Thursday, October 29, 2015

No Comedy, No Confidence

This week Ithaca College president, Tom Rochon, called an all campus meeting to discuss the racial climate on campus. On his part it failed spectacularly, on the part of the students involved in POC at IC it was a energizing success. A few days before this meeting the comedy clubs on campus released a statement that read:

"Comedy is at its best when it is honest, contains complex ideas, and expresses diverse experiences. This cannot happen on a campus where the college administration does not support people of color and invalidates their experiences. The comedy community at Ithaca College representing IC Comedy Club, IC Stand Up, The Acahti Players, and IC Sketch would like to formally voice our support for POC at IC and express a vote of no confidence in President Tom Rochon and the Board of Trustees."

As president of IC Sketch I partly released and stand by this statement. Good comedy cannot exist in spaces where authority dictates which experiences get brought to light and in which light they are brought. This lack of confidence is mirrored in the greater entertainment community, although the problem of authority tends to be more insular. The reason we end up with racially insensitive (to say the least) comedies such as "Get Hard" and Adam Sandler's latest movie "Ridiculous Six" isn't because of an outsider force, it's because Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell are the authorities on how experiences are dictated. Adam Sandler has decided they would be dictated with jokes, that caused Native American actors to walk off set, such as these:

1) Sandler’s character, Tommy, aka Three Knives, a white man raised by Native Americans since childhood is married to a woman named Smoking Fox. A recurring joke refers to her "sweet zum-zum."

2) A female character named Beaver’s Breath, is propositioned by a male character, asking, "Hey Beaver’s Breath." To which she responds, "How did you know my name?"

3) A "sexy" female character named No Bra (originally named Sits-on-Face in the 2012 script), is depicted crudely squatting to urinate behind a teepee while stereotypically lighting up a peace pipe.

4) Will Patch (Will Forte) propositions Sits-on-Face by asking her, "How about after this, we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee?"

5) Cicero (Danny Trejo) interacts with Sits-on-Face by calling her "Strawberry Tits," to which she indignantly corrects him, saying "I am Sits-on-Face." Cicero responds, "Well, then I’m Stiff-in-Pants!"

6) There are numerous instances of crudely-punned pseudo Native American names like Five Hairy Moles, One Eyebrow, and Four Pickles.

Adam Sandler has declared himself the authority on how to portray the Native American identity leading Native American actors to unsurprisingly cast a vote of no confidence in Sandler and the industry he represents. We must recognize that this problem exists outside of IC and that the comedy battleground does not get more leveled upon graduation. We need to continue to evaluate our confidence in the institutions we have previously lauded, especially if those institutions starred in Jack and Jill.

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