What Would You Do?


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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61 Responses

  1. veronica dire says:

    I would not say it.

    I cannot give you permission to say “tranny” or “she male” or any other such. The reason I cannot give you permission to say these things is I do not speak for every trans woman, and many are rightfully hurt by those terms. Just because they do not bother me (and mostly they do not), they bother others and it is not my place to say they’re wrong.

    (And on that note, fuck Ru Paul. If you are watching him, stop.)

    Likewise a black person cannot give me permission to say the n-word. Nor can some shitty comedian trying to be “edgy” — as if some fake-ironic, dime-a-dozen pose can actually be edgy, as if these bros impress anyone other than themselves.

    People will go along. They will laugh nervously and pretend to be in on it. Some will enjoy it, because groupthink gives them permission to be an ass. But it’s an ugly word and a crowd of clueless, privileged dudebros chanting the word in unison will not end racism.

    But it will make a bunch of white folks feel really hip.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to veronica dire says:

      I agree and disagree, @veronica-dire . I think you are spot on in terms of group think. However, I think the idea of granting permission is not quite so simple. While you might never give me “permission” to say ‘tranny’ or ‘she male’, I’d venture to guess you’d respond differently to me using it if I used it in certain ways than someone you didn’t know or who demonstrated animosity towards trans folk. Hell, you’ve already responded with better understanding to my own naiveté on the subject than to others because I think you’ve recognized my intent to be respectful. That doesn’t mean I can walk around dropping the words willy-nilly. But you could make it okay for me to say it to/with you, though that is the extent to which you “control” the word. As you note, you do not speak for all trans people, only for yourself.

      I have a hunch that the word is probably used in the writer’s room a lot. Maybe not by all members (the Japanese writer seemed genuinely uncomfortable) but the ease with which the two white members (particularly the women) used it made me think her black colleagues somehow gave them permission. This is even more the case if the bit was rehearsed. That said, the black writers were not the only black folks there and could not decide on behalf of the others. If that guy in the front row had decided to throw a punch instead of just his middle fingers, it’d be hard to tell him he was wrong.

      I will say nothing felt “hip” about it. Not to me at least. The smiles on other people’s faces were really disconcerting.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ve heard professional writers tell holocaust jokes.
        They were fucking hilarious (and Totally Inappropriate, which might have been part of the humor).

        Every word is just that, a tool.

        I dislike this bit of groupthink, and might have been tempted to shout something funny if I could think of it (“Murrrray!”)Report

  2. Road Scholar says:

    It’s all about context and intent. Just uttering the word, at the specific request of a black person no less, doesn’t make you racist any more than typing the words, “Jesus Christ is Lord” in this comment makes me a Christian.

    Words aren’t magic. If they were, casting spells would be something more than make-believe. Frankly, I grow weary of this impulse among some liberals to constantly prove their liberal street cred by being more politically correct than the next guy.

    I mean, it’s pretty effing ridiculous when you can’t even utter or type the word in the context of a conversation about the word itself. We imbue words with power by making them taboo; the stronger the taboo, the stronger the power.

    To be clear, I don’t use those words in conversation because in most instances the intent could only be construed as hurtful and I’m not that kind of guy. I just think it gets a little silly sometimes given that if I type out “n-word” as a substitute everyone knows what the hell that word is and it ends up flashing through your brain anyway. So now instead of saying the word myself I’ve forced you to make the substitution and say the word to yourself inside your head. Kind of an asshole move, huh?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Road Scholar says:


      I agree with you that words are not magic. FWIW, I opted not to type the word here for a few different reasons, none of which were an outright refusal to put that sequence of letters together. I’ve actually typed the word out here a handful of times when discussing the word itself and its usage. I’ve said the word a handful of times: once during a much less enlightened time in my life as the punchline to a horrible joke told amongst white folks as I struggled with my own racial identity development; and a few times as an adult in retelling a story of when the word was said to me in such a way that was jarring.

      Louis CK also has a great bit about the term “n-word”, arguing that people who say that are basically saying, “You think of the word!”

      In this context, the original comedian said “n-word” and it wasn’t until his counterparts on stage said “nigger” that the actual word was used. I confess to not remembering how often they actually said it from there on out and how often they simply referred to it as “it” (e.g., “Alright, you ready to say it?”).

