Post by Auntie Vice
I make a lot of jokes about dating Black men. I do this largely because much of my life has been dating Black men and if comedy really is tragedy plus time, I have a gold mine here. People have pointed out that I do pull a lot of race into my act, and it is true.
I am not the only white girl who jokes about Black guys. There are more than a few of us who have done this and found comedy in the whole thing. I want to address the approach to using race, specifically interracial dating, in comedy.
I come from a position of significant academic training in the politics of race (it was what I specialized in during grad school). I have a large body of work dedicated to understanding the interactions between race and power. I also have a lot of experience actually dating and loving Black men (begin snickering, I know). You can view my extended post on interracial dating here.
I see a lot of comics, especially White girls, make the “oops, I fucked a Black guy” jokes or the “so I fucked this guy to get even with my dad,” jokes. First, I think this is tired material. White female comics have been cracking some version of “fucked a Black dude to piss off dad” for the last twenty-five years. Secondly, if you really wanted to piss off dad, fuck an under-achieving Indian dude. When you break it to your folks that your date is not a doctor but a Hindi bike messenger, the levels of disappointment are compounded.
Second, comedy has power. We can choose to cash in the on the cheap joke about stereotypes or dumb behavior for a quick laugh. The more nuanced and powerful thing is to take the same premise and push an understanding of seeing people as individuals and with something to contribute. Limiting your comedy to reinforcing stereotypes is problematic. You can use the stereotype to push back against that.
For example, I was doing the Don Geronimo Show. I began by talking to the host about water sports (it was in relationship to my kink book). Later, the host asked me what type of guys I date. He brought up he thought it was weird that Black guys would be into piss play. I said the weird thing was, the dude was always on time for a date. It got a laugh and breaks the idea that all Black guys run on BPT.
What amazes me most is that people who have an underlying base of bias in their comedy can still be embraced by the group that they are targeting. There are plenty of comics who book gigs in clubs catering largely to the audience of their target of underlying bias. One seasoned comic explained this as, “If they think they can hit that, they will book a comic.” That may be. And maybe people find outright bigotry funny. I don’t know.
I just think comics have too much potential power to shape and reinforce ideas. I have no issue going racial or sexist or anything else, if it pushes better relationships and social justice.
Just my thoughts.