We have a number of late-night contenders of color on the horizon, and it begs the question why people of color have been unable to keep a late-night show on the air for any extended period of time. It’s probably got something to do with Da White Man holding us down or whatever, but Newsweek says it probably because black people aren’t funny. Evidently, journalist/Negrophile Joshua Alston just landed on Earth and should be forgiven for his ignorance. To Alston’s point, black people are not universally funny. Black comedians tend to broker in esoteric humor that requires that you have had a certain set of life experiences. We simply do not think the same things are funny. But that doesn’t negate the fact that people of color can’t find a home on TV after 11 — what up wit dat?
Arsenio Hall found success with white America because he was the black friend every white person wishes they had: He was a deferential clown, an impotent, barking buffoon who racked quasi-racial quips but was not to be taken seriously under any circumstances. Not long after he tried to feign relevancy, he was off the air. Chris Rock was OK, until he tried to be seriously tried to be funny. He imagined himself as Bill Maher, black, not knowing that America is not ready for a black man to joke about serious matters in a way they actually have to weigh seriously. David Alan Grier, sadly, never even stood a chance. D.L Hughley just didn’t get it — as smart as he is off-script, on his show, he came across like an intellectual lightweight rewritten by people who didn’t know how to write jokes. Some white people imagined Dave Chappelle to be the dangerous ghetto black person in the lunch room, too stupid to know they were laughing at him and not with him, until he showed them different. Some white people think blackness is funny because they don’t know what else to think about it.
Many white people are trained to laugh at black people cracking wise about being black — because not being able to get a cab is SO funny, right? The challenge going forward will be for Wanda Sykes and George Lopez and Mo’Nique to not let their color be the punch line. Their ethnicity can’t be the entire gag. I don’t beleive in a “post-racial” America, but if ever there was a time to elevate the discourse in this country, it’s now.