Episode 0101 – Comedy: Patrice O’Neal, Laughing Because It Hurts

C. Travis Webb

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0101   |   December 09, 2019

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Comedy: Patrice O’Neal, Laughing Because It Hurts

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Patrice O’Neal died in 2011, but his comedy is still hot. Stories that turn a bitter reality into laughter is this week’s subject. Should there be a limit on what comedians can say for a joke?

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C.T. WEBB: 00:19 [music] Good afternoon, good morning, or good evening and welcome to The American Age podcast. This is C. Travis Webb, editor of The American Age, and I am speaking to you from a different location today. Still very sunny and balmy outside San Diego. I’m at the AARSBL conference and sitting in a hotel room.
S. FULLWOOD: 00:40 Hi, this is Steven G. Fullwood, and I am the co-founder of the Nomadic Archivists Project. And I am coming to you from Andromeda. No, I’m actually coming to you from Harlem and it’s been raining day– since last night. And, hey.
S. RODNEY: 00:58 All right. I’m Seph Rodney, and I am a senior editor at the Hyperallergic blog and recent author of the book The Personalization of the Museum Visit. And I am speaking to you, as per usual, from the South Bronx.
C.T. WEBB: 01:14 This is to remind our listeners that we practice a form of what we like to call intellectual intimacy, which is giving each other the space and time to figure out things out loud and together. I didn’t mean my tone to tilt up at the end like it was some kind of late-night radio show [laughter]. Like, “Introducing a love song for Cindy and James. We hope you make it, Cindy.” Anyway, this is our 101st episode and we’re returning to our comedy topic. And Seph– Mr. Rodney– Dr. Rodney, sorry, is up next with his bit. So Seph, you want to take it away?
S. RODNEY: 01:56 Sure. So one of my favorite things of the last, I suppose, five years or so– I think I encountered this stand-up routine by Patrice O’Neal. The bit we’re going to listen to is taken from a show called The Elephant in the Room, which is -double entendre. It has to do with Patrice O’Neal being a huge man but also being someone who generally goes about his life causing a ruckus. He likes to play that kind of– he liked to play that character on stage. He’s passed away now. He passed away a couple years now I think from complications with diabetes. Anyway, the clip we’re about to listen to I think gets at precisely the kind of comedy, or rather, is exemplary of the kind of comedy I like, because it gets at the sort of underbelly of American culture, brings it to the surface, and allows us to laugh at it– some of the more ugly aspects of who we are, seeing through the lens of what we value. So without further ado, here’s a clip.
P. O’NEAL: 03:16 I’m glad y’all here. It’s very good. Yo, congratulations to you my friend, look at that white woman y’all with. Goddamn [laughter]. [applause] That nigga behind you going, “Yeah, son, I’m with my girl.” But yo, for real? That white woman’s amazing, isn’t she? Tell the truth. He’s with his black girlfriend like, “Nah, I don’t know,” but that– she’s high level [laughter]. That’s a high-level white woman right there. That white woman is– that is, man oh man oh man. Black woman getting mad at that, but that is top-shelf white woman right there [laughter]. [applause] You know how you can tell how pretty a white woman is? The value– you look at her and then you wonder how long they would look for her if she was missing [laughter]. Come on, take a look. Take a look. Look at this nigga, looking– look look look look [laughter]. I saw you look mad, sweetie. How long, if you was missing, how long you think they would– how long you think they would– exactly. She don’t even– she went. [applause] You know the deal. I ain’t saying nothing wrong. White woman’s life is valuable.
