On Friday, Nov. 17th 2006, Michael Richards exploded in a rage of racist anger as he performed at The Laugh Factory Comedy Club. He hurled the word “Nigger” at African American patrons and referenced the good old days of lynching black people. The crowd was stunned, some patrons voiced their anger and walked out. To the public’s amazement, Richards was invited back to perform the next night on that very stage.
Only after the video of this hate tirade circulated on the Internet, the club owner responded with a new club policy to ban the “N” word. In addition, the club owner threatened to fine comedians who used the “N” word in their routine… affecting mainly black comedians. This new policy currently allows the club to profit from Richards’ hate rant.
Now! The media’s focus is successfully distracted of off Richards’ hate rant and The Laugh Factory’s colossal mismanagement of this event and diverted to an “N” word farce – America and especially, the African American community are taking the bait. So while folks are busy debating the “N” word, HATE and RACISM are left off the hook.
As an African American and a comedy club owner, I protested the “N” word ban by hosting a freedom of speech comedy event, which allowed comedians to perform freely without censorship. More importantly, I wanted to send a message that it’s not words themselves that hurt us; it’s how they are used.
This act resulted in national headlines, such as: “Black club owner encourages “N” word” and “N” word night at The Comedy Union.” They all missed the point.
At The Comedy Union we have no fear of the “N” word, it’s said here all the time; some comedians use it, others don’t. This is a comedy club, we do funny here, we don’t make policy — The comedy stage is a sacred place where individuality and creativity meet choice, respect, restraint, tolerance and understanding.
If the black community finds it necessary to eradicate the “N” word, this should be a decision made as a community – not as a reactionary policy brought on by Richards’ hate tirade. But make no mistake: any comedian that launches a venomous assault on any group or person will be instantly banned from our club. Period.
We have fought and won many freedoms in this country. The appropriate response to racism is not to shave away at those hard-won freedoms, but to stand firm for our deepest convictions.
We appreciate the comments we have received from hundreds of impassioned fans, we trust this clarifies our perspective and welcome you to visit our club in the days and years to come.
Category: Columns | Tags: N Word
Enss Mitchell, The Comedy Union Owner
Written by Rodney Perry
Michael Richards’ racial tirade was definitely a surprise, because we do not expect that type of activity from those of us who are responsible for making people laugh. Comedians and comedic actors are viewed in a different light. These are people that regardless of their skin color have been embraced by people of color. Ultimately, for black people if you can make us laugh you kind of get a pass.
I am absolutely sure that he is not the only person not of African American decent that holds those values deep within their daily façade. I venture to say that if Michael Richards had managed to accompany his racial tirade with some FUNNY this would not be an issue today. Comedy history is not void of those comedians brave enough to attack racial issues, but at the end of the day those racial comments are more of a social commentary than an attack on one individual race.
I thank Michael Richards for at the very least helping to start this dialogue. The perception is that the racial problems of the 50’s and 60’s are a thing of the past. There couldn’t be anything further from the truth. The racial wounds are still open and painful. In examining the Kramer comments the N-word (for get that) Nigger stands out but the most hurtful comments were the ones referencing lynching. Even more than the comments themselves I tripped off the shear arrogance that allowed him to bypass his normal filter.
One question still left unanswered in reference to this issue is the fact that after Michael Richards’ racial tirade, he was permitted to perform two more times before he was banned. Only after the media got involved did the Laugh Factory management make moves to rectify the situation. Why? What would I have done? The position of most black people is that the brothers that were there were not real black folks. I hear comments about rushing the stage, or throwing glasses. I can not say that if I would have been there that I would have done either of those things. As a black man I always have to consider the repercussions of my actions, how it’s going to affect me, my family and my race. Kramer did not consider the affects of his actions at all.
Chris Spencer and Pookie Wiggington run Chocolate Sundaes which is located inside of the Laugh Factory. I will continue to support them where ever they are. I do not believe that black people should be penalized for one man’s racist views.
There is a call among black folks and others to simply ban the word NIGGER. Paul Mooney has said that he will not use the word. I will believe that when I see it. I believe that black people should consider abolishing the word NIGGER, but not as a quick fix to this issue. The Laugh Factory has banned the word and has imposed fines to anyone that uses it. I think with us beginning to focus on the word NIGGER we cloud the issue at hand. Simply addressing the word will only put a band-aid on this racial sore.
Those of us that are in the word business must always protect our right to say words. Some words are offensive, some words hurt, and some words heal. I submit that it is never the word that is the problem, but it is the intent of the author of that word. The decision to stop using the word NIGGER should be an individual choice. We must recognize that we have great power in our words. That power can be used to divide or to unite.
So again thank you Michael Richards, Kramer or what ever your name is; thank you for the dialogue, the conversation and the racial slurs, thank you for the wake up call… Good Lookin’ out. But dog if you do it again, the next time you see us we will be acting like NIGGERS. Much Love and Happy Holidays.
Category: Columns | Tags: Kramer, Michael Richards, N Word
Should a comedian dress up to perform? Some say yes. Some say no. Still some of us just don’t know. So here we go. We must first consider what is dressed up for you. Is it a white T-shirt with creased Khaki’s or is it a pair of the latest jeans with your flyest tennis shoes. Lets all agree that although T-shirts and Khaki’s can be considered fly, stylish and current that aint dressed up and while you stand to spend as much or more money on the new hot pair of jeans and those fresh out of the box sneakers than on a suit that aint dressed up.
Comedian/Actor Jay Phillips (Gary Poole, McDonalds commercials) and I recently had a conversation about comedy and how our styles had evolved. Jay spoke of his BET Comic View choices of wardrobe. His first couple of performances he wore shorts and T-shirts, then he rocked a denim look and just last year he blazed the stage with a blazer, jean combo with a fly shirt and a matching hat. Jay’s look was hardly a suit but he said that the blazer gave him a since of GrownMan and that’s what he wanted to convey.
The Kings and Queens of Comedy definitely raised the fashion bar for all comedians. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity speak with both Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer on this subject and the general consensus is you dress up (in suits) mostly out of respect for your audience. These shows are events. People prepare for months getting their best clothes together and it is your duty to at the very least present your best.
When I wear a suit on stage I hit the stage with a since of pride. Although , I once had an manager tell me not to dress up for a showcase, he said that I should look like I wanted to make it, and not that I already had made it. I said to myself that sounds like some B. S. I wore my suit and proceeded to be completely ignored by powers that be…Maybe he was right.
My good friend Comedian Joey “J-Dub” Wells. Is at home on stage with a pair jeans and a designer T-shirt. Joey is completely devoted to his hip-hop look. Even Joey has begun to make the suit transition, he has been sited on stage recently suited and booted, cufflinks and all.
The question is…Do I dress up? Do I rock a suit? Yes, IF YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE, yep that’s the answer your comfort is paramount. Personally, suits is my thing, but one of my contemporaries Roland “Lil Duval” Powel is a beast onstage with an oversized T-shirt and some sagging’ jeans on. What you wear onstage is a personal choice and when making your choice consider these three things: 1. Your Audience – dress to impress them (your way) 2. Your Comfort – if you are not comfortable you are not funny 3. Your evolution – as you grow up on stage so does our individual look.
This is Rodney Perry and right now I am typing this in my draws. So much for dressing up.
Category: Columns | Tags: Dress, Jay Phillips, Khaki's