First, the Laugh Factory fining comedians 50 dollars every time they say “nigger” is rather ridiculous. Anybody should be able to say anything at all in the act of speaking for themselves in a forum created to allow you to speak freely—and humorously.
Furthermore, as a fan of the comedic angles pursued by, for example, Bill Hicks, I understand where bits like that are going. The majority of people who heard Michael Richards’ rant didn’t get it because they haven’t spent any time studying that style of humor. It was difficult to watch Richards apologize for what he said on the David Letterman Show because he knew he couldn’t explain the point of the bit.
Whites lined up to make themselves look like dedicated non-racists by holding Richards up in contrast. “I would never say that word,” they chanted their mantra. I criticize Jesse Jackson for condemning Richards. Jackson uses the word. All this fuss over language is excessive on all sides.
Now the owner of the Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada, wants Jackson to pay the fine for saying “nigger” during a break of a interview show on Fox News, Fox and Friends, taped on July 6, 2008. This demand is as ridiculous as the Laugh Factory’s policy on using the word.
First, Jesse Jackson wasn’t speaking at the Laugh Factory. He was speaking in the context of a Fox News program, and however much Fox News makes us laugh with their ideological exuberance, they are not the Laugh Factory.
Second, Jesse wasn’t really speaking in the context of anything public. He said what he said privately to the man sitting next to him, Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs UnitedHealth Group. Jackson was answering a question Tuckson put to him during a commercial break. They never play that part. Jackson was even whispering, which means that he did not intend to be heard.
Tuckson agreed with Jackson, but nothing has been made of that part either. You can hear Tuckson’s approval of Jackson’s complaint. Then there’s the edit and Jackson repeating what he said.
As a curious person, I would like to see what Tuckson said in the edit, but I am not requesting it because it was a private conversation that I shouldn’t have been privy to in the first place.
Indeed, the whole affair is disturbing not because of what Jackson said—a black man calling black people “niggers” is not unusual—but because Fox News broadcast a private conversation, edited it in a way that was designed to distort the context (even though the context is so clear they couldn’t pull it off), claiming Jackson said worse things in order to drag out the affair, drawing the curiosity of the press and public (and me), and did it all this to tarnish Jackson’s legacy.
Bill O’Reilly saying that he didn’t want to release the rest of the material because it would harm Jackson was comically disingenuous.