P. O’NEAL: 04:58 What’s his name, Joran van der Sloot [laughter], right? We find out he was a serial killer– man, he kills women. That’s what he do. He do it well. Yeah, and I mean we know the girl that he supposedly had– what’s the girl in Aruba? Natalee Holloway. Right? But the one he just killed a girl in Peru– what’s her name? Exactly [laughter]. Look how fast you say, “Now, you said Natalee– Natalee Holloway, that angel who–” y’all said that like Family Feud. Name a white girl been missing for five years. Aruba– Natalee Holloway. Survey says– name a Peruvian girl that was killed yesterday [laughter]. What is that big head third-world Peruvian bitch’s name? Has to be Jorez or something goofy. Don’t get mad at yourself. I gave it to you– you saw how fast she said Natalee Holloway. Diana Ross right here said– she knew her name [laughter]. “That white girl was Natalee Holloway.” Man, you caught yourself a [inaudible]. God bless you man, that is high-level right there. Don’t be ashamed of it, gorgeous [laughter]. She mad as hell. “Fuck that white bitch.” Come on. Come on. [applause] Ain’t nobody looking for you. I might look for you, but the news ain’t [laughter]. You think Fox is reporting you missing? Let’s be honest. Nancy Grace? She’d be lead story on Nancy Grace for the next six months. Look at it, look look look look [laughter]. I’m looking at her because she mad as hell. Black girl don’t like that shit. But it is what it is, let’s be like that. Let’s be honest.
P. O’NEAL: 07:29 That little girl that went missing– she was sailing? Little girl, she was sailing. I forgot her damn name, but she went sailing and went missing in the Indian Ocean, okay? And they spent good lord– her mast broke and she was floating around and she gave out her little signal, her beacon. They looked for her. They spent $500,000, like tax money, to search for her. Now, if that’s my daughter I want that to happen too, but– if you go sailing [laughter]– let’s be honest, how long you think– are they going to spend five– come on. Hey, remember football players in Miami went missing? They went sailing? They looked for them for eight minutes [laughter], maybe. They just send somebody out the edge of the beach [laughter]. “I don’t see them. We have to call off the search because there’s too much sun. The sun. The conditions are abnormally difficult.” If I go sailing I’m taking a white baby on a keychain with me [laughter]. If my boat go down, they going to find me. I’m going to have it hooked right to the side of my belt. And I’m going to dress the baby real white too. I’m going to put sweatpants on it and a pair of UGG boots and I’m going to [laughter] take a picture. “Look at this white baby. You don’t come get me, this white baby going down with me.”
S. RODNEY: 09:20 Okay. So what I love about this is that– and even, I’ve seen this– I was saying to Travis and Steven earlier– I’ve probably seen this clip like 15 times. At this point, it’s probably more like 20. I still laugh every single time.
C.T. WEBB: 09:37 But just now when you were re-watching it before the podcast you were laughing again.
S. RODNEY: 09:39 Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because he does go after the blonde woman in the front row– oh, and she’s not exactly in the front row, but near the front– he goes after her with such zeal. He’s genuinely having fun. He’s pointing at her. He’s like, “You, you sir. Look at that white woman there. My goodness.” He’s into it. And I think part of what makes it funny is that his kind of– the way in which he’s having fun is infectious. But what he brings to the surface, right, is super ugly. Because he says the name of this woman who was killed in Aruba, and lightning-fast people are like, “Natalee Holloway.” People know, right? The value of that woman’s life is clearly signified by how well, how broadly her story is known, right? Everybody knows who Natalee Holloway is. And some people will know that her killer– her alleged killer, I don’t think he ever actually confessed to doing it. Or he confessed or took it back, something like that. It’s a guy named Joran van der Sloot. And so what Patrice O’Neal points out is that he killed someone else in Peru, but of course, we do not know her name, right? We wouldn’t know her name. What does he say in the routine? He said, “Oh, who was that big-headed Peruvian bitch?” What? Right? I mean he’s speaking our id for us, right? And for the record, her name is Stephany Flores Ramírez.
S. FULLWOOD: 11:29 Thank you.
S. RODNEY: 11:30 Because we needed to say her name. But most people wouldn’t know her name, wouldn’t say her name. At least most people who know the Natalee Holloway story wouldn’t know Ramírez’s name. And so he riffs on this and he looks at a black woman in the audience, and he say, “You think they going to look for you? You know they not going to look for you.”
S. FULLWOOD: 11:53 Oof.
S. RODNEY: 11:53 “I would look for you.” And that way he carves out a really stark picture of the relative value of black lives, the lives of people of color, versus the lives of white women. And he’s right. I mean part of the reason I think I laugh every time I see this skit is that it’s cathartic for me. It’s so painful to know that on some level my life is just not worth as much as the life of a white woman, to particular people who tend to be in positions of authority in our culture.
