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Wednesday, November 22

Not Mildy Racist

Seinfeld star Michael Richards is something of a stand-up comedian. The sort of stand-up comedian I think I don't like. I'm basing this on very little evidence, so I'm prepared to change my opinion a bit. However, there is a brand of comedian I've never really enjoyed - the sort who strut around the stage being deliberately arrogant and provocative without any sense of the absurd. The use of hateful comedy without that steam-release valve that says "Look, I'm a vulnerable individual, just like you" or "Actually, I'm just illustrating a point like this", but which instead says "Aaaaaaagh, look at the stuff I hate, isn't it shit and aren't I amazing for pointing it out", rather annoys me. I've seen American acts do this and it can border on the racist/homophobic anyway - because you can't use hate as comedy without branding archetypes as hateworthy.

So, it isn't entirely surprising to see this comedian's rant go horribly wrong. At some point, the switch which controls which part of thoughts go to the mouth, got bust here and in his anger, the comedian becomes a bile spewing racist. Was he pretending and did it get out of hand? Did he accidentally out his darkest hatred of black people? or was it just black people talking in comedy clubs he hates? What was he trying to say with his repeated use of the "N-word" and his point about how 50 years ago, "you'd have been hanging upside down from a tree"?

At the very very best, this moron completely misread an audience and pushed on deeper into a hole for a good minute or two (which feels a hell of a lot longer when on stage). At worst, he's a racist prick who's been caught out. Somewhere in the middle is that awkwardness of context and desperation which makes the improvising comedian either look like a genius or a fool when they're saying whatever it is that comes into their head to try to make their point.

I've dug myself into some holes before and managed to dig myself out. I've said stuff on stage which could easily be taken out of context as racist - if it has been by anyone then that is a failing in the person who took it out of context, but also a failing in myself for not making the meaning more blindingly obvious. I'm a relatively inexperienced rookie, compered to the so-called professional involved in the above debacle, yet I've never managed to get myself into anything like that sort of trouble. That's because I don't want there to be a victim of my humour, so much as I want there to be good humour and laughter at the ridiculous or the cleverly twisted.

If Michael Richards never works again, then it will be the penalty of that unique combination of stardom, opening your mouth and saying THE WRONG THING, and the fact that CAMERA-PHONE + THE INTERNET + A STAR = HUGE INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT! If this had happened 20 years ago, it wouldn't have even happened.

What a plonker!


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