The connection between racism and comedy is the most open taboo in the entertainment industry. But the new CBS sitcom ”2 Broke Girls“ has begun to harness a reputation of being solely based on racist comedy and the controversy is growing after the show’s co-creator, Michael Patrick King (of Sex and the City fame), defended his use of racial stereotypes as the comedic backbone of the show.
Which begs the question: Where should we draw the line between funny and offensive in modern comedy?
King uses his homosexuality to justify his use of racial stereotypes, as if being a minority allows one to make racial jokes. “I don’t find it offensive, any of this. I find it comic to take everybody down…Being a comedy writer gives you permission to be an outsider and poke fun at what people think of other people,” King said, defending himself in an interview with Think Progress.
We’ve heard this logic before: Dave Chappelle’s use of the “N word” and George Lopez’s tease on mediocre Hispanic upbringings are the most notable examples. But, if a white person were to crack these types of jokes, either on television or stand up, it would be followed with a loud outcry. Remember Michael Richards’ outburst during his stand up show in 2006 in Los Angeles? He degraded two black audience members with racial slurs and remarks. The outburst was caught on camera and released through TMZ. Richards was attacked for the incident. But would it have been different if a comedian of a different race made the same remarks? Probably.(Dave Chappelle’s take on stereotypes and food. Don’t watch if you’re easily offended.)
Some may argue the humor is justified because it’s satirical. Satirical of what? This humor pokes fun at the people who frequently make racist jokes. This also connects to the minority argument made above: If a fellow Hispanic were to say that I could be an Olympic swimmer (a famous “wet back” joke), I would probably laugh it off. If a white classmate were to make the same joke, I would probably no longer rely on them to be the source of good jokes.
Racial comedy can be funny if a minority to their own racial group says it, but this cannot be said all of the time. Some latinos may find George Lopez offensive, just as black people may be offended by Dave Chappelle.
But where should we draw the line between funny and offensive?
If the majority can come to a consensus that black jokes are for blacks and latino jokes are for latinos, a character like Earl, the girls’ African American cashier friend on 2 Broke Girls, could be shown on BET, and a character like Han Lee, the girls’ Asian boss, could be shown on an Asian equivalent.
But having these characters on a major television network run by the white majority and watched by the white majority, it is subject to criticism and is offensive to many people.
Where do you think we should draw the line between funny and offensive in modern comedy?