Friday, March 28, 2008

An American tradition, subverted


fishesalot said...

I'm trying to put my fingers around why just seeing Paulson standing there in black face was, in itself, enough to make me laugh.


However, ..that shit was on-the-money funny!



Jorge Vega said...

I don't know... this one made me angrier than the first one.

Michael Fisher said...

How does this subvert an American tradition, David?

Edshugeo The GodMoor said...

Doug McClure!!!

I thought that was David Johanson (sp?) AKA Dexter Poindexter next to Merv, but I knew that couldn't be right. I remembered The Land That Time Forgot and typed that into and got Doug McClure.

I feel much better now.

The Pat Paulsen bit was funny as hell.

I don't have a problem with Blackface, Yellowface, Whiteface, etc., when it works (makes me laugh), though sometimes it throws me off guard for a second.

Undercover Black Man said...

How does this subvert an American tradition, David?

Well, he's not mocking black people, for one thing. He's not pretending to be a "stage Negro."

Michael Fisher said...

So why is he wearing black face?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Not to mock Negroes. But to mock the convention of the "stage Negro."

I'm curious, Michael. In your opinion, which of these two blackface videos is the more objectionable? Or are they both equally objectionable?

Michael Fisher said...

David, the "American tradition" is to make fun of by their victimizers of a people who have been beaten, raped, and enslaved in the most egregious manner by these same victimizers.

Note that Merv Griffin and (I forgot his guest's name) as well as the audience cracked up long before Paulson opened his mouth to tell his jokes.

Why is that?

You have to understand the psychology of "whiteness". White is "standard" white is "human". Everything else by definition is other than human. Grotesk.

This is why humans who are other than "white" are de-humanized linguistically.

It's not so much about what I find objectionable, it's about what the imagery is designed to accomplish.

Grotesk things can be easily mistreated, killed, tortured, fed into a gas chamber, bombed, beaten, rapped.

Both you and I are entertainment industry professionals. You know as well as I that images are language. That they are usually more powerful than words.

The images are reinforcements to people classified as white that "blacks" are indeed grotesk.


If you look at the very purposeful imagery Nazi propaganda used when dealing with the Jews, you find the identical tactics used.

They still are using it on black folks today. From the current Vogue Cover to Hip Hop and here.

It's just gotten more and more refined. The psychological impact on "white" folks and "black" folks having become much more subtle. The results devastating.

That's the "American Tradition". I don't see it subverted in any form or fashion in this Paulson stick.

Jorge Vega said...

That's the "American Tradition". I don't see it subverted in any form or fashion in this Paulson stick.

I agree. I don't see any mocking of the convention. I see a dude in black face making jokes about race and peppering in some "let's get beyond this race thing".

Merv's joke at the end, "You're watching the Dick Cabbot Show", to me, is a clear signal that while he thought Paulson's schtick was hilarious was hilarious-- he knew it was wrong.

Bklyn6 said...

Oh, snap. Was he trying to breakdance in the end?*

*Intentionally anachronistic reference. I don't know what else to say.

Well, I guess the blackface was supposed to give him license to make fun of every other ethnic minority. (Equal Opportunity Offender.) It's just commmmedy, right? :-/

cnulan said...

History's Mysteries revealed;

Gurdjieff offers us a theory of laughter, independent of any state of amusement (= humor), that nevertheless distinguishes between laughter as a physiological response and the organismic cause of it, which he also calls “laughter.” This organismic variable (O), though not necessarily the same as humor, is shown to be a complex structure that is radically different from the visible laughter that results from it. Since his conception of O, though outlined in a most rudimentary and concise form, provides us the basis of the most viable theory of humor that we have been able to elaborate and immediately brings into relief some of the most conspicuous features of this humor-theory, we find it both convenient and opportune to begin with his succinct formulation of the structure of the organismic variable responsible for both humor and laughter. The passage on laughter is reproduced below in full and much of this thesis may be considered to be a systematic interpretation of his theory of laughter, its integration into a general theory of humor, and a sustained exploration of its consequences in various domains. We shall ignore his references to other aspects of his system such as his theory of yawning, of accumulators, centers, and so on, except insofar as they are relevant to our proper understanding of humor.

The framed web presentation is very cumbersome, but the analysis is on point and is the likes of which you will never encounter in the ordinary literature....,

Undercover Black Man said...

... he knew it was wrong.

According to the guy who uploaded this clip to YouTube, this whole routine never aired. Too controversial.

I haven't verified that, but I don't doubt it. We're talking about the mid-'70s.

dez said...

I loved Pat Paulsen. Wish he was still around to run for president (imagine the hay he could make once this clip was released--which I'm sure he would have released himself!).

@fishesalot, I think just seeing him there was funny because of his deadpan demeanor, which Paulsen excelled at.

fishesalot said...


I hear ya, he did seem to be very Sad Sack-ish and that had a funny aspect to it. But I'm perplexed with how the humor of it surpased my deeper feelings of disgust associated with any kind of explotation of and perpetuation of these stereotypical images.

Had he come out with no makeup, just in white skin, I don't think I would have found that funny. But a white man appearing in Blackface arouses many mixed feelings in brothers such as myself. My normal response to people in Blackface is a feeling of disappointment - "when will they leave this shit alone?", but I guess I've become conditioned to be more accepting of marginalization of Blacks by the white machine. I've been made to feel - "it's OK, cause that shit IS funny!"

Anyway, ...I'm starting to ramble.

The shit goes way too deep with me and I can't even express it or make sense of it. I just wish that people would just leave all of this race parody alone cause the shit has deep roots and it keeps these destructive and degrading Jim Crow images and concepts alive.

Just my opinion.


Undercover Black Man said...

Fishes, that sense of "danger" is a reason in itself why blackface can be tempting for a satirist.

Our own feelings about it become part of the experience, and if a performer is smart and slick about playing with those feelings (as I think Paulsen is here), it can be really, really funny.

fishesalot said...

UBM, I'm gonna stretch out a bit with this rave so forgive me, ...I tend to think in a stream of consciousness mode, sort of.

OK,'re right UBM, the danger is appealing but shit, ...the snake tempted Eve and she eat that dangerous ass apple, ..bam! -eviction from Eden, or so the tale goes.

Paulson was clever here, but in the end, he was just another white dude trying to make a buck using us - "...well folks, here it is, the Ole Blackface".

...its about desensitization, explotation, and brain washing.

The stage and media have always been powerful tools used primarily for the exploitation and brainwashing of folks, mostly to the benefit of whites. Don't worry about it, just laugh and be happy, right?

Shit, I wish I could experience an onslaught, a virtual endless stream of commercials showing:

- a black dude surrounded by a bevy of white and multi-ethnic young women romping on the beach with Pringles,

- or a black dude surrounded by a bevy of white and multi-ethnic young women running to Starbucks

- or a black dude with his gorgeous white wife working a deal on a Porsche

- or not just an occasional instance of a Black women at home with children, greeting her Black husband as he comes home from work, it's just the contrary, all day long in the media - a young white dude with hordes of multi-ethnic chicks sniffing behind his ass, or a Black mother with kids and no wedding ring or strong Black male figure in the picture. The brothers are usually holding a basket ball or running. I guess now that slavery is over, the master can't just rape women at will anymore so he uses the media to tell all the sisters-of-color that the young white male is the prize and the world is his oyster. laugh but that shit is working!

At any rate, these images all have an effect on us and being saturated by this shit just makes us more prone to laugh at it and let it persist. Guess I'm tired of explaining to kids(and myself) how to deal with these kinds of images when they pop up, in addition to other inequitable assaults that they see in the media.

Peace UBM