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Joel John Roberts

Joel John Roberts

Posted: March 13, 2011 12:58 PM

iCarly's Sorry About Making Fun Of Homelessness


Well, iCarly didn't literally say "I'm sorry," but Nickelodeon, the network that airs the popular teen show, responded by pulling all references to "hobo" off their online media outlets and has committed to no new episodes referring to "hobo."

A few weeks ago, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom urged me to respond to iCarly's "hobo" references. So I wrote a piece on Huffington Post called, "iCarly, Homelessness Is Not A Joke," and set up a Facebook campaign. I also wrote a letter to Nickelodeon explaining the reasons why making fun of "hobos" is an affront to those struggling with homelessness.

I recently received a telephone call from a Nickelodeon executive who was responding to the appeal letter. She told me that they spent some soul-searching discussions on their "hobo" episodes. She explained that homelessness was never their target, and never wanted to promote comedy at the expense of hurting homeless people.

I believed her.

There was once a famous American comedian who used to put on knee-slapping comedic routines using characters like: George Appleby, The Mean Widdle Kid, Willie Lump-Lump, and San Fernando Red. His name was Red Skelton.

For those of us who are too young to remember his impact on American society, we should understand that his slapstick comedy was the genre for a previous generation. One of his characters was Freddie the Freeloader, a "happy hobo clown."

Red, as Freddie the Freeloader, once joked that he was never totally alone because he had fleas. Not something that I would laugh about, and in fact would be offended, but a whole generation worshipped Red's humor.

iCarly's "hobo" episodes were based on this type of classic humor that is certainly not justified, but is understandable. It reminds me of the old "blackface" humor used in minstrel shows that were stereotypical caricatures of African Americans. They were perhaps funny a generation ago, but are now offensive.

Looks like Nickelodeon understands that such humor has crossed beyond the line of acceptability in today's society. A gracious offer to pull "hobo" references and even an offer to support homeless services is my kind of healthy comedy.

I think many compassionate Americans who struggle to battle homelessness can now breathe a sigh of relief.

(Note: I was told past syndicated episodes cannot be changed.)

 
 
 

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