Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Racist Comedy Gaze

So I watched some standup comedy special on Comedy Central. It was a couple of weeks old, but I have a DVR, so there you go. It was a single live performance featuring Dave Attell, D.L. Hughley, and Lewis Black. They performed their routines in that order, and then came out and did a thing together.

At some point, I became aware of the way the camera moved through the audience. You know what I mean; the audience members laughing in response to something the comedian has said.

Everyone shown in the audience for the white comedians was white. Everyone shown in response to Hughley was black.

I don't get it. I mean, what's the purpose of that? Is it scary to show white people enjoying Hughely? Does that provoke white anxiety in some way that eludes me? Are Black and Attell so unfunny to blacks that it would be implausible to show black audience members laughing at them? Are the camera operators, incredible as it seems, unaware that they are making racial choices?

There's certainly a quantity of racial content in any comedian's routine. Hughley does humor that is more black, Black does humor that is specifically Jewish (and Attell just isn't fucking funny). And none of that feels racist or problematic. But the audience stuff; I had a real problem with that, and I just. Don't. Get it.

(comedy cross-post)