November 14, 2006

Why the "Dumb and Dumber" of 2006

gets drafted into the Great American Status War: A reader writes:

It's pretty simple. "Borat," at its most basic level, is Stupid Foreigner humor. Look how much more enlightened we Americans are than these stupid people who beat their wives and drink horse urine. Isn't it funny to watch the foreigner make an ass of himself? This is totally politically incorrect (and indirectly nationalistic) and so they have to convince themselves that he's actually anti-American and thus politically correct. But if the Borat laughs *really* came from watching the 'stupidity of America unveiled', why did he still get laughs on SNL where everyone was in on the joke?

The tendency of politically correct critics to develop meta-justifications for politically incorrect comics like Sara Silverman and Dave Chappelle -- "They're not getting laughs from ethnic stereotypes, they're, uh, getting us to laugh at the stereotypicality of the stereotypes, you see. It's all very meta." -- might be pretty funny if the comedians themselves sometimes didn't fall for this nonsense.

The Jewish comedians like Baron Cohen and Silverman generally know how to play this game. Silverman, for example, occasionally throws in an intentionally stupid, untrue racial stereotype ("Mexicans smell bad") so all the nice white liberals in the audience can pretend her other stereotypes ("Asians are good at math") are dumb too, and that they are actually laughing at all those idiots conservatives who believe Asians are good at math, as if there is any such thing as race. Or math, for that matter.

But at least Silverman will occasionally tell the kind of Jewish joke that other Jewish comedians won't. Her best is:

I got in trouble for saying the word “Ch*nk” on a talk show, a network talk show. It was in the context of a joke. Obviously. That’d be weird. That’d be a really bad career choice if it wasn’t. But, nevertheless, the president of an Asian-American watchdog group out here in Los Angeles, his name is Guy Aoki, and he was up in arms about it and he put my name in the papers calling me a racist, and it hurt. As a Jew—as a member of the Jewish community—I was really concerned that we were losing control of the media.

Baron Cohen, in contrast, simply makes fun of the enemies of the Jews, whether from the 19th Century (the Slavic peasant Borat), the 20th Century (the Austrian Bruno), or the 21st Century (the Pakistani-Brit Ali G), with zero self-reflection. There's nothing wrong with that, but let's not get carried away about how brave or brilliant it is for an overdog to stick it to various underdogs.

The tragic case is Chappelle, who actually fell for the critics' wheeze that he wasn't poking fun at blacks, no, he was exposing the stereotypes held by bigoted white people who thought about blacks in the way Chappelle portrayed them. Then one day, a white man on his set laughed so hard, in such an un-meta way, that Chappelle finally realized that the whole meta theory was just white jive to justify laughing at funny black people. So, Chappelle ran off to South Africa and walked out on his $50 million contract.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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