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WTF? Comic Tracy Morgan Has Offensive Material?

06/10/2011 7:55 pm 13 comments

Why is comedian and “30 Rock” star Tracy Morgan issuing a mea culpa for saying nasty, vicious and vile things during a stand-up routine? Isn’t that par for the course of a comedian?

Oh, I can’t wait to see the hate mail pile into my box for supposedly defending Morgan, who ripped into gays and lesbians during a stand-up act last week in Tennessee, even suggesting in his bit “how he’d stab his son to death if he said he was gay.”

The moment the saw crossed the wires, I naturally cringed. Who in their right mind would say such a thing about his gay son? No person in his or her right mind! Except for a comedian who is accustomed to saying shocking things on stage to get a laugh.

The comedy routine picked up steam in the social media world when Kevin Rogers, who attended the Nashville show, ripped Morgan in a Facebook post entitled, “Why I No Longer Like Tracy Morgan.”

Rogers says the Morgan stand-up routine crossed the line and that Morgan’s demeanor changed.

Once word of the routine spread, it lead to calls for action against Morgan by Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay and lesbian civil rights organization, and even a mea culpa from the theatre where it was held.

In their statement, Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for Human Rights Campaign, said: “Hateful remarks that mock youth suicides and the very real emotional and sometimes physical bullying LGBT kids face on a daily basis have no place in a comedy routine.”

Morgan, clearly sensing a storm brewing, issued an apology.

“I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville,” he said. “I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others. While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club, this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.”

Yet whether we want to admit to it or not, it is the DNA of those in the chosen profession of comedy to say stuff that no one could get away with if they weren’t on a stage.

Oh yes, you’ll say, “But Roland, you criticized Michael Richards for using the N-word.” Sure did. What’s the difference? I said then and now that Richards directly attacked an audience member and his use of the N-word had nothing to do with his routine. If it was in the context of a routine, it would not have been received the same.

Have other white comedians used the N-word in a routine? Yep. Comedic genius George Carlin used the N-word in a famous skit where he talks about the context of who uses the N-word and why.

Some on my followers on Facebook and Twitter echoed the Human Rights Campaign statement by saying no one should make jokes about murder or violence from the stage. Really?

So, I asked them: “Go listen to some of your favorite comedians and tell me if they said racist, sexist, homophobic stuff about any group. Go ahead and update/tweet it. I think many of you would be shocked and amazed that you laughed hysterically at some of the most sexist, homophobic, racist stuff.”

I then went through my iPod and came across Chris Rock’s “OJ, I Understand” bit from his special, “Roll With the New.” Rock said that he understood that O.J. killed his wife, Nicole Simpson, and friend, Ron Goldman, because he saw them driving around in a Ferrari that O.J. bought.

“I’m not saying he should have killed her, but I understand,” said Rock, as the audience exploded to laughter and applause.

Wait. Chris Rock stood on stage that he “understood” O.J. for killing two people? Yep. Said it in a comedy routine on stage.

The late Robin Harris, who has been hailed as a comedic genius, has a bit on his CD, “Bebe’s Kids,” entitled “Hate My Wife.”

Harris rails against his wife for being ugly “for no reason at all,” later saying, “I be hoping I go home some night the ambulance be pulling her ass out.

All they do is just ask me to review the body. Is that the bitch? Yea!”

Wait. Robin Harris stood on stage to denounce his wife because she was ugly and proceeded to say that he hope he could come home and find her dead? Sure did, and the audience was gasping for air because of the laughter.

On his comedy CD, “Down South Somewhere,” Steve Harvey has a bit called “Willie Turner,” where he talks about the difference between firing a white worker and a black worker named Willie Turner. Harvey says the white worker will take it in stride, but an on-edge Willie Turner won’t be so accommodating, to the point of saying, “You bet not say what I think you’re about to say. Say it. I’ll burn this mother … I’ll kill your kids. I’ll kill your kids. I’ll kill your kids, Tom!”

