Let it never be said that Black folks can’t enjoy a good joke.
As a matter of fact, teasing each other is our known mechanism to deflect the pain we often feel as pariahs in the country we call home.
You need go no further than our rich history of comics who fuse politics with punch lines. From Moms Mabley to Wanda Sykes or Redd Foxx to Chris Rock, we survive our circumstance, in part, by attempting to find something – anything — in it that can make us smile.
Hell, Chescaleigh managed to bring a little levity to #OscarsSoWhite with what I am calling the best damn nail tutorial in recent history.
But poorly rendered ribbing, such as Jimmy Kimmel’s Blackening of the Oscar nominations with trite, tired stereotypes, do not belong in the canon of laughing-to-keep-from-crying. As many of his detractors, including Issa Rae and author Eric Jerome Dickey, have noted…the sketch was simply not amusing.
Kimmel’s bit included turning “The Big Short” into “The Big Shawty,” “The Room” into “The Crib” and re- imagining “Steve Jobs” into a white zoot suit-clad “Steve Harvey.” In this mess, more appropriate for the 80s when C. Thomas Howell reigned supreme as “Soul Man,” he demonstrated no more insight than the fools who made sure the Oscars 2016 will be as lily white as the blizzard about to hit the East Coast this weekend.
“Oh but wait,” the whitesplainer squad may argue, “He’s just being funny. He’s mocking the way that Black film used to be treated…a soul-infused version of ‘real’ cinema.” Used to be? Nah, pham. That mess is happening right now. It’s been happening for decades.
Ol’ Oscar does think of entertainment, for us, by us and about us, belongs in some kind of ghetto. It’s entertainment that is good for making money, but not making audiences think. It’s buffoonery that may make you laugh but couldn’t possibly make you cry. We are rewarded sporadically and seemingly for roles that reinforce what White America thinks of us in general. Denzel couldn’t claim Oscar gold for his powerful performances in “Malcolm X,” but the minute he’s a crooked, crime boss of a cop in “Training Day,” they couldn’t wait to push him toward the podium.
The joke is not funny because it is reality. Kimmel’s supposed satire is the clearest, most cutting example of “too soon.”
This simply isn’t a hilarious scenario, particularly when the joke is coming from a man who is not its target. But I wonder how funny he would think it was if #OscarsSoWhite critics– including Will Smith, Idris Elba, David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o—skipped his show.
He should also take a peep at his so-called defenders…I dunno…just to see if he truly wants to be lumped in with #TeamTroll. They aren’t exactly the Justice League as is evident in this snarky (and simple-minded) statement from the Independent Journal which found his work “hilarious.”
“Jimmy Kimmel was not afraid to take on a sensitive subject last night, not-so-subtly blasting critics like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith who are boycotting the Oscars due to the lack of minority nominees.”
Really, Kimmel? Is that what you were doing?
If that was the goal (which I pray it wasn’t), he failed. All he did was make himself look foolish, insensitive and uninformed. Prolific pen-master, Dickey, might have said it best:
Hollywood is one of the places you can be as racist as you want to be and write it off as art, freedom of expression, opinion, bottom-line.
— Eric Jerome Dickey (@EricJDickey) January 22, 2016
So rightfully, #OscarssoWhite is branching off into #KimmelSoClueless. It’ll be a while before Oscar absorbs the lesson that diversity is no longer an option and Blacks will not be relegated to seat fillers and set pieces with no hope of recognition. It’s not looking good, but here’s hoping Kimmel’s learning curve is much shorter.