Cutting Room Floor

The N-Word: Not Funny

While perusing the papers this morning I came across a short AP article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was about a performance by stand-up comic Eddie Griffin, who was pulled from the stage mid-act at a Black Enterprise magazine event outside Miami due to his repeated use of the N-word. It immediately reminded me of our interview with comedian Paul Mooney, in which he formally renounced the word (with which his routines were once heavily peppered). He said, "I had an affair with the word. I was romancing it. I was married to the word. And that was then and now it's time to divorce the word." At first, I wasn't even sure I was going to write about this — on the one hand, it's another incremental development in the Michael Richards story, and on the other hand, it's an incredibly thorny issue, particularly for a white woman to write about. But then I realized, thanks to this latest iteration I just have a lot of questions, and maybe you BotNers have some input. My first question is about comedians choosing not to use the N-word: Is it different when someone — or a group — makes that decision for you, as in Griffin's case? And secondly, as was raised by a commenter at Defamer: Is this going to end up putting black comics out of business? (I think Mr. Mooney would say no, after all, "funny is funny," even without that word.)



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I was actually very surprised to hear about the Eddie Griffin incident. I think it's a pretty big step forward in reducing the double-standard associated with the word. Like so many four letter words, especially in stand-up comedy, I think the N-word is used for added effect, rather than being an essential element in the routine.

Take for example Robin Williams or Richard Pryor. Both are equally as funny in clean-worded movies and television, but their stand up acts rate among the most potty-mouthed of all time. There was a time and place for the word in dark comedy during Pryor's day, but now it's effect and use have changed so dramatically, it alienates everyone around it, regardless of the audience or intent.

Sent by Tyler Gibson | 3:58 PM | 9-6-2007

Yeh we've been talking about this over at Highbrid Nation. One thing that is for sure is that Eddie was not keeping in mind his audience when he started and the Black Enterprise people were not considering the material of Eddie when they booked him. Before it becomes a matter of if the N word is ok or not its a matter of thinking about the people you are gonna be dealing with.

Sent by Evorgleb | 4:00 PM | 9-6-2007

It's just too bad Eddie Griffin is not funny, at least in stand-up. Neither was Michael Richards (in fact, that's what precipitated that horrific meltdown). They've both been quite funny in films and on TV, of course. Kung Fu Monkey helps.

The N-Word? I'm not a big fan of it.

Sent by permazorch | 1:03 PM | 9-8-2007

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