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‘Meedlah?’ and other thoughts

Wilmore puts a funny face on the black experience

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Larry Wilmore’s I’d Rather We Got Casinos: And other Black Thoughts
Rick Lax

If I were black, I’d want Larry Wilmore to be my black leader.

First and foremost, Wilmore understands the importance of rhyming: “If I said, ‘We need to ease the tax burden on the poor,’ you would probably say, ‘No thanks, so-called black leader.’ But if I said, ‘First it was guns and axes, now they wanna kill us with taxes,’ you would probably say, ‘Preach it, black leader.’”

Wilmore knows how to deflect pesky questions about his past: “I can make vague allusions to the time I worked in a factory. If someone presses me to be more specific, I’ll just call him a racist for questioning my past and move on.” And above all else, Wilmore relishes the spotlight: “It’s extremely vital that your black leader be on TV as much as possible. Good news: I am a camera whore.”

For years Wilmore whored behind the cameras, writing for The Bernie Mac Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and In Living Color. Currently he whores before The Daily Show cameras, as Jon Stewart’s Senior Black Correspondent.

In his new collection of humorous essays, I’d Rather We Got Casinos: And Other Black Thoughts, Wilmore answers the age-old question, “How Come Brothas Don’t See UFOs?,” offers tips on “Giving Your Baby a ‘Nizame’” and goes “In Search of Black Jesus.” Here are four of the 19 clues Wilmore discovered on his search:

• Clue 1: From the moment of the immaculate conception, the question of “who the baby daddy?” was already an issue.

• Clue 3: His cousin had the first hip-hop name: John the Baptist.

• Clue 5: He spoke in pre-Ebonics. “Blessed be the poor, blessed be the meek.”

• Clue 17: He rose from the dead in three days. Why not two, or one, or instantly? Obviously, he was on “cp time.”

Some readers might see Wilmore’s “cp time” (colored-person time) joke as racist, but Wilmore is just parodying the lengths to which Black Hebrew Israelites and proponents of the Afrocentric Doctrine will go to convince people that Christ was a brother.

Wilmore isn’t the first black comedian to critique black culture, but he might be the first to focus his attacks on those at the top: civil-rights leaders, preachers and academics. In doing this, Wilmore makes all sorts of jokes that might appear racist to those who don’t understand what he’s getting at. For example, in the essay “It’s Okay to Hate Black People Who Work at McDonald’s at the Airport (It Doesn’t Make You Racist),” Wilmore recounts a fictitious conversation between an airport McDonald’s worker and himself:

Wilmore: Uh, yes, I’d like the No. 3, please.

Counter person: Meedlah?

Wilmore: I’m sorry?

Counter person (overenunciating): Medium or large?

It seems like Wilmore is making fun of minimum-wage workers’ inarticulate speech—particularly after he ostensibly advocates hatred of these workers: “Could you imagine how healing it would be for white people, who’ve accepted they can’t hate black people, to be able to hate black people who work at McDonald’s at the airport? It would be huge! And if you’re black you get to hate your own. How fucking awesome is that?”

The fact that Wilmore never explains how the healing would occur or why getting to hate your own would be “fucking awesome” should tell you that Wilmore actually believes it’s wrong to hate somebody because of the way they talk.

Since so many of Wilmore’s jokes could be misinterpreted as racist, I doubt he could actually ever become black leader. Although I’m sure Al Franken would disagree.

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