      All that said, given the power of the word and its verboten nature, it is still hard to put my mouth together to piece together its sounds, especially with the “hard R” (the “-a” version I hear often enough in music and used colloquially that it simply seems to be an entirely different word at this point). My sense is that this is true for a number of us. It is not a word that rolls off the tongue. Which is a good thing, probably. And I think they wanted to explore that. Who would say it? How would they say it? How would they feel saying it?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Road Scholar says:


      Also — and I ask this genuinely — does this post read as a liberal trying to prove his street cred? I certainly didn’t intend it as such. While I say that I think the audience’s reaction was inappropriate, I ultimately conceded (or at least attempted to) that it is not my feelings that really matter, but those of the people most often denigrated by that word. I intended this post to foster a real discussion about the situation I witnessed rather than a group shaming of those who said it. Of course, that much is obvious to me: I wrote the post. If it reads otherwise, your feedback is appreciated and I can consider ways to clarify my intent. Thanks.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Road Scholar says:

      Of course I can type the word. Here, I’ll do it now.


      Wow. There it is.

      But here is the thing, I almost never do that and I won’t likely do it again. The reason for this is simple: basic respect for black people.

      Look, I don’t give the word power, as if I, veronica, have any real say in that. The power of the world is a social construct, true, but social constructs don’t disappear overnight because a bunch of white folks decide to ignore it.

      500 years gave that word power. And all the ongoing racism, the piles of dead black bodies that grow and grow and fucking grow — as a bunch of shitty gentrifying Brooklynites, who took the subway in, get to feel think good thoughts. How many black people were murdered while that show went on?

      Long ago, before any of us, white folks put that word on black folks, and everything that went with it, all the strange fruit in southern trees. And now we whites can step back, shut up, and let black folks figure out themselves what they want to do with that word. We don’t get to say it.

      I like Louis CK, but he is totally fucking wrong on this one.Report

  3. NobAkimoto says:

    I think this is also kind of riffing off a “reclaim the word” style sketch from the Vagina Monologues (so this makes it something of a very inside joke inside joke).

    That said, the joke’s actual punchline appears to actually be that this sort of stupid “solution” to racism is actually complete nonsense and that getting the audience to deliver the punchline’s the joke. I also think your co-audience members didn’t really GET that part. It’s like those jackass dude-bros ruining Chappelle’s stand-up in Hartford.Report

  4. Michelle says:

    I think that if you paid to see this stuff, you should ask for your money back. I get that they were trying to be edgy and perhaps prick the audience’s racial conscious, but I’m sure there are better ways to do it.

    I probably would have gotten up and walked out of the theater at this point. I certainly wouldn’t be using that word at the behest of some entertainers.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Michelle says:

      I think that goes a bit too far. Asking for my money back because a racially-mixed group of performers (led by two black men) implored a group of primarily white people to say the N-word seems strange for a white person to do. I didn’t have to say it and chose not to. Ultimately, my discomfort was largely with the white people saying it (at the behest of the performers, but still ultimately of their own volition) and the theater-owner or show producer or whomever is ultimately not responsible for that. This wasn’t a lone heckler in the audience causing offense and discomfort who was ignored by management; that would arguably justify complaints. The crowd yelled, “NIGGER!” and the show ended. I don’t think it would have been unreasonable for black audience members to complain though. While the word was not directed at them, an admittedly hostile environment was created.

      I totally get what they were trying to do and think it was interesting (among other things). What shocked me was the smiling white faces gleefully saying it. I don’t know if they thought they were being edgy or progressive or were just happy to say the word with apparent impunity. But I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t have said it.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I probably wouldn’t ask for my money back, either, but mostly because I’m not that type of person. I’ll never say never, but I don’t *think* I ever sent food back at a restaurant or asked for my money back for anything other than times when I’ve returned retail items to, say, Target. And even with the latter example, I can’t think of a time I’ve done it, although I probably have once or twice.

