Language that could be taken as stereotyping/racist in US standup comedy is mostly acceptable as long as its deliver in a way that people can make light of it. Audiences widely accept that in comedy the use of exaggerated stereotypes are acceptable for the sake of entertainment. One of the reason could be that even though they are extremely exaggerated in some cases they contain a grain of truth to them.
Even though the ethnicity of the comedian plays a part on what type of stereotypes they can use, it’s not a deciding factor as many would think and has more to do with the tone, intention, the audience and delivery of the joke itself (Green).
Taking into consideration that if a comedian tell stereotypical joke about his ethnicity, the way he tells that jokes matter because if the audience does not like the tone or how it was delivery than they will not find the joke to be funny.
This is crucial because when it comes to stereotypical jokes if they don’t find it funny than they can take offence what is being said and find it disrespectful.
One of the way I seen comedians us a stereotypes in jokes is by using personal experience where those stereotypes where apply to them in a racist matter or so it happen to somebody else. Using personal experiences make it easier for the people to sympathize with the comedian and they will respond to the tone and expressions that are being display.
An example would be Dave Chapelle who in one of his specials told a joke about an interaction he went through where he felt it was racist. He said that it was so racist that he did not get mad because it he was in disbelieve that the situation was really happening to him.
Then he laugh to get to people to laugh with him about how the ridiculousness of the situation. How he went to fast food place and before he could odder the man at the cash register before he could order had made his mind up that because he was black he was going to odder chicken. Then to make light of the situation to get the audience laughing he say that he taught that he like chicken because it was delicious and not because he was predispose to like it because he was black (Chapelle). When he said that way it makes you think of how absurd and illogical that way of thinking really is and you laugh alongside him. Stories like this that would get people angry in the behave of the person that was wrong is different when they are at a comedy club. The setting of where the story was told change the way the people would perceive the story because they were expecting it to be humorous a joke.
Comics also tell jokes where a conversation or interaction was taking place and they act out the people involved. So they play not only themselves but they person that they interacted with in the story. They dramatize the encounter where they exaggerate they way said person acted. Some of them are when they are portraying an interaction with another ethnicity and they exaggerate their stereotypes to make the situation over the top to make it funny. Russell Peters does a lot of jokes where he talk about people he meets and make exaggeration depiction of how they acted. In one of his jokes he talks about how he went to Italy and people taught he was Italian.
So he decided to not tell them that he was not Italian and play along because he thought it would be cool. Until they started speaking to him that when he started to think that it had been a bad idea because know he felt dumb just looking at them when they were trying to talk to him and not knowing what to do. Then he start acting out the situation where he starts to imitate the Italian person by make noises trying to mimic what that person was saying in Italian when he did not speak the language as well as mimicking his body language. The way portrait the body language was a very stereotypical way that are shown on TV where they use over the top hand movement. At one point of it Russell even grab his genital which made the audience laugh because the acting was so over the top, that it was no longer believable.
After that he show how he reacted to being to talk to without knowing what they were saying to him by making a face with an oblivious expression and dumbly shaking his head up and down which get a laugh out of the audience. This reaction make it more relatable to people where you make a dumb decision and you end up being embarrass which becomes the focus of the jokes instead of the stereotype portrayal of the Italian people. What makes ethnic humor fun an appealing are, the gestures , vocal expression, and the dramatization of the interaction (Williams).
It’s all about how you say it and how you tell it that will make it acceptable and funny instead of unacceptable and insulting. Many comedians like Russell is over exaggerated stereotypes in their comedy but they also make fun of themselves or their ethnicity. This makes it so the audience does not feel like the comedian is just attacking other races or their own because he included himself in the jokes. In most shows like this the comedian tells joke about a wide uses a wide variety of ethnic groups which show that they jokes may be at their expense but no one ethnic group is single out and being made fun of. As long as people do not feel like they are being single than they will find the jokes funny.
When they start getting into more delicate topic that ethnics groups are sensitive about, that is when it harder to find the line of when it’s acceptable to use that material in a joke. An example would like slavery were it would be hard to bring up a topic like that in a joke. Specially if the person that tells the joke is not African American. This is where a comedian has to have everything on point so the joke does not become a social problem where they media would start attacking them for being insensitive or racist. Bill Burr a white comedian told a joke where he talk about how black men are better at sports than white men and how people get in trouble when the bring up why black men are better athletes. How a coach got fire because when they ask him why they were losing and as Bill puts it, in a moment of honesty the coach ended up saying that they needed more black player in the teams.
Then he goes on to talks about a show runaway slave and how they were the first triathlon, after that he bring it into a close by talking about how Jesse Owens prove Hitler wrong. What Bill did was put the ethnic group that the topic pertains to in a good light so as to soften the subject matter. So when he brought up the runaway slaves and how they are better athletes because of the hard life their ancestors lived, it would hit as hard. An after that he brought up how Jesse Owens proved Hitler wrong about the superior race that it makes the listener feel pride in their ethnicity so as to not leave the joke on a source note.
For a comedian to pull of telling a joke like this, they have to have an understanding with their audience, to the point they know him well. Bill Burr is well known for using material that is controversial so they expected this type of material from him.
They know he is not racist because his past materials show that he is not that is why he did not receive any negative backlash for telling this joke. So he had to work his way up to using such sensitive material where people could trust him and be comfortable enough with him that they can find humor in those types of jokes.
Comedians will continue to push the boundaries of what is acceptable to use in their jokes because it’s hard to get people to laugh if they are not interested in the subject (Feltmate). . So to make people laugh they need interesting material and what people often find interesting it’s controversial. To make people laugh is the first priority no matter the subject the comedians use to construct their jokes. Meaning that the topic that comedians use in their jokes do not necessarily means that it really interest them or that they agree with the topic at all.
That the joke they craft are design to get people to go and see their shows. Society norm are what shape how the comedy of a country will developed and those norm are always changing. You can see that by looking at the type of jokes that were acceptable about transvestites and sexuality in the 2000s that if they were told know would cause a major uproar in social media. So comedy reflect what is going on in our society and the topics that relevant in social media is what you are mostly likely to find represented. So comedy goes along with what is popular or have the most media coverage than something that would be more important to discuss but people do not want to hear about.