Comedy, Race Relations and Word Associations

The consequences of liberal social justice in 1975 have led to racial insanity in 2006.

The Saturday Night Live word association skit with Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase became one of the more infamous pieces of comedy on network television about race relations. Salon has a "behind the scenes" piece on how it got made which goes to the usual place you expect.

As they wait for the long wave of laugher and applause to subside, Richard’s face begins to spasm, his nose twitching like a maniacal rabbit. His character gets the job at three times the offered salary, plus two weeks’ vacation up front. “Just don’t hurt me,” Mooney has Chevy say.

“It’s like an H-bomb that Richard and I toss into America’s consciousness,” Mooney wrote. “All that s___ going on behind closed doors is now out in the open. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. The N-word as a weapon, turned back against those who use it, has been born on national TV.”

It was, Mooney says, the easiest bit he ever wrote. All he had done was spell out what had been going on beneath the surface of his “job interview” with Lorne Michaels and the NBC execs.

That was 1975. And it's interesting to look at this Mad TV update of the job interview skit from 2006 and compare.

MAD TV - A Black Woman Can't (Nicole Randall... by Cheshyre

If Richard Pryor was the aggrieved party in 1975's Word Association, lashing out with racism and then menace in response to racism, and winning with menace, there's no more violence in 2006's Just Because I'm Black.

The menace is now entirely political. Nicole Randall Johnson's character may be insane, but she's carries with her the confidence of entitlement. And her confidence is entirely justified. Her white interviewer isn't concealing racism anymore, he carries around with him a tired recognition that racial identity is power-- just not his.

Anonymous is crazy, but she's navigating a system that the climax shows us is equally insane. Who's really more insane, Anonymous or a hiring system based on race?

Richard Pryor wins advantages because he responds to racism with the threat of violence. That was the liberal twist on race riots. Nicole Randall Johnson's character has an advantage for no other reason than the need to cope with some free-floating idea of racism. She carries with her a black privilege that comes from skin color and nothing else. Completely incapable of even sanity, she still gets the job because the system is obsessed with racism.

Woman: Okay, so you not gonna hire me cause I’m black.

Man: I’m not gonna hire you because you’re out of your mind.

Woman: Damn.

Man: But I am going to hire you because I am federally obligated to hire a black woman. When can you start?

Woman: Well I can start on M.

Man: All right, be here by quarter to penguin.

Woman: Thank you, Mr. Shoelace.

The consequences of liberal social justice in 1975 have led to racial insanity in 2006.