There’s No Such Thing As “Black” Or “White” Comedy

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Louis CK has been my favorite working comedian since maybe 2008. But, the way he came to my favorite wasn’t organic or accidental. It wasn’t even completely voluntary. I basically discovered him by force.

I was aware he existed. But between the underwhelming bits of Lucky Louie I’d seen and, to be honest, the way he looks, I didn’t think to pay any attention to him.

But, whenever I’d hear an interview or read a story or see a segment featuring a comedian I respected and they were asked to name their favorite working comic, Louis CK’s name always seemed to come up. He was your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian.

So, I gave him another chance. I caught one of his specials on Comedy Central or HBO, and I enjoyed it so much that I actually got mad at myself for almost overlooking him. It was like trying some weird dish at a buffet for the first time and thinking “F*ck! This is great! Why didn’t I try this before?”

Again, Louis CK’s Whiteness alone (And yes, random internet person, I know he’s Mexican) isn’t what caused that initial attention neglect. There were other White comedians (Richard Jeni, Bill Burr, etc) that were among my favorites, and my favorite comedy (Seinfeld) was Whiter than Taylor Swift. And nothing about what I saw up to that point warranted a second look. But, despite the fact that I knew he was at least popular/talented enough to get his own show, it wasn’t until I learned that my favorite Black comedian (Chris Rock) loved his work that I gave him another chance. I needed a trusted Black cosigner. Race didn’t matter. At least I thought it didn’t. But it kind of did.

Anyway, I’m writing this a couple hours after seeing Amy Schumer perform at Carnegie Music Hall. For those not familiar with her, she has a show on Comedy Central, she’s in her early 30s, she’s very blond, and she’s very, almost stereotypically, White. Like, you can totally see her saying “Girls Gone Wild! WOOOOOO!” completely unironically White. Prius and hummus White. Whiter than the White girl in your office you call “White Jen” even though there are two other White women named Jennifer who work there.

And she is the funniest woman I’ve ever seen. Actually, f*ck a qualifier. She’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen.

While watching her perform and scanning the mostly White audience, I thought about all the people who’d be too turned off by her uber-Whitegirlness to give her comedy a chance. And then I thought about how, whenever a profile of Kevin Hart appears on Slate or Salon or some other mainstream publication, a sizable number of the comments are from people so turned off by both his “Blackness” and the idea of Black comedy that they haven’t even bothered to give him a legitimate chance.

Which is their prerogative, of course. But, it’s also wrong. Because there is no such thing as “White” or “Black” comedy. There’s just comedy. You either like it or you don’t. The elements you like and/or dislike aren’t racial. They’re stylistic. But because of our tendency to assign racial labels to certain types of comedy, “I’m not a fan of the type of frantic and physically demonstrative humor Kevin Hart incorporates into his acts” turns into “I’m not a fan of Black humor.”

That said, it is natural to be more drawn to comedians you share commonalities with. And often those commonalities are racial. Chris Rock and Patton Oswalt can tell the exact same joke, but if Rock references Prince in the punchline and Oswalt references Sting, those more familiar with Prince will laugh harder at Rock’s joke. Not because the Prince reference makes the joke better or even any different. But because they’re more familiar with Prince.

And, as I said earlier, it’s your prerogative to like whomever you want for whichever reason you want. Just know that the next time you immediately dismiss something/someone because their humor seems too “White” or too “Black,” you might miss your Louis CK the same way I almost did.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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and $24.50 for a hoodie.

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The campaign ends Sunday, March 23. So, if you don’t buy one before then, you, um, won’t have one.

Anywho, they’re available now, so go and BUY!!! and be fly.

Is Kevin Hart About To Become The New Will Smith?

This movie made HOW much???

This movie made HOW much???

That question on its face seems completely laughable. I should know. I laughed when I wrote it. However, with the success of Ride Along this weekend – breaking the record for January openings with a projected $47.8 million - it does make me wonder.