C.T. WEBB: 12:43 In our media culture, I assume we’re talking about specifically.
S. RODNEY: 12:46 Yeah, yeah. And I also– go ahead.
S. FULLWOOD: 12:48 I wouldn’t want to say that it’s not– I’m not going to suggest or I certainly wouldn’t argue– I suppose I might suggest, but I wouldn’t argue that it’s not more broadly applicable. But the very thing that makes that name so readily available to the people in that audience is the media culture that sort of broadcasts and bullhorns that story over and over and over again. And I say that story meaning the missing imperiled white girl or woman, right? I mean, and the missing imperiled white girl or woman has been an adjutant for civil action for hundreds of years in this country. I mean, this was used to lynch many, many, many black men in the South, I mean–
S. RODNEY: 13:44 That’s exactly what I just thought of. I just thought of Emmett Till. That imperiled woman who had– he whistled at her or something. And oh my gosh, her virtue is– and so we need to get him, right?
S. FULLWOOD: 13:56 Yeah, who knows what he actually did? Who knows?
S. RODNEY: 13:58 Well, we know now that–
C.T. WEBB: 13:59 And now–
S. RODNEY: 14:00 — that she lied.
S. FULLWOOD: 14:00 Do you know?
C.T. WEBB: 14:01 That she lied. [crosstalk].
S. RODNEY: 14:01 Right. We do know that she lied.
S. FULLWOOD: 14:03 That confession–
C.T. WEBB: 14:04 Yeah. Yeah, she admitted that she lied.
S. RODNEY: 14:07 Oof.
C.T. WEBB: 14:08 And so this is– there’s a through-line, right? I mean, to that. And it’s things like that– and I know Steven wants to jump in– it’s things like that because I– obviously we’ve talked about this many times in the podcast, wanting to try and acknowledge areas of progress. But the things that provoke us most easily as a culture tell us something pretty insightful about who we are. Our id, as you, I think very aptly said, Seph. And there is a way in which– and then I’ll let Steven come in– I had said media elites. I think that’s true, but that story travels, and they wouldn’t play that story if that story didn’t get traction. And so if stories around missing and endangered – let’s just stick with women – women of color were also as compelling, I think they would tell those stories. Someone with a lot of money would start a network that featured stories about missing black girls, Latino women, whatever, fill in the blank.
S. FULLWOOD: 15:25 Wow. Wow, that’s really hard not to follow up on, but I’m not going to do it. I’m actually going to go to something that Patrice O’Neal does really, really well. And a lot of what other comedians– what they do for me is that they use their humor to get into places that are really difficult to look at and parse and to me are more like– so there’s a part in Scary Movie, the Scary Movie franchise, where Regina Hall says, “Oh. Hey, come on in here,” she’s looking at the television, she goes, “A little girl, a little white girl fell down a well and everybody got to stop. 17 black people got shot today, but one little white girl falls down a well and everybody got to stop.” And it’s a interesting moment where I was thinking, I like Patrice O’Neal’s rough edges when it comes to comedy. And that kind of humor, like you said– the phrase you used earlier, Seph, you said it was– it allows you to breathe? Or it was something you said–
S. RODNEY: 16:27 Oh, it’s cathartic. It’s cathartic for me.
S. FULLWOOD: 16:28 Cathartic. Yeah, because it reveals that ugly, ugly truth and that flat-footed honesty that sometimes a lot of our places– politicians can’t give it to us sometimes, or the church, or other places– but comedy can get in there and go, “We all know what’s happening here. This is what’s happening here.” Ugh. And for me it’s more a– yeah, there it is. There it is. And the best of that kind of comedy is very healing for me. So I would say healing.
S. RODNEY: 17:04 Yeah. Well, I think there’s a semi-bad analogy, a medical one, that works, which is if you have a wound that will not heal, you have to abrade it. You have to clean it out, you have to wash it out, you have to get in there. And initially, that’s going to be painful. You need to get some salt in the wound, you need to go through that process. And I think this is what comedians like Patrice O’Neal– Patrice O’Neal, in particular, is always really good at this, pouring salt in the wound. And saying, “Here. Here’s how it hurts, here’s why it hurts.” Because we never bother to know Ramírez’s name. We can talk all day long about Natalee Holloway and what happened to her and how it’s a– oh, and the other thing that I really chafe against is when we– well, our media apparatuses define these bad things that happen to people as tragedies. I just want to say, that’s just the wrong word to use, y’all. It’s just not a fucking tragedy. It’s bad, it’s awful, it’s horrendous for the people who go through it. But for me, a tragedy is a situation in which nothing that we do will make it better. Nothing, right? It only gets worse. That’s for me really the definition of tragedy, and I take it from the ancient Greek playwright, Sophocles. He wrote tragedies. Because damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That’s my little screed on tragedy.