        I might walk out. But I’ve only done that once. It was at an open-mic poetry reading when a “poet” was talking about how fun it was to “kill a whore” (I probably paraphrase, but that’s mostly his words). Walking out in @kazzy ‘s example might have been hard, however, because it was the last act of the night.Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Kazzy says:

        Considering these are people behind Key & Peele, asking for your money back because they pushed the bounds of racism is like asking for your money back from the London Philharmonic because they used violins.

        It doesn’t make it right (and to answer Kazzy’s question, I wouldn’t have said the word – however, when I was younger, if everyone was doing it and the performers were imploring me to do it, I might have; I can’t say for sure), and it doesn’t mean you should enjoy their show, but the audience kind of got what was reasonably expected.

        Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion on the bit. I imagine that Nob has the right take. Convincing a bunch of white people that they can end racism by saying the n-word makes those people the joke.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        With regards to “everyone doing it”, I think it is important to note that the word wasn’t chanted. Rather, it was “1… 2… 3… NIGGER!” Everyone who said it theoretically risked being the only person to do so since they didn’t know with certainty if others were doing it. It was a one-shot deal. There was enough buildup beforehand that I’m sure people might have checked in with those near them one way or another, but they still didn’t know what the rest of the crowd was going to do.

        I must have misread Nob’s comment because I didn’t get that takeaway from it, but I think that is a really good point. It would have been really interesting if the performers responded with outrage. “Who the fuck do you think you are saying that word?” As Colton (one of the performers) clarified here in the comments, the bit was completely improvised, so it is possible even they were thrown off or otherwise unprepared for the response. To me, that says maybe they shouldn’t have gone that route but, hey, what do I know?

        I’m curious how they would have felt if anything came of it. Imagine if one of the black audience members confronted a white audience member who said it?Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy Apologies, I misread. I thought they were going through the audience getting people to say it.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        One of the performers did say that if the whole audience didn’t say it, then they’d go one-by-one through the crowd. This was an empty threat though who knew at that point.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    I probably would not have said it and felt very uncomfortable in the whole situation. This seems like the type of comedy that thinks being “edgy” is always a laugh riot.

    The whole idea of “reclaiming” a word has always been odd to me. At least in the context of Judaism. There is a magazine called Heeb (which was an insult hurled at Jews like the n-word was hurled at blacks) and I don’t understand the purpose of this. I’ve also overheard fellow Jews show off their tattoos and say they are “reclaiming” tattoos from the Nazis but I always wonder “How can you reclaim something that was never part of your culture to begin with?”

    People always tell me I am thinking too much by asking these questions.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think it would have been funnier if no one said it. The message then is if white people won’t say it when asked by black folks to, let’s just go ahead and officially retire it. I wonder how typical that response was (again, assuming it was rehearsed). But there is nothing funny about a group of white people yelling it.

      I remain agnostic on reclaiming words. I simply lack standing to comment. I mean, I’ll occassionally use Italian slurs. But that doesn’t feel the same.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        I lack standing to comment with other cultures besides Judaism.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yea, but you are probably capable of the necessary empathy to participate in a broader discussion, even if the specifics are different.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        Well that’s a compliment.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        and I lack standing to comment about Jewish slurs too. go me.
        (seriously, there were apparently anti-Semetic folks around when I was growing up, but I was never personally insulted by them. Nobody “accidentally” brought me to a KKK rally — yes, I seriously heard that told to me by the guy who claimed to have done it.)Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    Mel Brooks has done a handful of comedies in which Hitler shows up. In “The Producers”, they’re trying to make the worst play ever and decide on “Springtime For Hitler”. In “To Be Or Not To Be”, the story takes place in occupied Poland and Hitler himself shows up.

    His argument, as I understand it, is that he wants to change Hitler from a figure of terror to a punchline.

    Mel Brooks is, of course, meshuga. But I think that he’s onto something. Lenny Bruce had a discussion where he wanted to remove all of the power from the n-word and thought that overuse would get us there faster than making the word a totem.

