Depending on whom you ask, Wayne Brady should or should not have taken exception to being used as fodder for the "non-threatening Black man" joke. Also depending on whom you ask, the oft-used joke by Bill Maher should be considered less of an insult and more a compliment, in that Wayne Brady is not emblematic of the negative depictions of African-American men.
But in the end, the only real opinion that matters in the discussion of Bill Maher V. Wayne Brady is Brady's...which he made abundantly clear; indicating he'd "gladly slap the sh!t out of Bill."
As of this moment, there has been no public response from Maher, which is surprising to some degree given his consistent activity on Twitter and willingness to verbally beat down those who publicly engage him. And even if Maher does eventually respond, expect it from the safety of his television show, complete with his sympathetic and sycophantic audience. Look for it in the form of snide commentary in the "New Rules" section, assailing Brady's supposed oversensitivity (i.e. "you can't take a joke").
There is a real discussion to be had as to whether it is "funny" for Maher the community outsider to consistently weigh in with opinions on who is a "real" Black man or just really non-threatening. Although the issues of race may be within the purview of comics, it doesn't mean that we as the audience relinquish our right to find certain humor distasteful.
Maher's track record of mean-spirited humor can't be argued or denied. All personal political allegiances aside, we should be in agreement on that point.
Maybe Maher felt comfortable quipping about Brady because Maher boasts a long history of wagging his finger at Republicans for racism. Possibly Maher felt comfortable poking Brady because Maher has been so public in his support of President Obama. According to Brady, Maher's comfort level is inextricably linked to his penchant for pillow talk with Black "girlfriends."
Beyond that, there is an undercurrent to Bill's humor that he fancies himself as "down" and can take certain liberties. Even on his website (billmaher.com), his blog section is titled "Blogga Please" an obvious play on words with "N***a please." It all adds up to a sum total at the register. We shouldn't view the Brady remarks in a vacuum.
The most interesting part of Brady's very public rant was that it gave considerable insight into the psyche of many Black men. For many of us, we understood exactly the nature of Brady's remarks, in a way Maher never could and never will. For many of us, there was a head-nod of agreement and understanding as to how and why Brady "went there" and in such graphic detail. There is a socialization, a standard operating procedure if you will, relative to our interaction. First and foremost, you should never call out one's manhood. Amongst Black men it is both implicitly and explicitly understood. Meaning, if a man can't seem to "get it" implicitly, then it will be explained to you explicitly...in probably a very uncomfortable manner.
Brady's remarks were telling in many ways. Not only for their content, but also for the underlying subtext in the manner delivered. Brady made it very clear he is, and will always be a Black man, and abundantly clear on our rules of interaction.
In short, Brady reminded Maher that "our rules" state that there are some things you can only say on a non-Black television network to a non-Black panel, with a 99% non-Black studio audience playing along.
Bill Maher may have "New Rules" on his television program, but in relation to Black men, some old ones are still in effect.
Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is host of "The Mo'Kelly Show" on KFI AM640 in Los Angeles and Sirius XM Radio, political correspondent for the BBC Radio and Television networks and author of the syndicated column "The Mo'Kelly Report". For more Mo'Kelly, go to his site. Mo'Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes all commentary.
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