S. FULLWOOD: 19:01 Wow, okay.
C.T. WEBB: 19:01 Yeah, and the circumstances are also– overwhelm the participants. Right? Fate is so much larger than the individuals’ acts of will to sort of make their way in the world. Steven didn’t take it up. I wanted to argue with myself on my last point [laughter]. What I thought about when you were saying what you were telling Steven was that, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true about the people part of it. Because we know for example in the last few years or five years or something like that, action movie franchises that have done the best have starred women. And I know movies that feature women tend to do better at the box office than movies that feature men. Yet movie studios still load up the movie slate with movies that feature men, and still have not fully broken out of– I mean, it’s starting to change a little bit, but– haven’t really broken out of the sort of formula that they use to make money. And so I don’t know– I just basically wanted to temper my conviction in the last statement. I don’t know that there aren’t enough people in the country who are not compelled only by the imperiled white woman. That there aren’t enough people in the country that might be compelled by other stories. I’m sorry, go ahead Steven.
S. FULLWOOD: 20:34 No, I was just going to say that the right attractive imperiled white woman.
S. RODNEY: 20:39 Right. No, that’s right.
C.T. WEBB: 20:41 Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure.
S. FULLWOOD: 20:41 Optics mean everything right here.
S. RODNEY: 20:42 The princess, yes. Absolutely.
S. FULLWOOD: 20:45 It’s not supposed to happen to us. It’s that whole, “We moved out here to the suburb. It’s not supposed to happen to us.” These kinds of– it’s those narratives all wrapped up together and braided together.
S. RODNEY: 20:56 Do you guys think that there’s a way in which the notion of chivalry is sort of wrapped up in this as well? This idea that the damsel in distress is supposed to be rescued by us collectively, precisely because that attractive white woman, damsel, is in distress.
C.T. WEBB: 21:18 Yeah. Maybe, yes. I just was trying to pull up some historical resources. Obviously, the Illiad was launched because of the contention over a woman. I mean, Greeks are certainly not white in the sense of how we think of white, but– and I was thinking of the Ramayana story– Rama and Sita. It probably just not in the same way though, right? I mean it’s not– I mean there is a kind of a moral simplicity to that story for contemporary America. I don’t know. Do you know, when you– I mean, you lived in the UK or– I mean, or Steven, do you guys know? Does that story play in Germany? Does that story play in France? Are they preoccupied about– I mean, is that– I just don’t know.
S. RODNEY: 22:18 Yeah, no. Yeah, no. No, when I was in the UK, no. The big stories were not the stories of the damsel in distress. They were more like Paul McCartney said something to someone that might be somewhat offensive, “[Mattresses?] says go home.” That sort of thing, that kind of– or something happened on the football pitch that spilled over into domestic life. There was a tremendous row, and so-and-so has been given a sack. That sort of thing was blared across the headlines of newspapers.
S. FULLWOOD: 22:59 That American part of it, though, for me I got back to the Preservation of Innocence by James Baldwin. It was most recently collected in I think an American editions– edited volume by Toni Morrison. And it’s that you’re never allowed to really grow up, and so that kind of fantasy about actually– the actuality of saving a woman who never gets to grow up because she’s just a girl, she’s supposed to be protected. Or even more recently I was watching a Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and some of these 50s TV shows, and there’s always a fainting white woman. She just can’t handle it [laughter]. And I was going– and since we’re all always dealing with generational perspectives about women, like the whole push back with the Me Too movement and movements before that, the different– about actualizing women. There’s still a very strong strain of, “We must protect her.” And I’m not saying that I don’t have that impulse with my best friend or my sisters or women around me. I was at a restaurant the other day, and I thought the waiter was getting smart with the woman I was with. And I became very agitated. And I was like, “Okay, you got one more minute. He got one more minute. He got–” she handled the whole thing. He wasn’t getting smart with her, but it was my– I have to jump in this to legitimize this– maybe not legitimize it, but to show him, “You can’t do that. You can’t talk to her that way.” Right? And so that impulse is in me in a way that feels uncomfortable, but I like being able to– why? Why do I have that? Why couldn’t I just let it– let her handle it?