Kevin Hart has been EVERYWHERE lately. Whoever his manager is needs the raise of all raises. He’s in commercials. He’s in movies. Not just Paper Soldiers type movies anymore either; Kevin Hart is showing up in movies with Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone. Let that sink in for a minute. I realize that Grudge Match wasn’t exactly a movie anybody ran out to see, but still, he’s made the leap from sh*t like Death At A Funeral (a terrible ensemble cast movie starring the always never sometimes kinda bankable Chris Rock) to a pretty much movie stealing performance in the better than it gets credit for movie Think Like A Man to somehow making a paint-by-the-numbers cheesy cop comedy in Ride Along manage to do REAL numbers. So much so that I’m curious about what About Last Night will do. Or better stated, what dat About Last Night do?

I suppose this entire premise will be all for naught if About Last Night – a rom com coming out on Valentine’s Day so that Black people have a movie to go see that night – doesn’t do very well.

Let me just say this…I’m as surprised as anybody that I’m even posing this. I really am. If there’s any actor that I ever thought would be making a possible leap into big money Hollywood territory it would be Idris Elba (its coming if that James Bond thing ever comes thru). For the most part, Kevin Hart has never been my cup of tea when he’s going all Kevin Hart, which means a lot of yelling and extra-ness. But when he reigns it in and just sticks to be organically funny, he’s actually quite charming. In fact, Kevin Hart has definitely placed himself into the leading comic category. Hell, he’s pretty much on “the name you know” status.

While we’re here, let me toss something else into the WTF juicer. I think Drake may end up becoming one of the rappers who successfully manages an acting career…again. Granted, not a single one of anybody outside of Canada was watching DeGrassi Jr High when he was Wheelchair Jimmy, but he murdered SNL this past weekend. He’s got that same presence that Justin Timberlake has. And surprisingly (should he decide to give it a go) that Big Boi from Outkast has (Dre not so much despite wanting to be the acting half of the duo). Hell, even Peyton Manning has it. The camera loves these people. And it helps that Drake is well spoken…he speaks so well. It’s not racist because I’m Black. I mean, it’s still racist, but it’s not as racist. Because I’m Black.

I digress.

Drake actually seems like he could give the acting thing a run and do a good job. He doesn’t have dashing good looks or anything. I realize some women absolutely adore him and all but I mean, Drake looks like Drake. Do with that what you will. But Drake has acting ability and he’s got the right personality to pretty much do whatever he wants. I could totally see Drake taking on some legit role in some legit movie and winning some legit award for it. I can’t see Kevin Hart winning any awards unless they come from organizations that start with Black Something Or Other. Which is okay.

All of this remains to be seen. Clearly I’m jumping all kinds of guns. But I am genuinely surprised at the success of Ride Along. And it has to be squarely on Kevin Hart. Nobody is checking for Ice Cube no matter how many “thugged out” Coors Light commercials he does. Even if it is mostly Black people who showed up, the amount of money this movie pulled in will at least makes folks take notice.

Put it this way, The Best Man Holiday, a movie that nearly every single Black person in existence seemed to go see pulled in $30.4 million on the Thanksgiving holiday. Tyler Perry movies average somewhere between $21 and $24 million (to be fair, he’s had a few movies open up in the $30 and $40 million range). Somehow, this movie with Kevin Hart as the lead did crazy numbers so you KNOW it wasn’t just Black folks at the movies. Perhaps he has made the leap. The new Will Smith is a tall order. And probably not that accurate…yet. Plus he’s not tall enough to play a serious love interest role like Hitch to endear him to people of all races everywhere. But if Kevin Hart gets a role where he’s an AIDS patient and loses lots of weight and hands in the performance of a lifetime in Philly Buyer’s Club two years from now…well…

…is Kevin Hart possibly the new kid on the block from Philly to become America’s darling??

Le hmm.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. SAY HEFFA SAY WHAT? aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Kevin Hart, Revolutionary?

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(The Champ’s latest The Root argues that Kevin Hart’s style of humor satirizes the idea of how Black men are “supposed” to be.) Admittedly, it’s not difficult to see why Kevin Hart’s particular style of comedy may be off-putting and … Continue reading

5 universal dating truths

at thursday’s the dating truth live, i moderated a panel where 6 of the pittsburgh area’s most engaging young professionals spoke about dating, relationships, and sex.

