't solely responsible for all of racism". Who, anywhere, in their right mind would say such a thing?

No one person is single-handedly responsible for racism -- if that were the case, then racism wouldn't be the institutionalized problem spanning generations in America that it is.

Precisely because no one man is responsible for racism, do we have to hold all people who perpetuate racism accountable for how they aid racism's influence in America. We all have the power to fight or encourage racism's course. Chappelle, too.

Oh, yeah, and, Michelle, you shouldn't come onto an Asian American blog and throw around slurs like "Jap". It's just not cool.

7/24/2006 01:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I laughed more at the guy playing the banjo saying Meow Meow than I did about Dave being in black face. I think anyone that's offended by these skits should look at themselves as being racist and try and figure out why your really mad. The show is on Comedy Central. It's comedy people, laugh at it or turn the channel.

7/25/2006 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

"I laughed more at the guy playing the banjo saying Meow Meow than I did about Dave being in black face. I think anyone that's offended by these skits should look at themselves as being racist and try and figure out why your really mad. The show is on Comedy Central. It's comedy people, laugh at it or turn the channel." - Anonymous

This comment is racist.

7/25/2006 08:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This comment is racist."



Please explain... What is racist about my comments? You can't just say my comments are racist and not explain why. The whole show is based on comedy and not community relations. Explain why everytime a person makes a comment about something he or she's labeled a racist. Isn't that stereotyping??

7/25/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

James can explain his comment but what you said:

"Explain why everytime a person makes a comment about something he or she's labeled a racist. Isn't that stereotyping??"

No. That's not what the term "stereotype" refers to.

7/25/2006 10:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the correction Jen. You are correct and I didn't make myself very clear. It's just frustrating when you have opinions and then your labeled as a racist with no explanation as to why. My whole arguement is that the show is meant to make people laugh and that people shouldn't be taking the skits so serious.

7/25/2006 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

"My whole arguement is that the show is meant to make people laugh and that people shouldn't be taking the skits so serious." - Anonymous

That's a poor argument, because Chappelle revels in the public degradation of Blacks, Asians, and Latinos to encourage his audience to laugh. Anyone who uses degrading prejudices and dehumanizing stereotypes to incite laughter in the public sphere attempts to profit from my racial pain, and deserves my contempt alone.

Your earlier comment was racist because you denied the barest possibility of a racial counterargument to Chappelle's sketch comedy simply because you enjoyed the comedy, and that easygoing denial of blackface minstrelsy's anti-minority effects today represents either blatant ignorance or conscious racism. Because I don't think you are stupid, I chose the latter.

Frankly, it's 2006, anyone who thinks blackface minstrelsy can be funny knows its history and does not care. They find pickaninnies cute, and expect Black people to desire fried chicken at all times, an unconscious instinct our primitive minds can never eliminate.

What I find most tiresome about this debate is that Chappelle's supporters even find his mistakes funny. He realized, too late too assist anyone, that the third season involved racist material, and expressed his discontent with its use on racial grounds, so unless those fans are closeted racists themselves, why would anyone still defend this tripe?

7/26/2006 12:40:00 AM  
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