S. RODNEY: 24:40 Right. Recognize her agency in that moment.
S. FULLWOOD: 24:43 Absolutely. And just look at her and say, “Okay, what we going to do? Do you need me? Because I’m at the ready. I can do this.”
C.T. WEBB: 24:54 I think that impulse is a good one, as long as it is properly tempered and as long as it’s not overly fetishized, right? I would suspect– I mean, I don’t know for you or whatever, but– I would take umbrage if I saw something like that if I was just someone that I cared about. If I saw someone at a restaurant being rude to you or Seph, not that I–
S. RODNEY: 25:20 That’s exactly right.
C.T. WEBB: 25:20 — don’t think you would say something, I’m sure you would, but I definitely would not be happy with that and would feel inclined to say something about it, and in fact, have done that.
S. RODNEY: 25:34 Me too.
C.T. WEBB: 25:34 And so I don’t think the impulse to protect the people that are close to us is necessarily a bad one. It can be deployed to nefarious ends by the state and media and often is, and I think that that– what you just brought out– that I think we probably all share this impulse, and it’s probably maybe universal, certainly, to protect the person that’s intimate or close to you, but it’s that in America what causes that reflexive response is the young white woman. It’s what causes the collective– at least as far as we know so far. Are there any examples– do you guys know of any examples of non-white women that have produced similar levels of agitation in our collective id?
S. RODNEY: 26:33 Yeah. Well the person that comes to mind–
C.T. WEBB: 26:35 I just don’t follow stories like that very closely.
S. RODNEY: 26:35 I don’t think it’s the same level, but the first thing that comes to mind is the controversy around the boys who essentially were harassing a Native American protester at the mall in Washington D.C. a couple years ago, remember the kid–
C.T. WEBB: 26:57 Oh yeah, I know what you’re talking about.
S. RODNEY: 26:57 — who confronted this guy and he kept staring at him–
C.T. WEBB: 27:00 He didn’t actually– it was a badly reported story. He actually–
S. FULLWOOD: 27:03 It was terribly reported, absolutely.
S. RODNEY: 27:05 No no no, right, but my point is that– and what I’m getting at is that we talked about that collectively for a long time.
C.T. WEBB: 27:11 Oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s a good point.
S. RODNEY: 27:13 Taking sides for and against the child, and for and against the Native American man. Yeah, yeah.
C.T. WEBB: 27:20 Yeah, yeah. That’s a good example.
S. RODNEY: 27:24 But those are cultural clashes. And I think that sort of at the same– what’s to say, plateau maybe, of collective umbrage, there exists the damsel in distress – white, attractive young woman – and the cultural clashes. The moment when our– again, our beliefs and our values come into stark, vivid perception. But I actually want to get away from this for a second. I want to ask you guys just a really basic question about the clip. When you guys first saw this, did you laugh?
C.T. WEBB: 28:09 Yeah, yeah.
S. FULLWOOD: 28:09 Yeah.
S. RODNEY: 28:11 Okay, okay.
C.T. WEBB: 28:12 Yeah, absolutely. I thought it was funny– he was very funny. You have previously told me about that clip though, in conversation, and so I probably didn’t laugh as hard as I would have had I not been aware of where the bit was going. But it was still very funny. And Patrice O’Neal is funny. I mean, we talked about this before and sort of the delivery and just kind of the craft of comedy. But anyway–
S. FULLWOOD: 28:39 Yeah, and I like Patrice O’Neal in conversation with other comedians because you get their style and you get their approach. And I forget the name of the show that I think was on HBO, but there were maybe four or five comics sitting around just talking about things?