    I don’t know the right way to approach these things, myself… but I see a strange power in the first thought one having when one encounters Neo-Nazis being “it’s springtime… for Hitler… in Germany…” and asking “did you see The Producers?”Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      I haven’t seen “The Producers” (film or stage). But that feels different. When these white folks see a Klansmen, they won’t think of a cartoonish cariacture; they’ll think of that totes dope time they said the word but how it wasn’t racist when they did it, just when the Klansmen does.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        If you do decide to watch it, see the original with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. The remake is a pale imitation, other than Will Ferrell as the Nazi playwright. For once, his relentless over-the-topness worked perfectly.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      Woody Allen and Mel Brooks have a long standing argument on this subject. Mel Brooks believes that you can fight bigotry and racism by making the haters so buffoonish that nobody would want to be them. Woody Allen doesn’t think that this technique works and that you just have to treat bigots as bunch of monsters that need to be dealt with firmly, harshly, and preferably with blunt objects.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I think Mel Brooks has the upper hand in this argument. Allen’s argument is basically that you have to outbully the bullies. But that doesn’t stop people from wanting to bully others. We know that kids who get treated badly at home are more likely to treat other kids badly. You may shut a person up by outbullying them, but you don’t change what they want to be. They’ll just do it more surreptitiously.

        But nobody wants to be mocked. Sustained laughter can make someone question their beliefs, unless they’re mentally not on an even keel.

        Obviously it’s a bit disconcerting to treat someone who purposefully attempted to exterminate an entire ethnic group, and killed over 10 million people in death camps, as a pathetically comic figure. But if you treat him just as a monster, you emphasize his power and others will envy that power. If you treat him as a joke, fewer people will want to be the joke.

        “Nigger,” though is a harder call, imo. Hitler’s dead, and can’t hurt anyone. Nigger is alive and well, and still has the power to hurt. Probably by using it to the point where it’s a worn-out joke will strip it of that power, but it may cause a lot of hurt to get to that point. (And as a white guy, I’m not in a position to say whether that hurt is a good price to pay, because I’d be saying it’s a fair price for others, not myself, to pay.)Report

      • Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Ditto what James said at the end of the above comment.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Back in the aughts, there were a number of anti-war and (either explicitly or implicitly) anti-GWB songs (especially after the war and his popularity went south). By far, in my view, the sharpest was Bare Naked Ladies’ “Fun & Games” which was straight mockery through-and-through. I don’t even remember the other songs, but I’ll never forget that one.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        There isn’t much evidence that the Mel Brooks approach works though. Lots of people still identify with various bigotries despite any sort of public mockery of bigots.Report

      • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I feel about Brooks much as I feel about Colbert. They are both funny and brilliant, and in the grand cosmic balance sheet they probably come out ahead. But they are playing with dangerous stuff and from time to time they will go too far. So when they do offend they should step back and think.

        For example, I liked Cobert’s segment with Janet Mock. I thought he got it exactly right and his satire worked. Many trans women did not.

        He has to own that. He does not get to say, “Well, yuck, yuck it’s satire. Get over it.”

        I mean, he can say that, if he’s an asshole.

        You can say that too, for just the same reason.

        On folks like Brooks and Colbert, they are going to make the stuff they make. When they are at the highest level they will mostly pull if off. But there is good as well as bad there. Let us own both sides. A big part of the bad is all the shitty imitators who lack their subtlety and end up just being gross, bigoted fuckheads. And then they ramble on about satire until I stab them in the eyes.

        (I may be exaggerating the intensity of my response. I’ll probably just rant on the Internet instead.)Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I dunno. I think that Blazing Saddles was absolutely *BRILLIANT* with its treatment of race. I can’t imagine it being improved upon with discussions of the importance of being aware of how he’s playing with dynamite.

        Now, perhaps, it’s one of those things where Mel Brooks, assuming Mel Brooks, needs to happen in a situation where there are Woody Allens around who are arguing against what he’s doing. I’m 100% down with that.

        But… I’m one whose sympathies tend toward the meshuga.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:


        I think that Blazing Saddles was absolutely *BRILLIANT* with its treatment of race. I can’t imagine it being improved upon with discussions of the importance of being aware of how he’s playing with dynamite.

        I agree with the first sentence, but the second, I’m not so sure. Yeah, Blazing Saddles was brilliant, but I’ve known people who seemed to like it because they interpreted it as racist humor and they liked the racist humor without interrogating it further.

