Saturday, May 31, 2008

THERE GOES THAT CHURCH AGAIN

You know, I am hard on comedians that cross the line. Since the question is always, “Who determines the line and where is it placed for crossing?” is as much a matter of personal opinion as beauty is for a Mother pretending her ugly baby is cute. Now that was supposed to be funny but for those Mothers out there with ugly babies, its personal and I am sorry.


You see, for saying something like that, and “Me” not being a comedian, I’d have to apologize for offending people with slighted feelings. As much as some people would think that was funny (and some of you are still laughing) it isn’t right to place judgment on people. Call it Karma, call it respect, call it the uniqueness and variety that make up Humanity, you often get back whatever energy that you put out in the Universe although I have yet to see many comedians get back in “spades” what they put out there for laughter – unless you are Flava Flav. Again, that was a joke.

So what’s the big deal about what is funny? Some would say to do that you need to have a license to be funny, a track record for knowing when and what to say or "timing", a PhD in the area of the Punch line, a working knowledge in being quick on your feet. Like the thousands of people who audition for American Idol each year, we get to look at them all and shake our heads and say, “Oh no she didn’t just sing that? Why?”

We get hit hard with the “Slippage of the Lippage” (I just made that up so you all better pay me if you try to use is as a new catch phrase like Billery or Bradjolina) and when Non-Comedians try to be funny (i.e. politicians or your drunk Uncle Tommy) the results can be often damaging. We all remember the "Macaca" scandal by ex-Senator George Allen of Virginia and his bid to be “funny”. His attempt cost him his seat in Washington DC and opened the door for a relatively unknown competitor to waltz into a relatively easy win.

Even comedians can “cross the line” of Political Correctness. Cross it so far that even fellow comedians can distance himself or herself in a “HOT OBAMA REV. WRIGHT MINUTE” (again another joke). Last I heard, Michael Richard, the fallen from grace comedian famous for his role as “Cosmo Kramer” on Seinfeld, is now sitting on top of mountains calling on his Higher Power to get his “chi” back because somewhere between being funny and calling a room full of Black folk the “N-word”, he lost his MIND. And let us not forget the “Nappy-Headed Hos" and "Jiggaboo” comments from Don Imus. Although this was washed over the media as the sensation for the moment, the hurt still lingers in the halls of funny enough to see that the numbers of those that aren’t laughing are more than those laughing. In a Blog posting entitled “Punk Ass Damon Wayans”, I talked about how in his bid to be funny on the couch of The View, Damon Wayans evoked the Nappy Headed Hos comment and tried to justify its validity as a piece of Creative Comedy on a Daytime Talk Show created by a Woman, for Women and hosted by Women. With the couch shared by three other Comedians, his ability to escape intact was a miracle at best, BUT what was most important was that in his comments, there was no TRUTH to his justification. His time spent on the couch only came off as a desperate need to make a few dozen people begin a chain of uncomfortable giggles thus giving room and validation for others to follow in concert.

It has been historically noted that the Fool, the Trickster, the Jester and other similar characters were always walking the line of social and political correctness. Even today we honor the kid that can make us laugh as the Class Clown. And that’s who comedians are, Clowns; people who wear masks to hide the truthfulness of both their humanity and ours. And in our laughter he subconsciously laughs at our strengths and weakness, the beauty and our ugliness. BUT you have to be funny with an underlying message to elevate society because that is ‘ART’.” – The Poet: Shazza Blog (November 23, 2007)

We now go back to the “Whats” of funny/satire vs. offensive/politically incorrect in society. It is safe to say that America, as a culture, allows comedy to dance on the line of acceptability and once you begin peeling back a few layers, deep within the cultures, funny is considered a “Blank Thang” with each ethnic group filling in the “blank”.

The cable channel Comedy Central has an array of ethnically diverse comedians that universally are accepted by everyone. You rarely, if ever, hear people say they do not like a comedian because they are a particular "Race" but more so because they are either Funny or Not. I would almost place bets that Comedy Central is the MOST ETHNICALLY DIVERSE NETWORK CHANNEL in existence for its purpose. You have Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native American, Old, Young, Men, Women, Blind, Handicap, Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Overweight, Overly Thin, The Beautiful, The Visually Challenged, Arab, German, Jew, Muslim, Atheist, The Political, The Anarchist, Red Necks, Rated G to Rated PG R and all making fun of you and all the socio-political groups that exist. Actually it is prerequisite to make fun of yourself before others. It’s in the "Official Rule Book of Comedians"; “Thou Shall Make Fun of No Man or Woman Before Not Making Fun of Thine Self.” So when you have a comedian come on stage ranting about others without first talking about themselves, we get a since of uneasiness and eventually reserve our laughter for someone a little more talented since this BUSTER is a HATER. And even with bad comics, there is always that “Shield of Anonymity” that protects the comedian from being called a Terrorist, Anarchist, Ex-Patriot, Racist, Sexist or any host of Anti-American sentiments.

