DL Hughley’s Def (and Dumb) Comedy Jam on CNN

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I have to say that DL Hughley lost my respect 2 years ago during the Don Imus debacle. On the Jay Leno show, I dropped my face to the floor when I heard Hughley say, “Yes, those women really WERE a pack of nappy headed hoes!”

[Election 2008]

I continue to be irritated by Fox News, which is why I don’t watch it.  We know clear racism when we see it, and it should not be legitimized by our viewership. 

However, I’ve always given CNN a pass.  I’ve overlooked the fact that nearly every financial analyst on the network is a White male, since that tends to be the norm in almost every academic department in America.  I could almost overlook the atrocious spectacle called “Black in America”, which presented African Americans to the world as pathetic lab rats to be studied and pitied.   When it came to CNN, I presumed that they are simply victims of the same institutionalized racism which plagues nearly every other corporation, university and media outlet in our country.  I don’t get mad at every racist I see, since I truly, and perhaps naively, believe that most Americans strive to be good people.

But the new CNN show, “DL Hughley Breaks the News” was something I simply cannot forgive.

In Hughley’s new show, he attempts to add a comedic spin to the presidential election with “commentary” by characters such as “Freddie Mac”, a pimp who apparently caused the financial crisis.  In the interview with Freddie Mac, the pimp makes typical pimp-like comments such as “bitch betta have my money”, and “pimps up, hoes down” in reference to the 2008 Presidential election.   There are also segments which explain that President Obama’s healthcare plan would include “gold grills for everyone”, along with other equally tasteless jokes that have no place on an allegedly “mainstream” news network just a few days before one of the most significant elections in American history. 

 Nearly every joke on Hughley’s show came back to some generalized stereotype, reminding us that African Americans are seen as relatively trifling “social critters” and not much of anything else.  My good friend Roland Martin at CNN has never received the same respect as political caricatures like Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck.  So, the most degrading thing CNN can do is to finally give an African American a show after he agrees to turn the stellar Obama presidential campaign into a minstrel show.  I am not sure if Flavor Flav or Juan Williams (the educated version of Flavor Flav) could have done a better job.

I have to say that DL Hughley lost my respect 2 years ago during the Don Imus debacle.  After working hard on the phone with Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton to construct a plan to challenge Imus’ corporate sponsors, I was saddened to watch DL use this situation as an opportunity to say things that no self-respecting Black public figure would say.  On the Jay Leno show, I dropped my face to the floor when I heard Hughley say, “Yes, those women really WERE a pack of nappy headed hoes!” I could not understand why Hughley could not simply make the appearance as a comedian citing the quality of his work, rather than a Black man agreeing to engage in the degradation of Black women for the enjoyment of a predominantly white audience.

At that point, I decided that when DL Hughley is on a show, I will not watch him.  I can understand the grit and grind of getting ahead, but getting ahead at all costs makes you a professional garden tool.  Perhaps the show’s resident pimp, Freddie Mac could use DL as one of his employees.  The idea that this seasoned comedian would leverage his Blackness in such a degrading way simply makes me wonder why he never developed greater range as a performer. His laughs always go back to the same old unintelligent place, like the little kid on the school bus who memorizes 800 “ya mama” jokes and recites them one by one to keep the other kids laughing.  Just when Obama taught us all to step outside the box, CNN and DL Hughley have reminded us to stay inside the socio-political ghetto.  

The audience members are not laughing WITH you DL, they are laugh AT YOU.

I make these comments as a Black man, which I’ve been for quite a while now.  I am a loyal fan of Katt Williams, Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle, Richard Pryor, Wanda Sykes, Eddie Murphy and other cutting edge and incredibly talented comedians.  I don’t wear my “Black Panther Hat” everywhere I go, and I have as many guilty pleasures as anyone when it comes to laughing about things that might be considered offensive.  I also say this as a moderate fan of Def Comedy Jam, most forms of hip hop and nearly everything else that reflects the beauty and diversity of being Black in our great nation.  But the truth of the matter is that there must be a point where the line is drawn, like realizing that you don’t put a porn shop inside a church or bring a gun to a baby shower. 

It is amazing that CNN would sign off on this show right before such an historic and politically sacred event, sending a clear message to African Americans that the only way to get their attention is to “be really black and make us laugh”.  This once again underscores the necessity for more black-owned media outlets.  Perhaps if there were a greater diversity of Black-owned media in America, we would not have to sell each other out for our moment in the sun.  Until that time, I’ll be getting most of my news from the Internet.   

Congratulations DL, it appears that your show will be a smash hit.  You’ve become America’s favorite nappy headed hoe.  I really hope it was worth it.


Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of "What if George Bush were a Black Man?"  For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

Watkins will be on NPR this Friday morning at 9:15 am.  He'll also be on Hot 97 in NYC Sunday night at 9 PM with Marc Lamont Hill discussing Obama's candidacy.  If you would like to join Dr. Watkin's list for financial advice during these tough economic times, please click here.

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