Thursday, July 17, 2008

Shuffle, Shuffle, Dance, Jig Dance

Where is Barack Obama's funny bone?

That's what a blurb on CNN and a recent column by Maureen Dowd asked.

Why doesn't Obama make us laugh, they asked in all seriousness. He's too somber, too circumspect, they complained. Even professional comedians admitted that they have found it hard to find a way to crack jokes about the Senator because he's black, careful and beloved by many.

Hmmmmmm... Do y'all see how this blog is going to basically write itself? I think I smell some bullet points coming.

1. Do we really need more laughs?

Okay, this is an easy one. If I understand correctly, the media are saying that after the bumbling sideshow that our government has become over the past eight years, they think we need more stuff to laugh about?


Is that their final answer?

Well, I now understand even more why my profession is one of the least respected in the country.

2. Racist jokes are easier

I think it's interesting that so many white comedians feel like they can't come up with acceptable jokes about Obama without offending someone. It really shows how uncomfortable and ignorant most white people are about black people.

After all, good comedy is born from an intimate understanding of the subjects you're lampooning. Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle know what it's like to be a black man in America, which is why their jokes about that life were always so funny. Eddie and Richard clearly understood crazy family members. Foxx understood living a hard life. Chappelle has studied the ins and outs of race and racism in this country.

They all can make funny jokes about controversial subjects because they have taken the time to gain an understanding of those subjects. They aren't practicing drive-by comedy. They aren't settling for the snarkiest comment that makes them and their audiences appear to be the most intelligent people on Earth. Nope, they are sharing their own vulnerabilities and their own loves and hates about difficult topics and because of their connection the material is funny.

The problem for most white comedians is not that Obama doesn't do anything that is funny. It's not that there is nothing humorous about his campaign. The problem is that they lack the skills to find the funny stuff. They don't understand black people and their culture enough to make a joke that doesn't involve rims, grills and gold chains. That's the real problem.

3. That nigger better be funny

And we've arrived at the real reason I wrote this post. It goes beyond the idea that people in this country should have had enough laughs thanks to George Bush. No, it goes to the idea that Obama needs to make white people comfortable with him, and the easiest way for them to get comfortable with a black man is if he's making them laugh.

Serious black men confuse and frustrate white people. Well, unless they are criminals. Serious thugs are easy for white people to understand and deal with. They fit into the proper box. The one with bars.

No, it's the serious brothers who are just regular cats that are enigmas. I've seen it many times in my own life. I can be gregarious and entertaining when I want, but often around strange white people I assume a quiet, subdued pose. It's a defense mechanism that allows me to scope out the scene before I reveal my true self.

But, I can't tell you how many times I have white people or their surrogates tell me "You need to lighten up more. You're too serious. Be more friendly." I remember one woman gave me this spiel and I told her that I was always extremely polite to everyone at work. She said "Well being polite isn't the same thing as being friendly, you need to crack a joke sometimes."

Crack a joke.

Black people are not here to entertain white people. We are not here to make them laugh, we are not here to make them cry, we are not here to make them angry. We are human beings living our lives just like them. We are under no obligation to make them "smile."

Barack Obama is running to be the most powerful politician in America during one of the most unsettled times in this country's history. And white folks are wondering if he is going to lose because he doesn't make them smile?

Shuffle, shuffle... Dance, jig, dance.


Anonymous said...

Josh Hamilton has nothing on you. You nailed that one.

Good Ish.

WNG said...

Well F**king Done.

Too True For Words.

Will you please email this to Dowd? Please!

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Loved it! Great points.


Truthiz said...

And let the Church say AMEN!

Anonymous said...

Yes!!! Why on earth should this man need to make folks laugh, I know... White folks get confuzzled when we get too serious, seems that happens often regardless owf whether you are a black man or woman.

Great post!

Deacon Blue said...

I don't get Dowd's complaint. Barack Obama does on the campaign trail what many other politicians do: He's mostly serious and sometimes gets the chance to crack a good joke in a speech. He's made me laugh a few times with comments in his speeches. So what's this "he's too serious" shit? He's gotta be funnier than other politicians?

You're right, it's the desire to see the shuffle, dance and jig.

Smokie said...

Damn, this was a good post and great observation.

I love that the YT's are being forced to try to think past the 'rims and gold teeth' -- just like we have been forced to think past the 'corny and know it all'.

They truly don't understand us at all. I would love to see a movie where everything has been reversed...I'd like to see where YT's would be right now if they had been enslaved. I'd like to walk into offices where 97% are black and 3% are white and see how they adjust and assimilate to US.

rikyrah said...

You are so on the money.

I am pissed about this current ' Meme' in the press..

The ' When is Barack Obama gonna turn into Sammy Davis, Jr. and entertain us' Meme.

I'm like NEVER, mofos.


He's running to be President of the United States. Not next host at Showtime at the Apollo.

But, they don't seem to be able to handle a Black person that isn't there for their amusement.

the uppity negro said...

Now, I'm not sure if I agree with this post or not. I definitely think that the construct for it to be dead on the money is there. However, I'm not quick to jump on this and say that white need to feel comfortable around him, as a result of his ability to entertain--make whitey smile.

What I will say is that white folk are more at ease when a black person "entertains" them, why because just like black criminals, "entertainment" neatly fits in the box. Why shouldn't it, the remotely positive portrayals of blacks through the media are most widely displayed as our exceling in the arts and entertainment---NBA or NFL anyone?

I also think Cafferty missed the mark by even remotely asserting that the president's job is to make us laugh--that statements totally laughable. Apparently so do the people who left comments after Cafferty's statement. Most comments afterward were saying that given the drag and knockout primary season and the somber mood of the country--the economy, Iraq, race in this country...all this crap, no one is expecting our president to get up and shuck and jive.

I'll be the first to say that article is some BULL!!


jelana said...

I read a comment on another blog from a white guy that said "whites want him to be the guy they can have a beer with". He stated all elected presidents have been that way. We see where that line of thinking has placed us in the last 8 years. From my vewpoint, with all the stress, it is a miracle Barack remains sane, much less cracking jokes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I couldn't believe they were actually talking about that and it was considered news. A week or two ago, Matthews had a headline of "Is Obama Too Cool?" :P

dewfish said...

excellent article.....

Raving Black Lunatic