You see when you consider yourself an “Artist” you create for yourself a ‘Shield of Anonymity’. You pull this infamous philosophy provided by the Constitution and its FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Sadly to say, the Racist of our nation do it equivalently and or in worst degrees practicing the same rhetoric.” – The Poet: Shazza Blog (November 23, 2007)

So here we are again with Rev. Jeremiah Wright back in the spotlightt although not as front and center as we’d like. This time, the Man with the satire in question is another GUEST speaker of Trinity United Church of Christ, Father Michael Pfleger. Now I will be honest, I don’t know a thing about the man so I can’t promote myself to a place high enough to throw stones BUT I will say this much, from what I know and saw (in the sound bytes flooding the media like a monsoon in the Pacific Ocean) HE IS FUNNY. He’s funny because it’s a BLACK THANG and I wouldn’t expect Non-Black Folks (maybe some Brown Folk) to get it.




I won't lie, I watched the Father Pfleger and found it funny, almost MAD TV/In Livin' Color funny but I will also be honest and say what Rev. Michael Pfleger preached (is) what and how BLACK FOLK think and talk behind closed doors everyday about this election so for Black people to be up in arms and pointing fingers at the MEDIA, we all need to OWN UP and Keep It Real. The way Black folk talked, voted, turned on Black politicians, Super Delegates, Tavis Smiley, Julian Bond and many others we need to watch out for all those stones we are dropping in the Glass House.” – The Poet: Shazza on Jack and Jill Politics (The Obamas Leave Trinity)

The reality of those not culturally connected to the stage in which Father Michael Pfleger spoke on would easily sit “stone faced” and “pruned” over the comments while Black folk laughed, bounce and cried tears of uncontrolled laughter on par with a SANDMAN SHUFFLE off the stages of the Apollo Theater. Most of America isn’t remotely knowledgeable of the going ons of what takes place within a Black Church and will not get the Theatric component. "Fair or Fierce", Black Churches sway, swoon, dance, cry, become inspired, laugh and yes, have opinions about Politics and Politicians. STRONG opinions. Black Churches can be ruthless in its HONESTY because it is the only place where Truth (regardless of one’s spiritual perspective) can be spoken without condemnation. The Church can allow for personal emotions as well as opinions to wear on one's sleeve for an entire community to share. Or so we (Obama) thought. Knowing all of this, we still have to ask the question, why was Father Pfleger funny?

If all the World’s a stage, then for Black folk that stage represents the Church; which for its people is the center of the Universe. What happens in the World and beyond is explained clearly and colorfully every Sunday on this stage. So why was Father Pfleger funny? Because on the Black Church stage, he had a license to BE funny. It is part of the formula which Black folk have embraced. For Black folk, it is human to laugh just as much as it is to sing and dance and cry and love and the whole range of human experiences held together with prayer. Some may find it difficult and even a bit alien to be part of a church that does not sit quietly and reflect but Black folk are active participants during Sunday services. Outsiders may think that Father Pfleger was pandering to the members of Trinity BUT he actually part of the norm of its expectations. As this Nation changes (really as it begins to open a book and or get over its “fear” of avoiding dialogue with people different from his or herself) you will find that the Black Church is traditionally NOT A QUIET PLACE or a place to wear masks.

I have watched as Jay Leno, David Letterman, The Daily Show, Dennis Miller, The Colbert Show, Jimmy Kimmel and others have begun their shows, dedicated whole monologues to ridicule Politicians more so Bill and Hillary Clinton for more than 20 years. Some have “crossed the line” of good taste and other jokes that are timelessly hilarious. The difference is that as a Religious figure, you are not suppose to be licensed to be funny, at NO ONE TIME EVER. Even if within the comedy, there is truth, it is taboo to place it, state it, do it from the pulpit. Not for the Black Church. Here, you use whatever tools needed to get the message of Truth out. If laughter bring you close to your truth, than so be it, you use it like a tool for building the gateway to the Lord. To ignore a sense of humor is a bold example for ignoring the grand design of human expression because even GOD has a sense of humor.

Am I saying what Father Michael Pfleger said was right? Well being me, and my political and social views on People of Color in America, I plead the FIFTH, but for being funny I would have been in the mix of laughing patrons. NOW if he was in any other church, speaking before a college graduation or at a Political rally my option would change but in the Black Church … I’m not so offended. I actually would like to have had an encore performance though, possibly with John McCain, George Bush, Condoleezza Rice or anyone with embedded rhetoric needing to get “Churched” on Sunday.

2 comments:

jjbrock said...

Well put! the black church is different.

One Man’s Opinion said...

Damn Shazza, you know it ain't funny if you have to explain it. LOL. That's a joke son, you missed it.