This roundtable discussion with up-and-coming comics W. Kamau Bell, Desiree Burch, Michael Che, Calise Hawkins, Phoebe Robinson, and Baron Vaughn is absolutely stuffed with thought-provoking questions and answers. The comics discuss the history of black standup, their goals onstage, and what it means to be seen as a “black comedian” rather than a comedian who happens to be black. Here’s W. Kamau Bell on one of the most recent changes to the business of standup:
I think that’s a part of being a comedian now, is recognizing that the world is such a smaller place than it was, even in the day of ten, fifteen years ago. I think about the Michael Richards situation; if that had happened five years earlier, nobody would have heard about it except for the people in that room. There was no cellphone camera, there was no internet, and it would have been a folk tale that comedians shared with other comedians. “Did you hear that Michael Richards said the word ‘nigger’ on stage 8 times?” But because the world is so much smaller, everything immediately gets beamed out, and I think as comics, we have to sort of realize that’s the world we live in. Be as offensive as you want to be, just recognize that someone’s Tweeting about it.
Words worth considering after recent stories about TJ Miller tweeting Dane Cook’s Improv set and Patton Oswalt’s response to a fan’s recording him. It’s a different world out there than it used to be.