How to do American style humor

I’ll explain how to do black and white American style humor.

White American humor of the past was very simple. It consisted of plays on words, the language, and non-taboo social norms. But something that was always skirted were taboo subjects like sex, race, or specific politics. In a way, the jokes were pretty tame, almost like something kindergarteners would tell.

Then, along came the sexual and political revolution, and all of a sudden, it was okay to talk about all sorts of issues. This is when the black style of comedy came to prominence. Black American humor is the id to white America’s ego style of humor. It takes all of that pent-up anger over racism, sexism, etc., and brings it to full boil in an ironic way. If the original, censored, tame, innuendo-style of white America humor was child-like, then black American humor is certainly adolescent.

So how do you tell a white American style joke?

Tell a joke that doesn’t have any kind of ill-intent. It has to be a joke from a place of confidence and security and complete ignorance of the outside world. Some would say that white jokes can also be negative or racist. But I’d categorize those particular jokes with black style comedy because those jokes would be coming from a negative place or might actually help by being ironical. Or look at it this way, if blacks were in power, they’d be telling lame jokes, too, until the oppressed whites came up with an artistic way of venting their feelings, and then it would be called lame black jokes and angry white man jokes.

Here’s an example of white American style joke:

“Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.”

Because America started out rurally, like most empires, their only point of reference for subject matter was their surroundings, in this case farm life. The joke is making fun of chickens, which is commonly believed to be stupid animals, of having motive or intent to cross a road. The anthropomorphism of the chicken (making the chicken have human traits) makes it so the person listening to the joke can relate and possibly understand the irony, which is where the humor comes from.

Black style humor, on the other hand, is almost like a confessional. Take all your anxieties, fears, frustrations and let it out. But not in an overly aggressive way. You have to make a point. And if you’re good, you might change society with your joke. The idea was that black style humor was exclusive in its own inner circles, like a black barbershop, that was until it was utilized as a teaching venue. You couldn’t solve social conflict with peaceful words and sure as hell couldn’t through violence, so attending a black comedy show was something in between. And it was peaceful and dignified. It could point out a lot of disparities in American society through humor and bring people together.

Here’s an example of black American style joke:

“For the first time, we have a black US President. Actually, he’s half black and half white. That means he’ll enforce the Constitution, but he don’t know how to read it.”

Black humor is usually black-related. It’s style then could be used with other ethnic groups talking about their own experiences in America. It’s usually about being a minority, being poor, disparities between being white and a minority, coping mechanisms, relationships and other cartharsis on the joke tellers mind. In the example joke, first the comedian gives an example what the popular understanding is of the “black condition”. In this case, until 2008, no one believed that America could have a black US President. So setting the joke up with that premise, he reinforces the stereotypes of incompetent, unqualified blacks by saying that because of his DNA, being half black, and that popular belief is that blacks are illiterate, that he still wouldn’t be qualified to be United States president. Of course, the humor is in knowing the irony, in that it would take a lot of competence to be president. The comedian could even extend the joke and add, “Unlike his predecessor.” Then the joke becomes about white privilege, George W. Bush, nepotism, his incompetence, and all that good stuff.

So, here is how I would tell a white style joke from an Asian point of view:

“After I eat, I always find rice sticking to my shirt.”

Very Asian-centric joke about rice, no ill-intent, just an observation about always finding rice on one’s clothes after eating rice. Couldn’t care less about the outside world. It’ll be funny to only those Asians that have experienced the same thing.

And finally, a black joke from an Asian point of view:

“As an Asian, I hate it everytime after I eat rice, I find rice, noodles, shrimp, dog morsels, and fortune cookies stuck to my shirt.”

The joke starts off with an apology, because the assumption is that this comedian is Asian performing for a white audience that isn’t informed about his ethnicity. Everything is negative about it. Starting out with “I hate” eating Asian food (that’s the undertone), right down to the stereotypical “strange” Asian foods. Of course, the comedian could also tack on other types of foods or made-up foods to create more xenophobic irony, for example, frog eyeballs or tiger penis. In one way, it’s very negative, but it also points out white America’s sole understanding of Asian culture, thus it’s about American ignorance.

On a final note, it’s hard not to see it also as a pandering joke style. Every black style comedian has to do the same kind of joke to get into the “honorary white man’s club”. Sure, it has helped society, but at what point does it make it better and when does it becomes just another solid caricature that can be duplicated over and over? Do we want to see a black style Asian comedian? How believable would his confessional be? So why do Asian American comedians try black style comedy? Maybe they didn’t get the memo in the fortune cookies.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply