There’s a fine line in ethnic humor between satire and racism. The folks behind the Jeselnik Offensive on Comedy Central have clearly crossed it in its sketch Which Kind of Asian Is This?
The sketch seeks to find humor in the difficulty many Non-Asians have in distinguishing between different Asian nationalities. To proof its point, it brings on three contestants, flashes a picture of an Asian face on the screen and ask the contestants to guess the nationality of the Asian pictured. The premise has potential for good satirical humor about our ignorance of each others cultures.
But to assist the contestants, each picture is accompanied with a clue that supposedly sheds light on the answer. This is where the writers, producers and hosts venture into dangerous (aka racist) territory. The show seems to recognize it and to protect themselves each of the contestants is a person of color. Its as if they’re saying, see, the minorities have given their stamp of approval to our little sketch because they’re playing along with us.
The clues range from jokes about parental pressure (funny) to jokes about dog eating (racist). In fact, in case the audience didn’t get the dog eating joke the first time, they decided to tell it twice.
Oh, there’s also the use of a chop suey musical tune (tired and unoriginal) , squinty eyes (racist), and even Mickey Rooney from Breakfast in Tiffany.
But just so his audience won’t be offended, Jeselknik brings on as his third contestant an Asian American. This is how you know the producers really knew they were in trouble.
Bad writing is not an excuse for racism and stereotypes. As one commenter wrote on Comedy Central’s website, “How is this funny? It’s not witty or clever. Just bland and racist.”