Friday, March 31, 2017

Comedy Doesn't Require Racism

I had another post planned for this morning and then, well.  When "The Colbert Report" went off the air, in the interim, "@Midnight" moved a half an hour earlier, and for a bit I watched some of the start as I talked myself through needing to get ready for bed.  (I am a natural night owl.  The world's insistence that I be a morning person vexes me, but I also need sleep.) And with the end of "The Nightly Show" it is back there.  
So, here's the thing, "@Midnight" is a comedy show disguised as a game show.  There is a format with specific segments and it encourages audience participation with contestant often playing on behalf of folks at home, and with the Hashtag Wars game where social media users are asked to chime in with their own suggestions and then they pick a winner featured on the show the next night and the show account often also retweets some faves.  
Comedy has long had a tenuous relationship with those who are marginalized, often making jokes at the expense of the poor, the female presenting, the mentally ill, and/or the non-whites. 
And look, the challenge with creating a social media hastag is that you can't control what will happen with it. Countless social media managers have watched in horror as things unrolled not how they had planned.  But the show started in 2010,  They have, according to Wikipedia, over 500 episodes.  At some point you have to take a little bit of ownership for understanding social media.  There are hashtags you can just tell are going to encourage the worst in people. Here's some samples of some that, as far as I can tell, went pretty well, #CowTV, #StarWarsSongs, #GentlerHorrorFilms.  Earlier this week they did #JapanAMovie. I still had the TV on and I immediately grabbed the remote and changed the channel. There was no way this wasn't going to encourage at least a string of boring reductive answers, and at best just out and out racism.  And look, I couldn't come up with over 500 humorous hashtag experiments, but that's why that isn't my job.  
And no, I don't need to learn to take a joke.  "@Midnight" needs to learn how to not ecourage racism (or sexism or whatever) in the name of comedy.  (Their record on rape jokes is also not good.) And let's just pretend for a moment that no one in the room could anticipate that this would go wrong. First, of all, that's not an excuse. And second - get better people in your room then.  And if you still decided to go ahead with it, then the job of the folks handling your social media was to only RT ones that weren't racist. Oh wait, that should always be their job. And if that means there's only sad, boring ones to RT, then you know you failed.  
One of the comedians involved did apologize, saying she had made a joke about how it was kinda racist, that got cut for time.  And that she hadn't considered the rest of the internet. I'm not putting this on her.  I appreciate that she apologized.  But this brings another point, the show is taped live and then cut for time.  If they chose to cut the part that noted the racism, then they made a choice. They were trying to pretend it was all fine if we didn't talk about the racism.  That it was just the internet's fault that it got racist, and that they could not anticipate this reaction. And that's just not true.  Anyone who has been on the internet could have told you. And I'm willing to bet, after I changed the channel, all the comedians in the room didn't only make non-racist non-reductive jokes.  I'm willing to bet in the room at the moment there was plenty of opportunity to see that this was a terrible idea.  And the joy of taping but editing later for time, is that they had the option to try a backup one and air that instead.  And they didn't.