If Bill O’Reilly were a comedian, his comments about Sylvia’s restaurant wouldn’t be been an issue. Because he isn’t a comedian, his comments and the reactions to his comments reflect the worst of two worlds: O’Reilly’s small head, and those ready to pounce on anyone who doesn’t say, “Black is Beautiful.”
If D.L Hughley or Robin Williams’s review of the crowd at Sylvia’s had been, “M-fer, I want more iced tea,” we’d all still be rolling. Comedians have a knack for turning tension into comedy when experiencing new things, presenting it in a way in which we can all relate.
That O’Really Is He a Commentator wouldn’t know a joke from a poke has many judging his comment in a very different light. Unfortunately, that light also reveals just how much some wear their hearts on their sleeves, how big a chip some carry around on their shoulder, and how unwilling some are to see humor even when it isn’t deliberate.
Yes, Bill is a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot. He’s also a guy who, for once, pulled a funny when everyone least expected it. In fact, everyone expected him to be — of all things — on his best behavior. Why? We know who he is, we know what he thinks, and we know what he’s said before, so why is anyone surprised?
This is not to suggest a racist comment is acceptable on any level. It is to say that just because one speaks of or refers to race doesn’t mean the comment is necessarily racist, and it doesn’t mean the comment is automatically unfunny.
Hughley’s comment about white people getting fired* is stereotyping if ever there was stereotyping. Williams’ comments about people in the south**, gay burglars***, and women**** go straight to the core of our prejudices. They’re funny because we can relate to what is being said – about our own misguided beliefs about others.
What separates O’Reilly from comedians is that comedians come at our differences from the angle that, despite those differences, we’re all the same. O’Reilly came at it from an angle of overdue recognition: “Hey, I just realized we’re all the same.”
So he’s a dunderhead. Duh. Someone defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Expecting Bill to do or say anything different than he ever has is insane. That he finally did do and say something different — albeit haphazardly — not only means the man is capable of change, it also makes his critics look like close-minded asses who have no sense of humor.
* D.L. Hughley: “You can't fire white folk. You fire white folk, you'd best believe somebody gettin' shot that day. ‘I'm fired? I'll be right back, you sons of bitches.’"
** “We've had cloning in the South for years. It's called cousins.”
*** “We had gay burglars the other night. They broke in and rearranged the furniture.”
**** “If women ran the world we wouldn't have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days.”