Wait. Did Steve Harvey just describe the process of laying off a worker with images of burning the office down and killing the supervisor’s children? Sure did, and the audience cracked up.

In the greatest grossing comedy tour in history, “The Kings of Comedy,” Bernie Mac jokes about having a gay 6-year-old nephew that he was raising, calling him a “faggot” and mimicking how he walked and talked. He told him to man up by doing some pushups.

At another point in the show, Bernie Mac told the audience about bad children and said, “I’m from the old school; I’ll kick a kid’s ass. When a kid gets 1-years-old, I believe you’ve got the right to hit ‘em in the throat or the stomach.”

Bernie Mac even said he would open up his own day care center that is totally designed to beat a kid who gets out of line. “When you come to pick your kid up and he’s got a knot on the corner of his head, and you say, ‘What happened to my son?’ I’ll tell ya. I took a hammer and slapped the fuck out of him! for jumping on my couch.”

Wait. Did Bernie Mac openly talk about child abuse? And how did the audience respond? They ate it up with tremendous applause.

With all of these comedians, we can judge their routines based on what we heard and saw. But with Morgan, all we have of what he said is written, and we can’t judge the context, tone and demeanor ourselves. And there is no doubt that is the same as Rock and Harvey and Bernie Mac and others: Reading what they said is different than seeing or hearing.

There isn’t enough space on the Internet to chronicle the number of times a comedian has said nasty and vile things. Some of it leading the audience to fall out laughing or sometimes, or as in the case of Morgan, walk out in protest. If we are to demand an apology for every time a comedian is sexist against men or women, racist or homophobic, we might as well launch a website called www.comediansapologizedaily.com.

Say I’m wrong. Fine. Say I’m insensitive to gays and lesbians. Fine. I’ll wait for the usual bigots to say that I’m defending Tracy Morgan because he’s black. Fine.

But think for a moment at all the times you’ve laughed at comedians based on the things they had to say. Then ask yourself: Did I laugh, and why?

Sorry, if I’m being honest here and not focusing on political correctness. I just believe that many of you would be shocked and amazed that you laughed hysterically at some of the most sexist, homophobic, racist stuff imaginable by comedians of all shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations.

Maybe none of us want to accept that as a comedian, Morgan is keenly aware of what society actually thinks, and he simply said it onstage. Isn’t that what comedians have always done? Reflect what society actually thinks, but say it in a forum where we can laugh through our pain.

“It ain’t what you say it’s how you say it. It’s jokes. It’s fun. But it’s the truth. In the back of your mind, you be wanting to say this shit sometimes.”

Sorry, that’s not my quote. That was Bernie Mac from “The Kings of Comedy.”

Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and the author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at www.RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1711258712 Maria Proudbi Equality York

    “The
    moment the saw crossed the wires, I naturally cringed. Who in their right mind
    would say such a thing about his gay son? No person in his or her right mind!
    Except for a comedian who is accustomed to saying shocking things on stage to
    get a laugh”. 

     Wow—and would it be a
    laugh if he joked about killing your son, Mr. Martin?  What if your son was ::gasp::gay? Oh, the
    horror.  I wonder if Mr. Martin would
    even have written that column to defend someone like Mel Gibson or Michael
    Richards? Turns out he didn’t.  He had
    attacked Micheal Richards after his rant, and rightfully so.  But apparently, according to Mr. Martin, that
    was “different”.  Really?  Why not just admit the truth—you’re a
    hypocrite Mr. Martin, and you think it’s okay to joke about violence and gay people, because you probably don’t approve of our “lifestyle”.  At least that would be honest. And just because other comedians have said stupid things about all kinds of groups does not make this okay.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1711258712 Maria Proudbi Equality York

    “The
    moment the saw crossed the wires, I naturally cringed. Who in their right mind
    would say such a thing about his gay son? No person in his or her right mind!
    Except for a comedian who is accustomed to saying shocking things on stage to
    get a laugh”. 