        I guess Brooks can’t be blamed for being misinterpreted or for reading into his story what he didn’t intend to be read. But I do think there’s something a little dangerous in the game he’s playing. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that because if someone does feel offended, I’m reluctant to presumptively declare that their concerns can’t be valid to at least some extent.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’m one of the last people on the planet to say “if you’re offended, your offense is invalid”.

        I’m one of those irritating people who is first in line to explore the offense, try to nail it down, try to figure out what, exactly, caused the offense… whether it was the choice of the word, the likely intention of the person who chose the word, the unlikely intention of the person who chose the word, whether they were offended themselves, whether they were offended because their superego told them that this was a “be offended” situation… there are always so many juicy things going on with offense.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I don’t think you were directing this at me, @jaybird , but just to make sure the record is clear, I was not offended by anything the performers did on stage. I might have been uncomfortable with it and am still trying to make sense of whether I thought it was “inappropriate” in any way, but I registered no offense. I was uncomfortable with the audience reaction, am pretty certain it was inappropriate, but stop short of saying I was offended because I was not really the target of of the word, intentionally or otherwise.

        The one time I would say I was offended by someone’s use of the word “nigger” was when some drunk in a bar dropped it in a way that suggested he thought everyone within earshot (which was a pretty far range given how loud he was) was totally cool with him using it. I was offended that he — for whatever reason — seemed to have assumed I was okay with him using the word. Of course, that is a very different type of offense than actually being the target of the word.

        And I do think it is possible to say, “That is offensive,” without meaning, “I am offended,” and be correct. You might be wrong. But you could be right.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to LeeEsq says:

        On the whole, I’m with Moliere on that one, and so apparently with Brooks also.

        But you have to be careful with it. I thought The Producers got it right, but I know I don’t have the writing chops to do it – if I tried to do the same, I would surely end up with something awful…Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        +1 to James.
        v, Yeah, as a comic, folks gotta own that they offend people. Say, “I try stuff. Sometimes it sucks, and I’m sorry. Sorry if it hurts, I’m just trying for a laugh.”Report

    • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’ve heard entire discussions on “The Holocaust is Hilarious, if you Think About It”
      Pretty fun, if you’ve had a good doppelbock or two.Report

    • scott the mediocre in reply to Jaybird says:

      “To Be Or Not To Be” was better (IMHO) in the original – with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard and with no Hitler. Semi-seriously, I’d say Benny (and Charlie Chaplin) were rather a lot gutsier (than Brooks) in doing their bits with Hitler near the height of power.Report

  7. Mark J says:

    I wouldn’t have said the word. Not because I think that the word nigger is one that must never be uttered, but because I really hate those audience participation routines. I find them lazy and lame and not at all amusing.

    I’m with Road Scholar in that I find it odd that even when discussing the word itself and the use of the word, we can’t say or type it.

    Whenever I read or hear a discussion of the “n-word” I can’t help but singing to myself the great singer/comedian Tim Minchin’s wonderful song, “Prejudic.”


    • Kazzy in reply to Mark J says:

      I go back and forth on using it academically. Ultimately, I think “it depends”. The main reason I didn’t use it here is because the word was initially introduced as the “n-word” by the one performer and it felt gratuitous to type it more than was necessary.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        My rule of thumb is to apply “strict scrutiny” to the word: if there is a compelling reason to write it out/say it, and saying it/writing it out is the only way to fulfill that particular reason, then I guess saying it/writing it out is in play. But I almost never (actually, so far, never) have found a “compelling” reason to say it aloud or write it out. That doesn’t mean I haven’t when I was younger and more racist, said it or laughed at “jokes” told by people who used the term, but I’m saying the reasons for my participation weren’t “compelling” or legitimate.Report

  8. Stillwater says:

    I wouldn’t have said for a couple of reasons. One is that I really dislike these sorts of orchestrated group activities imposed on folks against their will. You went there for some laughs, not a cultural therapy session. So on that score the word itself isn’t what I would be specifically objecting to, just the inanity of the activity. On another level, tho, I certainly wouldn’t say *that* word, especially on the pretext that my using it would somehow end racism. Whether I’m a racist or not, normalizing that word by getting more comfortable using it seems not only moronic to me but also blindly – ignorantly – dismissive of a whole range of legitimate issues circumscribing white people’s use of that word.Report

  9. Mike Schilling says:

    I wouldn’t have said it. would have been angry at being put in that position, and would have been dismayed by the people who did say (even worse, gleefully shouted) it.