S. RODNEY: 28:53 Last Comic Standing?
S. FULLWOOD: 28:55 No, no, no. That was NBC, I think it was HBO and it was a lot rougher. So you had different kinds of comedians who were just savage, right? And Patrice O’Neal was just in it. And so I wish I had a better– had pulled up the clip earlier. But I was like, “No, I like this guy.” And I think I mentioned to you before that Patrice O’Neal reminds me of the kind of comedy I experienced when I was a kid. I called it porch humor. And it was just went in. Teenagers were ravage. We would just go in, we’d find that body part or that personality or whatever and just rip it, rip it, rip it. And sometimes it would be really artful, extremely artful. Sometimes it was just basically cheap shots for the cheap seats, but yeah. That’s what he reminds me of. So he reminds me of uncles and other people that I’ve known in my life who just had that eye and had that language. A very good friend of mine, her father was really good at it. One day he was telling me– he had came to my apartment and I had no– it was my first apartment. I had no furniture– a bed and a table. He walked in there, he said, “Somebody needs to break in here and leave something [laughter].” Everybody, “Ha ha ha ha ha,” and left.
S. RODNEY: 30:10 Oh, that’s cold. That’s ice cold.
S. FULLWOOD: 30:10 And I remember feeling so salty, but I also had to go, “Wow, that’s a great joke, though. That’s pretty dope,” but yeah. But I also want to say this– go back to, briefly, before you asked that question, Seph– is that the only collective outrage– or it wasn’t even really collective, but it was more in community, more in black community and trans community, are the deaths of trans women. So there would be– gained traction for a while around that. And sometimes it would be reported by the larger media, sometimes, but it was largely the outrage in that community to find justice for that trans woman. And that’s been happening for the last three to four years now, unfortunately. And so I like the word collectively because we’re looking at mass media and also people that you know, and– but I definitely feel like in my world that has largely been and continues to be – during Trans Week, which was last week – to acknowledge not just the tragedies and the murders but trans life.
C.T. WEBB: 31:14 Can I ask you a question about that? Is there– because I’m wondering if there’s an analog here. Would trans women be seen as the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community?
S. FULLWOOD: 31:28 I think because a lot– some trans women, I hate saying, “a lot,” when I don’t have stats or anything, but the way that it’s characterized is that black and brown trans women who may be dispossessed of having a job or having issues with getting even just identification that some work low-paying jobs or no-paying jobs or that are sex workers and so forth, do put them in a position of being more vulnerable. Absolutely.
C.T. WEBB: 31:56 Yeah, and so I’m wondering if there’s– I mean, I know we’re coming up on time– and all this from Patrice O’Neal’s bit– but I’m wondering if there’s a way in which communities or collective identities are shaped by or shape themselves around the protection of their most vulnerable members, and what that says about that community’s values. And certainly, I mean, it’s fairly– unfortunately, it’s fairly low-hanging fruit in the American context, I mean, to the young white woman. I mean, I understand if this conversation were to be played in a mass media context, it would not be low-hanging fruit. That conversation’s not really being had. But amongst the people that we would count as friends and colleagues and associates, to point that out is somewhat low-hanging fruit. I mean, this is a fairly well-traveled aspect of this. But to think about it in a larger context of how communities shape themselves around their collective outrage of the vulnerability of their least powerful members, right? Who are the least powerful because of– and many times how those people are accepted within their own community or not accepted within their own community.
S. FULLWOOD: 33:16 Absolutely, no. Absolutely. They are the thing that most people say, “You’re not supposed to be.” And this will– something we can follow up in our upcoming gender podcast– these ideas of vulnerability in an American context. And so even when I read the articles sometimes, they often bring up other trans women of color who have been abused. And so there is this push back to acknowledge and I think in a way to broaden what the community actually is, as opposed to this sort of politics of respectability kind of brown and black person. So I think that that community is breathing and acknowledging and actually growing and evolving in a lot of ways, that there’s a lot of push back from that community and also from the larger white community.
S. RODNEY: 34:09 Yeah. And [inaudible] that’s a really complex construction, though. Because what that suggests, Travis, is that the young white girl, young white attractive girl, is the most vulnerable– seen as the most vulnerable by the people in her community. But then what happens when she becomes a woman that somehow transmutes into her being valued above all other people in her community. How does that alchemy take place?
