Monday, May 11, 2009

Political Humor for the soul...Wanda Sykes

By now many have watched (or heard about) the stand up routine that was performed by comedian Wanda Sykes at the annual White House Correspondents dinner. Sykes as well as the Obama administration have taken some strong criticism for a joke about the conservative and virulent radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh and the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Let me just say from the outset that Sykes' jokes were funny as hell! For those such as the numerous bloggers, so-called journalists, and super conservative pundits and their agreeable servants, let me give you some context. Not to fret, however, I will spare you a historic walk down America's checkered past (as I would love to in this instance).

Sykes joked that she hoped Limbaugh's kidneys fail, just as he has wanted our Commander-in-Chief to do holistically. Limbaugh's continued calls for President Obama to fail in my opinion are tantamount to treason in many ways, if you really want to get serious about this. If I or any other person, particularly of African descent, had ever said anything like what Limbaugh has said (and continues to say) about President Obama, there would be a cry of outrage heard 'round the nation. At the very least a radio show that did so would be off the air and the host would likely be incarcerated (believe me that would find a way). "Traitor", "Benedict Arnold", "turncoat" and many other names would have been used to describe such a person or persons who acted in such a way. Remember what happened to rapper Kanye West when he said, that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" on national television during Hurricane Katrina? Luckily he survived that, but he expressed a real sentiment in the African American community.

(Go to the 1:34 mark)

However, I cannot recall at any time where folk actually wanted Bush to fail, die, or anything of the sort. Anger toward him, and his administration, had more so do with what they were, or were not doing on behalf of the American people. It was Bush's policies and the development of what historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called the "Imperial Presidency" that made people angry (i.e., his abuse of power). The collapse of his approval rating epitomized by the "boo's" he received when he left Washington at President Obama's inauguration where an example of that profound frustration. Outside of jokes about Bush's lack of intellect and his life as an illustration of white privilege (check out Chris Rock's stand-up on "C-Grade students") I cannot even recall a comedian black, white, or of any color who said they wanted Bush to fail. Now, I have wanted policies adopted by his administration to fail, but Limbaugh wants everything that President Obama is doing to crumble to illustrate how right the "right" is.

Sykes' joke, aside from wanting Limbaugh's kidney's to fail, also includes a reference to Limbaugh as being one of the 9/11 hijackers, which is just an analogous labeling because of what many (including this blogger) perceive as his anti-American comments. Hoping for an administration to fail is just that. Limbaugh's comments in accordance with Sykes' joke make Limbaugh love this empire as much as the 9/11 terrorists did. When the Bush scandal erupted in the 2000 election, black and brown folk everywhere, along with all others who voted for Al Gore, had to take that one on the chin, rumbling under their breath like the cartoon characters Yosemite Sam or Elmer Fudd when they couldn't catch Bugs Bunny. Regardless, we endured it.

This notion that anything related to 9/11 as untouchable through comedy is rubbish. I have heard jokes about slavery, the civil rights movement, the Jewish holocaust (by Jews themselves) that have been done is a very crafty way. None of those jokes took away from the horror and ugliness of historical fact or memory. Likewise, Sykes never said that the tragedy was not just that--a tragedy, because it was. However, her use of the terrorists as a grouping for Limbaugh, was genius. The really funny thing is watching those who are so-called journalists in the audience who were trying their best not to laugh or look like they found no part of her routine funny, knowing that C-SPAN and other media outlets were covering the event.

Comedy, and specifically African American humor has existed to point out the dirty, ugly, inhumane, and vile things in American life. There is an old saying that I used to hear (and still do sometimes) from older generations of blackfolk that "Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying." I think the sensitivity to Sykes' joke is misplaced and just something else for the very White House Correspondents who were at this dinner to talk about instead of their misreporting (remember when you watch television you rarely see real "news", even if you are only watching Rachel Maddow or Keith Obermann).

To Wanda Sykes' credit she did write a page in history Saturday night. She became the first African-American woman and first openly gay person to ever perform a comic routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I guess she made some more history by being the most talked about comedian after a performance as well. That said, I have a message for Wanda Sykes (if she should ever read my blog), "Sister keep doing your thing!"

For those media outlets that continue to attempt to make this a "news worthy story", negating the real problems that are plaguing this nation..."I hope you fail."



MDUBB said...

"However, I cannot recall at any time where folk actually wanted Bush to fail, die, or anything of the sort."

Everything changes when the Presidents black huh? So sad.

Citizen Ojo said...

President Obama is working under a different set of guidelines. They want you to believe it's the same for all presidents but it's not. said...

Hi there!

Wanda is just not funny...

I know that lots of people feel that she really hit this out of the ball park but ...she's boarish and crass... {yawn}

I am tired of seeing black women reinforcing the stereotypes....and yes, I do realize that she's an entertainer...

Atticus Finch said...

I love the Kanye West impromptu comments about Katrina. Mike Meyers is so uncomfortable he can hardly stand it, and Kanye is just hitting it out of the ballpark. They had to cut off the microphone and switch to Chris Tucker!

"George Bush doesn't care about black people!" Well said.

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