Melissa Harris-Perry | February 17, 2013
>> on america's black history month and it worked. at least the live studio audience thought so. with me, the hilarious comic and author of liz free or die, liz winstead, comedian and co-director of the muslim's are coming. university of pennsylvania professor, not a comic, but good for a one liner, the funnyman who always gets me nuts, elan james white host of this weekend blackness. it is 2013 . can we tell race jokes? is race funny?
>> i think you can, i think obviously the rule for comics is you can make fun of your own, there's no problems with that. when you make fun of other groups is the problem. i think we know the difference when someone is being funny and having a good time or they are intentionally trying to demonize or stereotype someone.
>> i was respectful, you know i love you. when ever you say the rule, i get like ah. i think you can talk about whatever you want . i have said this a million times. you talk about whatever you want and you understand that once something passes your lips, it is for all to judge. your intention is thrown out the window. there are joke that is are amazing. someone uses a buzz word and don't hear the higher context. they hear a couple words and they won't let grow there. i think you just do what you think is the best joke and own it.
>> i follow the rule of who is the victim in the joke. that's mine. i'm not saying that should be the rule. i'll go anywhere as long as i'm not putting down someone or a group ha is constantly being put down in general. so, then at that point, i feel like a joke works completely.
>> mocking the powerful is more funny than the powerless.
>> i thought justin bieber was hilarious. it's playing on america doesn't know much about black folk . the lily white kid going around throw thag in. it's hilarious. no problem with that.
>> one of my favorite make fun of the powerful, i'm wondering does this work. i love wanda psysykes, i'm crazy about her. she's talking abdomen black hair . let's listen to wanda sykes on black hair .
>> you ever seen a biracial kid and white mother that has no idea what to do with the hair so the hair is just all matted up and never been combed and lint and car keys and q-tips all in [ bleep ]. find a black friend. take your child to a black beauty parlor just [ bleep ] drive-through the hood and stick her head out the window.
>> we love it. black hair is full of pain and angst for us. it's a great moment.
>> it's a great moment. i call it constructive humor. there's a purpose under it. it's funny and everybody laughs because we know somebody like this. it's take the kid somewhere. the way you deliver has a difference about it. if there's malice, if she took a different turn, you're talking biracial kids horribly. when you take the funny tone and you know how to do the delivery, that changes everything about it.
>> i think, too, when we feel uncomfortable about jokes about race, it's unclear what the intent is. why are you talking race anyway? why is it in your act? when there's that intention about it.
>> at the same time, i know folk who is are mad about that joke.
>> they are mad right now.
>> i'm a white mother with a black child and i do her hair just fine. calm down.
>> the joke is going to offend somebody. everyone goes on twitter, it's full outrage and use full capital letters . as comics we are going to give in, never push up against any sensibility about race, homophobia or keep pushing and pushing. i agree with liz when she says, you know, we can say whatever we want. i agree with that. i think everyone has absolute freedom of speech . then they should be marginalized. the comic who is are homophobic, they can say it.
>> i think of my dad who was a civil rights guy and he loved archie bunker . he could not stand to miss it because watching the performance of that version of racism was a kind of moment.
>> my dad was archie bunker . it's weird and i write in my book about his favorite show is death comedy jam. he would watch it at night and love it for wrong reasons. elan knows. i was like wow. this is this funniest thing on tv. i'm never going to be a black man so i'll never be as funny as these guys on tv. it was problematic to me.
>> richard pryor had an element of truth. every joke has a little bit of truth in it. there's truth. the joke either works or doesn't work compared to that. have we gone to the point where we can't make these jokes because every time you make a joke, something is going to happen.
>> or if it's not your personal truth, you refuse to see the greater truth in it.
>> here is the thing, what you are saying, we basically have gotten to that point. at this point, if you talk about anything, there's going to be a group that is touched by that thing you say. if you said this thing and don't acknowledge me -- i do. i'm speaking from this perspective. doesmatter? you are now banned by that group and have to apologize. you have to say listen, i'm not apologizing. the joke is the joke. i -- if you are bothered by it, i accept you are bothered by it. understand this is part of my truth. i am not making fun of you. i'm talking about what i'm dealing with now. just like wanda sykes .
>> you started with there's a rule. if i think of is there a race joke rule, i'm probably going to go with black face for me is a rule. a bit of a line. yet, there's a sarah silverman moment. i thought we would look at that as well.
>> i spent my life trying to live the world with people like you. there's one thing i do know, seeing you burn in hell will be my personal heaven. good day.
>> i had no idea. i had no idea how cruel white people could be to us.
>> on the one hand, like my general rule is, black face and i feel icky. she's mocking the black face thing. it's what she does all the time. she does it really well. she's somebody, who again, takes it on, makes no apologies for it. when she has to defend it.
>> i have a similar rule, i totally let that rule go for tropic thunder . i thought that was hilarious. tears coming down my face.
>> just because it's a theme song doesn't mean it's not true.
>> technically is the rule if it makes you laugh, there's no rule. i'm uncomfortable with rules.
>> maybe rules aren't the right word. i have people upset when i don't make fun of their group. i do a show for a muslim american organization and make fun of arabs. they say you didn't talk about us, pakistani's or indians. we have gone from don't make fun of me to why aren't you including me. russell peters is bringing all minority groups that haven't been mocked and they love it. he's bringing them into this party.
>> mock me, please. get your jokes ready. when we come back, i ask you to share your favorite punch lines.
>>> melissa, congratulations and happy anniversary . i can't tell you how proud i am of your show and what your team has done. we have broken new ground with this show, it's smart, it's fun, it's in-depth. we take on topics no one else is doing. keep it up. to everybody on the staff and the team, happy anniversary . [ female