    Comedy is hard. Being funny and insightful at the same time is ridiculously hard. Being “edgy” is easy, especially if you’re just stealing Dave Chapelle bits. What you experienced is basically laziness masquerading as hipness.Report

  10. What would you have done? Would you have said it? Why or why not? What do you make of comedy of this form? Does it matter that two of the performers were black, three were people of color, and four were from traditionally marginalized demographic group? If you are black or a person of color, how would you have felt to be a member of the audience? Any other thoughts?

    I’d like to say I wouldn’t have said it, although who knows what I would have done in the moment? I think it’s wrong for me to use the word, and in most cases even to say/write it. I do draw a distinction between “using” it and “saying”/”writing” it. The latter, in my opinion, can be done in context, for example, when I’m quoting someone else, or hypothetically if I were writing a novel about a racist and wanted to represent his/her speech accurately. Even then, I think me saying/writing it would usually be a bad thing. I can quote someone and say “he said, ‘n-word.'” and my interlocutor can know exactly what I meant.

    To me, there’s something about spelling it out or saying it, instead of saying “n-word,” that’s almost always wrong. I can’t fully explain why. I agree with @road-scholar that words aren’t “magic” and I also agree that euphemisms can be overused. But even though words aren’t magic, we–as in, speakers of American English–do invest some words with a certain power. That power is conventional–it can and does change as society and people change, so we can theoretically change the power of the word–but that change evolves over time and usually very slowly, and I don’t see my using or saying/writing the word is really going to effect the change in the direction I’d like to see (i.e., where the word is robbed of its power). That’s what I fault the comedians here for.

    What do I think of this type of comedy? I’m not a big fan of what little improv I’ve seen, and I’m unclear on what you’re describing. Are the people performing on stage the actual writers you mention, or are they improv’ers from the audience or people who signed up to do improv? (These questions probably demonstrate my ignorance of the genre.)

    For me, it doesn’t matter that the people asking people to say were black, for the reasons @veronica-dire mentions above.Report

  11. Colton says:

    I’m one of the “black male” performers in this show. I’d like to clear up one inaccurate thing in your post. None of the show was rehearsed or premeditated. The only motive we entered that stage with was to be as open and free as possible. Similar to how our writers room works. We are not in the business of self censorship. We are artists.

    I’m way over the idea that somehow this word has power. It does not make one brave, or better than by not saying it. It does not make one evil or wrong for speaking it. In fact I think by arguing that no one should say it lest they be judged is more offensive than the word.

    I stand by my cast, and anyone in the crowd who yelled it. I thank them for doing their part to end racism.

    A high yellow nigger.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Colton says:

      I don’t think I’m a better person for not using it. But I figure that since I make so many poor choices in terms of how I often, in my everyday life, indulge racism, the least I can do is not use the word.

      If you are who you say you are (no offense intended, just saying that it’s easy to post pseudonymously on the web, like I do), I respectfully disagree that the exercise as Kazzy described it really does anything to end racism. And I strongly suspect some members of the audience might come away with their racism validated. Maybe on the whole you’re right–if the word is used enough that it loses its bite, that could be a good thing. And to be clear, I wasn’t at the performance, so I lack a certain standing to judge. But I just don’t see it so far.

      Finally, I think I quibble with this:

      We are not in the business of self censorship. We are artists.

      Artists self-censor all the time. They decide what to do or not to do, what to say or not to say. It’s implicit in being an artist. I think what you may have meant is that “artists don’t self-censor to conform to political sensitivities.” If so, I think I still see it differently. The performers in this case “self-censored” not using the word. They’re posing a challenge to certain persons’ political sensitivities. Maybe, again, the performers possibly have the better of the argument, although I still dissent. But it’s an argument and not simple disavowal of “self-censorship.” There are other ways to approach racism–some less effective, some more, some ineffective, some differently effective–the choice to pursue one way over the others is self-censorship of the others.Report

      • Colton in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Yea. I’m over white guys telling me what I can say.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Hi @colton ,

        First, thank you for participating in the dialogue here. And thank you for what was overall a thoroughly enjoyable show. And my apologies for an inaccurate interpretation of the final bit. I was operating on a hunch and stand corrected.

