Here is how it came to be that Larry David kind of sort of called The Donald a racist. When NBC announced that Trump would be hosting Saturday Night Live, several progressive organizations, 50 cultural and intellectual luminaries, and several members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus condemned the decision. The National Hispanic Media Coalition teamed up with organizations like Moveon.org and the Justice League to organize a protest outside 30 Rock the night of the show. The DeportRacism.com PAC joined in, offering $5,000 to any audience member who would stand up during the show and call Trump a racist. As organizer Santiago Cejudo put it, “We’re hoping the $5,000 will help people on set or in the studio audience find the bravery to speak out loudly and help focus the national conversation on that we need to deport racism, not people.”
Towards the end of Trump’s painfully flat opening monologue, someone yelled out, “You’re a racist!” An obviously unfazed Trump responded to the clearly staged interruption, by asking, “Who the hell is… Oh, I knew this was going to happen.… Who is that?”
At this point a spotlight revealed that it was Larry David, who had appeared as Bernie Sanders in the opening skit. No longer in costume, David said again, “Trump’s a racist.”
“Why would he do that?” Trump asked.
“I heard if I did that, they’d give me $5,000,” said David with his signature combination of disinterest and distaste. Trump had the last word, saying, “As a businessman, I can fully respect that.”
Many in the media have praised David for his yelling, with some even confusing an obviously prepared exchange with a genuine disruption. Variety magazine said, “Larry David provided one of the few real moments of spontaneity in Saturday’s episode.” Complex magazine praised the “legitimate burn by Larry David (a.k.a. The God),” and described it as “fantastic…something of an Easter egg that none of us could have anticipated but were nonetheless praying for.” The Daily Beast described David’s yelling as one of the episode’s “scathing Trump critiques.”
Most people know Judah Friedlander for being a standup comedian and actor. You may have seen him on 30 Rock, or in films like The Wrestler, American Splendor or Wet Hot American Summer. But Friedlander is a bit of a renaissance man who not only makes his own hats but has authored two books including How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion (2010) and If The Raindrops United, a book of illustrations and cartoons which hit the shelves October 20th. While If The Raindrops United, is undoubtedly hilarious, it’s also, in many ways, a work of political protest, in which Friedlander uses humor and graphic art to deal with serious issues such as gentrification, alienation, and the excesses of capitalism.
Friedlander came on The Katie Halper Show, my weekly radio show on WBAI, to talk to me and my co-host Gabe Pacheco about his new book and politics. Here are his thoughts on some important topics:
The Democratic Debates
“I thought it got off to a bad start with Cheryl crow singing the National Anthem. First of all it was a horrible rendition. But I thought it was such a weird, desperate attempt to make us look like we’re not anti-american. What was that all about?… It seemed like a very staged thing.”
“I just liked how Bernie Sanders pronounced the word blunder like ‘blunda.’ That’s actually kind of a double blunder since you mispronounced blunder.”
“[Sanders] was talking about how in rural areas gun laws should be different from urban areas. And he’s right. I talk about gun issues in my standup and I perform all over the place. First of all the gun stuff in this country is actually horrendous. But, yes the dynamic of guns in a rural area is completely different from the dynamic in an urban area. But you know, how you deal with it is a whole other issue.”
The Presidential Election and the two party system
I’m very progressive so…I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for or what party. The last election I think I voted green party. I mean the person didn’t have a chance. But I think the country really has to get out of this two party system.
image of gentrification man via judah friedlander.com
“I moved to New York in 1987. My dad’s actually from Brooklyn… we would come up when I was a kid and the city was just so impressive and diverse. And for years I hadn’t lived in Manhattan. I lived way out in queens. A mile past the last stop on the subway in a non-gentrified neighborhood where families had been living for generations. Middle Village, Queens. But when I moved back to Manhattan… the classism in Manhattan and I would say half of Brooklyn at this point was just staggering.