    And just because other comedians have said stupid things about all kinds of groups does not make this okay.Wow—and would it be a
    laugh if he joked about killing your son, Mr. Martin?  What if your son was ::gasp:: gay? Oh, the
    horror.  I wonder if you would
    even have written that column to defend someone like Mel Gibson or Michael
    Richards? Turns out you didn’t.  You had
    attacked Michael Richards after his rant, and rightfully so.  But apparently, according to you, that
    was “different”.  Really?  Why not just admit the truth—you’re a
    hypocrite Mr. Martin, and you think it’s okay to joke about violence and gay people, because you probably don’t approve of our “lifestyle”.  At least that would be honest. 

  • ImGay

    It blows my mind that you fail to see the difference between very hyperbolic and specific comedy, and Tracy Morgan’s words, which contained not a shred of comedy, but rather outright hatred. There’s an obvious suspension of belief in the words of Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, and Robin Harris. And even then, their precedent does NOT make it right! Bernie’s routine in Kings of Comedy is fairly shocking regardless of the laughs, and if he were judged by today’s rubric he would probably be apologizing. At least Bernie had the common sense to make the distinction that they’re words that you just want to say some times. That’s part of the joke: everyone thinks about things that you cannot say out loud or act upon.

    Morgan’s words were not funny at all. They were directly hateful to a very large group of human beings. The fact that you are defending him is quite disappointing. How would you react to a white comedian saying he would stab his daughter if she dated a black person? Is that funny? I certainly do not think so.

  • Gtrntr3825

    I read what TM said and I thought it was pretty funny.
    But then again, I’m not a self righteous homosexual who believes everybody should tip-toe around my sexual preferences. Maybe that’s the difference. Maybe I should feel guilty because nature made me a normal, procreating human, instead of someone who enjoys sticking my penis in some other mans anus.

    Oh…did that offend you? Is it or is it not the truth?
    get over yourself. No one owes you anything. If you don’t like TM, then don’t watch 30 Rock and don’t buy tickets to his stand-up. Do those two things and nothing he says will ever bother you again.

  • Gtrntr3825

    Get over yourself. You are not the comedy police. You do not get to decide what is or isn’t funny. The only thing you get to decide is what’s funny FOR YOU.

  • iApathy

    i chuckled at the thought of white comedian telling that joke. Regardless, everybody knows the game, if you’re going to be offensive it has to be FUNNY. his jokes fell flat so he gets to be the pinata. Is it fair? No. but by now, we should all know how America works. There’s no such thing as equal punishment. It all just depends on how the black community, the gay community, the mother’s against harry potter etc. are FEELING at the time. People can’t govern detached from their feelings and I don’t think we want to live in a world that does. In the end, this is just a tremendous waste of words for what truly turned out to be a slap on the wrist. Ironically, the culture we’ve built depends on us continuing this cycle of futility. Self-Imposed slavery to a psuedo-ignorance. We all know the truth, but we convince ourself with terms like “blows my mind” “…has no place” “you should NEVER…” in conclusion, my stance boils down to intellectual apathy. I don’t care, but i know WHY I don’t care, even if I can’t explain it. I’m responding to this mostly because I felt like typing…

  • AddressTheIssues

    the teen suicide issue is indeed very very serious, but everytime i hear the arguement, I fear a Greater issue is being swept under the rug. A lot of kids get bullied everyday, gay or straight, for the way they choose to live their lives. And they come out the other end still wanting to Live. The bullying, while awful, seems to just be a catalyst. There’s something inside these kids, gay and straight, that’s causing them not to value their own lives. If we just “protect” them from the catalyst, that won’t really solve the problem. Because in this life, you WILL come across something or someone that will test you or push you to your limits. I think our best bet is to teach kids at a young age how to deal with obstacles that aren’t fair. Injustices occur. But you can’t fight them from the grave

  • Anonymous

    I quite get what Roland was saying. How many of us have laughed at a joke that was racist, homophobic, or even sexiest? Now, do not be faking, if you are saying you have not. Let’s be honest, the same people that are mad at Tracy Morgan, I wonder if these same people were mad when people made a racist joke about blacks, jews, or even white folks. Or how about, jokes made about women? I do not believe that Roland was defending Tracy Morgan; shoot, he said it in the beginning of this article?!  Have are society, become so politically correct.

