digital rhetoric, october 28th, 2014: race and humor with youtube darlings key and peele

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Key, Peele, and race.


  • 1. Race & Comedy
  • 2. Today 1) Updates 2) Interlude: Chris Rock on White America 3) Key & Peele on the nature of humor and race (with videos) 4) So what does that tell us? What CAN and cant we do? 5) Next time
  • 3. Dont forget You have two major projects due today, to the Niihka drop-box. You should submit: 1) Your logo with your memo and your pitch letter (three things) 2) your typography remix with memo (two things)
  • 4. Please use the drop box. I know some of you have emailed me, but unless for some reason your computer CANNOT upload to Niihka, please do. It makes my grading process 10X smoother if all the projects are in one place instead of spread among the battle-field of my email box. A happier, efficient Dr. Phill means quicker grading and feedback for all of you.
  • 5. Race and Comedy To start us out, I want to offer Dr. Phills 5 assertions why racial comedy is funny (whether it should or shouldnt be).
  • 6. One Deep down, maybe even in a place where we cant see or feel it on a daily basis, humans fear the other, the person who is so unlike them. A way to subvert that fear is to laugh in the face of it.
  • 7. Two Humor is a pathos based (pathetic perhaps?) response. Because of that, it is enhanced by other forms of pathos. Fear, anxiety, danger, etc. make comedys impact stronger. And some other emotion relates to race for most people.
  • 8. Three Comedians from othered groups, due to the culture spawned by political correctness, perceive and are perceived as having more security to talk about their own race. This means that some of the most edgy comedy comes from people who arent like you and can point it out.
  • 9. Four In spite of political correctness, many of us grow up around bullies, and bullying is viewed as cool. Because of PC, as adults (unless were, you know, jerks) we dont throw racial insults or pick on kids for wearing glasses or being fat. But deep inside, we still think its cool.
  • 10. Five We also want to understand other cultures, but we often dont know how to ask certain questions. When we hear a joke that explains something, we feel both the enjoyment of the comedy and the relief of learning something new.
  • 11. TRANSITION: Chris Rock
  • 12. Key and Peele Over the next several slides, Im going to offer you the text of a TIME magazine essay Key and Peele wrote in March of this year. Interspersed, well stop from time to time to watch a piece of their comedy. When were done, well talk about it.
  • 13. When did America get so politically correct? Its when we refuse to mock a group that we truly act like bullies. Would you make fun of a burn victim? Well, we did. Sort of
  • 14. Were comics. In the most recent season of our TV show, in a sketch titled Insult Comic, a traditional stand-up comedian professes that he is going to get everybody in his set (the guy toward the front with big ears, the fat guy, the woman with comically large breasts).
  • 15. Thats the phrase, isnt it, when a critic wants to praise a comedian for the fearless nature of his or her comedy? That he or she gets everybody? That nobody is safe? One of the club patrons in our sketch, however, is a wheelchair-bound burn victim. You skipped me, he calls from the audience, with a robotic-sounding artificial larynx. Go for it, he says, I can take it.
  • 16. But can we, as a society, take it anymore?
  • 17. Today it seems that we live in a world of extremes. On one end of the spectrum, we have anonymous Internet trolls looking for opportunities to dole out cruelty with impunity. But in mainstream culture, it often seems were drowning in a sea of political correctness that lapped up on our shores a couple of decades ago and has yet to recede.
  • 18. Its amazing to think how popular television shows like All in the Family and Good Times might fare today in a Hollywood pitch meeting. Films like Blazing Saddles and Silver Streak wouldnt make it past the development stage at a studio. Too edgy.
  • 19. Somewhere along the line, weve forgotten the true purpose of humor: to help people cope with the fears and horrors of the world.
  • 20. Sure, sometimes at Key & Peele, we swim in the shallow waters of pratfalls, airplane observations and simple old-school punnery. But what we strive for and what we think more people should strive foris deeper: to make fun of everything.
  • 21. At the same time, though, its our duty. To not make fun of something is, we believe, itself a form of bullying. When a humorist makes the conscious decision to exclude a group from derision, isnt he or she implying that the members of that group are not capable of self-reflection?
  • 22. Or dont possess the mental faculties to recognize the nuances of satire? A group thats excluded never gets the opportunity to join in the greater human conversation.
  • 23. Luckily, a lot of people get thisat least when it comes to their own cultures. Like the burn victim in our sketch, they plead, You skipped me! Do me!
  • 24. There was the half-Hispanic, half Native American man who told Keegan recently just how much gold there was to be mined from his hybrid culture.
  • 25. A young Arab man told us how much he loves Karim and Jahar (a couple of sexually repressed Arab characters we play). You gotta do more of them! he begged. Gay and lesbian couples tell us to keep going Theres plenty to make fun of Trust us!
  • 26. Where a lot of people get nervous, however, is when it comes to laughing at other peoples culture or perceived weaknesses. Thats when we worry that were being insensitivethat were being mean.
  • 27. But ask yourself again whats worse: making fun of people or assuming that theyre too weak to take it?
  • 28. The white whale of comedy is still out there. The day we can make fun of a black lesbian dwarf with Down syndrome whos in a wheel