        Perhaps the OP was less clear than I intended. My discomfort was really grounded in the audience’s reaction than anything the performers did. I chose not to say it. But believe me, as someone who believes in the importance of self-identifying, I’ve long thought about a hypothetical scenario wherein a black person insists I call him/her “nigger”. Is it more respectful to honor the request as I normally would with just about any other word or to honor the general prohibition folks – blacks among them – have fought with regard to white usage of that word? I don’t know. And what of third parties? Maybe you’re cool with me using it, but what of the gentlemen in the front row who raised two middle fingers? Do his feelings matter?

        This is obviously a complicated issue. I respect your right as both an artist and a human to define yourself and the language you are comfortable with. But I reserve that same right. And – perhaps most importantly – I think a large part of that audience was not being respectful of anyone or anything but rather delighted in being naughty.

        All that said, thanks again for weighing in and for a fun evening and my sincere apologies for any mischaracterizations.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Yea. I’m over white guys telling me what I can say.

        But there you are on stage telling white people (and blacks and asians, whoever was in the audience) not only what they can say, but making them say it. Seems effed up to me.Report

  12. LWA says:

    For me, this circles around the notion of transgression.
    Comedy always has some element of transgression, or cruelty and pathos in it.
    I think we only recognize transgressive comedy when we are on the receiving end of it.

    I remember not long after Elvis died, SNL had a skit where John Belushi played the ghost of fat elvis giving advice to someone, ala Ann Landers, and of course his advice was to take pills to be happy or something.
    Very irreverent, very transgressive and edgy.
    Except it wasn’t. It lampooned a culture that was alien to the hip college audience. I noticed they never replicated that skit after Belishi died of an overdose. Sacred cows are ridiculous when they aren’t your own.

    I think in the drive to push the envelope of transgression, we forget that the thin tissue insulating comedy’s humor from cruelty can be ripped pretty easily.Report

    • Colton in reply to LWA says:

      No one was forced. Proof in point the op did not say it and I did not jump in the audience and make him.
      I’m happy people choose to discuss. And all opinions are valid. If someone was hurt watching it so be it. I dance like no one is watching.
      At the end of the day, for me, comedy is not a discussion. It’s an expression.
      As far as the “is nigger bad?” Question goes. I’ve made my decision. I’m glad others are exploring their own position on it. I have to get on a plane. Holland rules! Take careReport

      • Kazzy in reply to Colton says:

        Thanks again, @colton . We do a lot of “exploring” here. Navel gazing is pretty common. Feel free to drop back in if that’s your thing.Report

      • North in reply to Colton says:

        Yes, thank you for adding your views.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Colton says:

        I tend not to get excited about celebrity sightings, but I do think it is pretty cool that Colton popped in here. I’m assuming Google alerts or something similar did most of the heavy lifting, but who knows… maybe we have lurkers who are writers on big time TV shows!Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Colton says:

        One of the coolest things to happen for me on OT was when I showed off a music video with Mike McClure’s music on it and Mike McClure himself commented and sent me a signed copy of his then-new CD. The best CD of my collection!Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Colton says:


        I’ll admit that I got a little huffy at one of your comments above. I read it as implying I was trying to tell you what you can and cannot say. In retrospect, I’m not sure I read your comment correctly, and even if I did, maybe I was indeed telling you what you could say. (I didn’t intend that, but message sent vs. message received can do its mischief.)

        I should apologize for my “if you are who you say you are” comment. Good dialogue means assuming the good faith of one’s interlocutors, and I wasn’t doing that.

        Thanks for the comment at 2:34 pm. That’s helpful to me and I join @kazzy here in hoping you drop in again in the future if you wish.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Colton says:

        For whatever it is worth, I can confirm that Colton is exactly who he says he is.Report

  13. ScarletNumbers says:

    Considering that I get called a nigger at least twice a week at work, I have become desensitized to it.Report