  • Lo

    Wow. I feel sorry for you. Keep telling yourself that being straight makes you “normal.” There’s nothing normal about being a bigot. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to tiptoe around that. If nature had made you differently, maybe you could fathom the bravery it would take to be yourself and to stand up against hurtful crap from people like you. Personally, I can’t imagine you would have the courage. Isn’t that the truth?

  • Guest2179

    I think the difference is that, *for the most part*, Racism and Sexism, are in our past… Sexist and Racist beliefs are not held by a majority of Americans anymore. You don’t find many people who think women should not be allowed to vote, or that black should become slaves again.

    Sure, I laugh at Sexist and Racist jokes, but in my head, I’m thinking “That is so wrong!” I know that under normal situations that is not acceptable.. The problem comes when you make jokes about people who are still fighting for their civil rights.

    Its not right, in my mind, to make jokes about people who can still be fired in 29 states just for whom they love, and that is why its a problem..

    10-20 years from now, when gay people are no longer second class citizens, when they are no longer constant targets of bullying, and don’t need to be afraid of being who they are, then we can joke about them.

  • FFuquinbe

    funny how you talk about sticking you penis in some other man’s anus, seems like the same man would stick it in a woman anus.  what is the difference between a woman’s anus and a man’s?  an anus is anus regardless of your gender. perhaps you not man enough to confront your desire to have anal sex with a man because it would be gay…

  • Beau_tee

    Whoever you are (author) you do make a compelling argument. Kuddos for being able to chronicle our comedic history in such short notice to point out the double standard that we as Americans have against “certain” folks, but not against others!

  • Matt Smith

    The author makes a foolish argument.  Sure, someone can make humor out of something offensive.  You can take bigotry or stereotypes and come at them from an unexpected angle.  You can play with absurdity, irony, sarcasm, etc, even if you’re talking about something tragic.  In fact, that’s part of what makes it funny – the fact you’re being such a bad boy/girl by joking about it. When Chris Rock says he understands why OJ would kill his wife, it’s funny because it’s crazy and unexpected.  It’s a new angle on the stereotype that women are nagging, or annoying, or whatever.  Is that stereotype offensive?  Sure.  But even so, you can still make a funny joke out of it by doing something absurd/unexpected with it… like empathizing with a murderer.

    I’ve made humor from abortion, suicide, rape, domestic violence, child abuse, fat, gays, lesbians, women, Christians, Jews… and I’ve enjoyed jokes about all of that, plus racial groups, plus ethnic groups, plus Lord knows what else. 

    That’s not what Tracy Morgan did here.  His spiel – that people aren’t born gay, it’s a choice, kids learn it from the media, nobody’s born gay because God don’t make no mistakes… that’s not a new comical spin on anything.  That’s not original material he created for his routine.  That’s the actual anti-gay position, exactly as it’s often stated by bigots speaking seriously.

    It would be like if I did a comedy routine, and in the middle of it I said that Black people need to stop whining about racism and slavery, because those are all in the past, and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and if they struggle they have no one to blame but themselves.  That’s not original comedy material I came up with by playing with racist stereotypes.  It’s the actual racist position.  And if people enjoy it, it’s because they enjoy hearing bare racism.

    There’s no way bare racism, or homophobia, or any other bigotry should be excused as comedy.  You can put it on a stage at a comedy club, but it’s still bare bigotry.

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