***as you can see, i’ve linked to a partial video of the event. because of the camera angle, you can’t really see much of me. well, lemme rephase that. you can’t really see much of me, except for my obnoxious-ass hands. gotdamn, lol. people have always told me that i speak with my hands, but i never realized exactly how aggressive they were until watching this video. it almost looks like i’m doing an impersonation of kevin hart doing an impersonation of a rapper. i probably should have just slipped a “real talk! i kill pittsburgh panel n*ggas!” in there for good measure.***

sometime during the night, one of the panelists (i forget who) remarked “the only dating truth is that there are no dating truths. we all just need to find our own way“, a statement that received a good 10 seconds of applause from everyone in attendance (including me), and it wasn’t until the next day that i realized how wrong that comment was. if experience has taught me anything, it’s that there are a few universal dating truths that are applicable to everyone and every situation, even if we don’t want to believe it.

here’s 5 of them.

1. catching (and keeping) feelings is a choice

we’ve all heard this story before:

after 6 months of bullsh*t convos over mediocre meals and half-assed bi-weekly sex, boy and girl kind of call it quits through a series of passive-aggressive text messages. boy moves on, but girl remains intent on holding onto one-ply thread of reconcilatory hope, stating that she “can’t help that she likes him so much, and wishes that she didn’t” while crying on shoulder of loyal (and cuckolded) “platonic” male confidant. dry-dicked platonic male confidant starts to mimic the unaffected behavior of boy, thinking that it will give him more sexual success, but not realizing that said behavior only works if women are trying not to like you. everybody eventually dies.

regardless of how attracted to someone we might be, we all have a little line in our head that basically says “ok. cross this point, and you’re going to start liking this person. don’t cross this point, and you won’t“. when you catch feelings, it’s not because some uncontrollable galatical force compels you to see grandkids in your future. no, you make the conscious mental and emotional decision to start liking them. and, when a person says that they can’t stop liking someone, what they’re really saying is “i don’t want to completely stop liking this person yet, because a part of me still thinks there’s a chance this might somehow work”

2. don’t do intimate sh*t with people you don’t want to f*ck, because you just might end up f*cking

***not to be confused with “don’t go to a buffet if you’re not hungry, cause you just might end up eating something” and “don’t date a mexican if you hate kids, cause she just might end up pregnant“***

3. nobody cares about you and your bullsh*t

the woman you’re out with tonight doesn’t care that the only reason you threw a spoon at the waiter is because you have anger and intimacy issues stemming from the weekends your dad used to make you wrestle baby deer on film. no, she just thinks you’re a creepy weirdo, and now her focus is on finding a way to walk out without having your creepy jame gumb acting ass follow her to the parking lot.

everybody has issues, and nobody gives a damn about yours. either deal with them and date, or don’t deal with them and stay home and put fawns in the figure four.

4. attractive people attract people

with this in mind, if you’re single and looking, it’s not the worst idea in the world to make the attempt to look attractive. like it or not, you’re in indirect competition with every other person on the market, so it’s in your best interests to compete.

get a haircut. shave (everywhere). brush your teeth. smell good. buy new clothes. work out. save the two year old hoop sneaks and FUBU basketball shorts for hooping, and save the mom jeans and the ridiculously unenthused hair for the saturday afternoon meredith baxter-birney marathon, not the club

5. some people won’t like you…and that’s ok.

regardless of how fabulous and unique you think you are, there are going to be some people who can’t stand the sight of you. sometimes you might even be attracted to these people, but you repulse them so much that they’d dry heave if they knew you were attracted to them. they’d rather f*ck a ceiling fan than throw a lay your way. to them, the only way your sh*t would stink worse is if it came out looking like you.

so, what do to? well, f*ck em. life is too short to dwell on who doesn’t like you and why they don’t. plus, you don’t like everybody, so why the hell would you expect that everybody is going to like your happy ass? brush your communist-ass shoulders off and do you.

people of vsb.com, did i forget anything? can you think of any other universal dating truths?

also (beside louie c.k. and patrice o’neal. wait, i gotta include bill burr in there as well), is there another stand-up act as consistently funny as kevin hart’s today?

—the champ