When people say New York they’re usually talking about Manhattan. And when you’re in Manhattan it’s such a weird city because almost everyone is wealthy or ultra wealthy. And that means it’s mostly white… New York has always had wealthy and ultra wealthy but it was never the majority. And when you have a city where the teachers, policemen, firemen, subway workers, mail delivery people, when all the service workers and the blue collar people, when all of them are working in the city but none of them can actually afford to live in the city, that’s not a healthy dynamic at all. New York is a much less diverse place than it used to be. There’s even a mini-10 page comic book called “gentrification man” in the book and gentrification man is the first super hero for the corporations.”
Judah’s effortless and mellifluous listing of the entire cast of Red Dawn.
Judah’s sleeping in the corner of the studio on every episode without our even knowing.
You can catch The Katie Halper Show on WBAI at 99.5FM or online at WBAI every Wednesday from 6pm to 7pm. Or you can subscribe to the Katie Halper Show podcast on Itunes (and please rate and review us) or Soundcloud. And make sure to listen on October 28th when we talk to Ta-Nehisi Coates!
It’s hard to watch TV, go online, or even leave the house without encountering the deceptively cherubic face of comedian and filmmaker Amy Schumer. Sketches from her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, are viral sensations; her HBO standup special, directed by Chris Rock, will air in October. She wrote and stars in the critically-acclaimed film Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, which is raking it in at the box office. On Monday night, she appeared as one of Jon Stewart’s final Daily Show guests; earlier that day, Schumer held a press conference to announce her support for a plan championed by her distant cousin, Senator Chuck Schumer, to make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to obtain guns. This comes on the heels of the July shooting at a Louisiana movie theater during a screening of Trainwreck, in which two women were killed and nine people were injured.
Amy Schumer’s stand-up and sketches tackle issues like birth control, abortion, rape, sexism, and warped female beauty standards with humor and fearlessness, positioning her as a feminist icon. And indeed, some critics and fans have hailed Trainwreck as a clever subversion of the typical romantic comedy plot. But others complain that it reinforces the rom-com narrative more than it challenges it. Schumer has also come in for criticism over her handling of race issues, both in Trainwreck and in her sketches and stand-up.
I talked about Amy Schumer’s comedy and its presentation of gender and race with writers and performers who themselves engage with these themes in a funny and thoughtful way. Laura Swisher is a stand-up comedian who worked as a producer for Totally Biasedwith W. KamauBell and now works for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Gabe Pacheco is a stand-up comedian who co-hosts and co-produces Funhouse Comedy, a weekly stand-up comedy show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and is a co-host on The Katie Halper Showon WBAI. Rae Sanni is a comedian and writer who co-hosts theIt’s About Us podcast. Samhita Mukhopadhyay is the author of Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life. Kate Levin is a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction, and faculty member of the University of Southern California, whose most recent piece, for The Boston Globe, reflects on being ateenage prank call addict.
Katie Halper: Let’s start with the argument that some of Amy Schumer’s jokes are racist. What do you think of that criticism—and Schumer’s response?
Laura Swisher: There are comics whose material I loathe and find offensive, and often times it’s because their material is racist and/or sexist and utterly lacking in craft. But if a comic can make me laugh, or surprise me, I give them a lot more leeway, even if individual jokes might be offensive. I’d put Schumer in the “give her more leeway” category.
Kate Levin: The most salient thing for me when I think about Schumer and race is the response she gave after a Guardian writer called her out for having a blind spot around this subject. In response to criticism of the joke, “I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual,” she replied, “It is a joke and it is funny. I know that because people laugh at it…. Trust me. I am not racist.” I like Schumer—some of the stuff on her show I like a lot—but her response doesn’t hold up to the tiniest bit of scrutiny. She knows what she said wasn’t racist because… it was funny and people laughed at it? People laugh at racist jokes all the time! She knows that. (People also laugh at stuff that isn’t funny all the time, which she knows, too.) So what could land a smart person in such a swamp of illogic? Continue reading “ Comedians Debate: Is Amy Schumer’s ‘Trainwreck’ Sexist, or the New Feminism?”→