Sunday, November 21, 2010

Katt Williams' Comedy Act on Latinos

The above video, of a comedy act by Katt Williams reminded me of our class discussion on when it is okay to utilize racist portrayals in stand-up. I remember from class that some people felt it was acceptable for black comedians to use racial stereotypes in their acts, while other people thought it was just wrong, and I was curious how people would feel about this video. While watching the video I did laugh at some things, but since I don't generally like Katt Williams, I wondered if I wasn't laughing partially because I was uncomfortable or prompted by the audience. While I did see his act as a gross exaggeration of Latino stereotypes, I think that that is precisely why some people are not automatically offended by Williams', and other comedians, acts. Specifically, when something is so exaggerated that it is hard to apply it to anyone you know personally, it becomes nothing more than a caricature of society's ridiculous assumption.

Also, it helped that Katt was making fun of black and white people in his act, too. I feel it would be harder to ignore the racist undertones of a stand-up act that solely targeted one group. By alternating between racial groups he gave (almost) every audience member a chance to blush, if they were so inclined. I feel most comfortable laughing when comedians employ this type of "rotating hot-seat" because then everyone is forced to see how ludicrous stereotypes are. In other words, if the stereotype that the comedian just applied to you is inaccurate, then the other stereotypes about the other groups are probably just as absurd.


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  2. I love stand-up comedy, and Katt Williams is one of my favorites. Like YOU mention, things are in fact very much exaggerated to the point where they are a caricature of society's ridiculous assumptions.

    Being friends with comedians I've noticed that the material they come up with is rooted on their experiences, for example, in this special Katt Williams mentions a grown kid in a stroller with a sidekick and a cigarette saying 'push it faster ese' (if I remember correctly). The point is not go deep into what they are saying but to picture what they are saying - they try to depict something for you with the purpose of making you laugh. The more laughs the comedian gets, the more chances that they will get booked for other gigs and they'll be on their way to furthering their career.

    Jokes can become problematic though, like you say- if they are targeted to a single group (ethnic/gender/etc). If this happens, it may be that the comedian is just not a very good one (if he is making seriously inappropriate comments, most people will pick it) or the audience (person listening) has taken it too seriously causing it to be problematic.

    Comedians exaggerate. A lot. We know that. But do their exaggerations make us laugh? Don't think so much about it, just picture it. If you do laugh, they've done their job, and that's it. Don't take things seriously, they're comedians. That's the way I see it.

  3. I too am a big fan of stand-up comedy and in particular Kat Williams. Along with several others such as George Lopez, Lisa Lampaneli, and Russell Peters. What makes a good comedian is someone who uses carefully crafted language to make the audience see the image that the comedian is picturing. All of my favorite comedians do this through discussing exaggerated racial stereotypes. But the question remains Is it bad to laugh at what can be read as a racist joke? Is it less offensive when these jokes are made by comedians who belong to the ethnic backgrounds that have been history marginalized?
    While we did discuss this topic in class, I believe that one explanation was not explored. Part of what makes racist jokes funny is that we are taught that these things are not to be said and are wrong. When someone has the confidence to say what we have been taught to not talk about, especially in such a confident way in that it sounds like truth, is it so wrong to laugh at something that was said to entertain and shock us? While racial jokes are anything short of being PC they seem less severe when told by a comedian of color. However, when the comedian is making fun of a community of people that he does not belong to he is still “wrong” for doing it. Just because they talk about every group equally doesn’t make it right it only creates a further distinction among groups.