C.T. WEBB: 34:50 I know. It’s the uncanniness of the fetish or the totem, right? Or the sacred boundary. Mary Douglas has the book Purity and Danger, right? So it’s not just that the sacred is the most special, it’s also the thing that is cast off from the community, the thing– the boundary beyond which one cannot tread. And that sort of complexity and the resilience of those significations and those symbols is sort of the work that I think we’re about and what we’re doing in The American Age. It’s like how do we pull these things apart and think about our communities in more productive, more ambitious, more honest ways? I don’t have a succinct response to what it means.
S. FULLWOOD: 36:03 But it’s necessary work and I hear more– and not just theorists and academicians and other people and activists– but more white women pushing back on that and saying, “No. I refuse to be embodied that way and I refuse that trope.” And so it’s a interesting moment. It’s interesting to see how people are pushing back on things that in some ways they really maybe never really thought about and just accepted, or just find bound to– and now we’re saying no. So I actually like these moments of messiness when it comes to pulling this shit apart and really looking at it for what it is.
S. RODNEY: 36:50 Yeah, I mean, I think that the comedians are, as we’ve been saying, are really brilliant at doing that. In fact, and perhaps we can end on this note, one of the conversations that I had with Travis years ago about comedians and where we were politically as a country, that– I think the way Travis said it me was, “Our most trenchant, our most insightful political analysis is actually coming from comedians these days,” and that in some way that spells our doom. If we are not getting this kind of analysis from our politicians, from our broadcasters, from our journalists, from the people who are most often on large networks, broadcast networks, radio television, etc.– they’re not giving that to us, but it’s coming from comedians. That may mean we’re in trouble.
C.T. WEBB: 37:52 I remember that conversation actually.
S. FULLWOOD: 37:53 But wasn’t it always that way?
S. RODNEY: 37:56 No, no. I would argue no, it wasn’t. I think at some point we had people like James Baldwin, who was a public intellectual, people would tune in to hear pull apart our culture.
S. FULLWOOD: 38:13 But I always think that those people are looked back differently– we were alive during James Baldwin’s time– but this man was often cast out and he was popular, but the kind of audiences that he had and the kind of truth speakers– truth speakers have always had an issue in this culture, in American culture. And so I don’t think there was a time before this time. I think that there is a–
C.T. WEBB: 38:38 Wasn’t there a Dick– wasn’t he on Dick Cavett, though?
S. RODNEY: 38:40 Yeah, that’s exactly what I was saying.
C.T. WEBB: 38:42 I mean–
S. RODNEY: 38:42 That’s what I’m saying. He was on Dick Cavett.
S. FULLWOOD: 38:45 Right, but Baldwin was both admired and also kind of cast aside in ways. He didn’t have the straight– wow, James Baldwin, everyone’s looking at James Baldwin on– it doesn’t mean that he was taken seriously. It doesn’t mean that– I feel like we still have that kind of culture going on today. Meaning that there are always the truth speakers and the people who have the most to lose are the people that are the most articulate at times about that. And now that we’re more media, we hear more.
S. RODNEY: 39:15 Yeah. Perhaps this is a subject for another podcast, but I would argue that I think it’s shifted. I don’t think that that weight was carried by comedians before. I think it was carried by other kinds of intellectuals.
S. FULLWOOD: 39:27 Well, I would agree with that, but I just talk about the audiences and how they were accepted. There are a few things, yeah. Sorry.
S. RODNEY: 39:34 Yeah, fair enough.
C.T. WEBB: 39:36 So, we went way over because of the clip, but of course, it was a good conversation. Seph, thanks for the Patrice O’Neal bit. So and we’ll talk to you guys next week.
S. FULLWOOD: 39:47 Take care.
S. RODNEY: 39:47 Bye. [music]

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**No references for Podcast 0101**

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First referenced at 05:19

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“Maria Elizabeth Sheldon Bamford is an American stand-up comedian, actress, and voice actress. She is best known for her portrayal of her dysfunctional family and self-deprecating comedy involving jokes about depression and anxiety.” Wikipedia[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.25″][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_divider divider_style=”outset” divider_position=”center” divider_weight=”2px” _builder_version=”3.19.15″][/et_pb_divider][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]


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