Ashton Kutcher, I Have Something Else for Your Mouth

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I remember the first time I saw Brent Weinbach on stage. He was a new (at least to me) comedian. And it was at the Punch Line in San Francisco. It was a Sunday night, and I was supposed to follow him. I had heard he was funny, but I didn't have much hope for him to have a good set. Why? Because he was a new comic and they usually don't.


Well, I was wrong. Brent KILLED. DESTROYED. He destroyed in the way that you occasionally see new comics destroy a room, as if to say, "I'm here and I am a force to be reckoned with. No waiting patiently in line for me. FOLLOW THAT!"

I immediately knew I had to recapture the audience's attention. It wasn't going to be easy. And in large part it wasn't going to be easy because Brent had done something that I had historically hated.

He had done "black voices" and he is not black. Now at the time, I thought he was just a white guy, but later I learned he's half Filipino -- but half Filipino the same way Rob Schneider is: As in, if you didn't know, you probably couldn't tell.

But his ethnicity didn't matter that night. All I knew was that this white guy -- in my mind, and I'm guessing in the crowd's collective mind (yes, crowds have a hive mind) -- had done black people voices in his set, and the crowd loved it. They ate it up, which isn't unusual when performers do voices of ethnicities outside of their own.

Richard Pryor practically invented "the white guy voice." What was unusual this night was my response to Brent's voice. Historically, I hated when any performer put on a voice outside of their own race, because they always seemed to do it using the broadest brush they could find. No subtlety. No love. No -- and this was the worst thing to lack in my opinion -- respect.

But when Brent did his "black voices" it was clear to me that he knew these people, he loved these people, and he respected these people. And maybe the most important part of Brent's success at this is he is actually really funny. And that is why Ashton Kutcher can suck my black dick.

When Ashton Kutcher pretends to imitate some amorphous Indian Man in the Pop Chips commercial, it is CLEEEEEEEEEEEEEAR to me and to many, many, many others that he doesn't like that man, he doesn't respect that man, and he doesn't know that man -- most likely because that man does not exist. And worst of all, he obviously spent all of no seconds prepping the accent. It is the worst coonery. Even Al Jolson's ghost cringes. Comedian Hasan Minhaj says it best in his video above.


However, whenever I see Alec Baldwin busting out his Tracey Morgan impression, I laugh. It is CLEEEEEEEEEEEAR to me that Mr. Baldwin likes Morgan and respects Morgan -- even if it is in a twisted way. And Mr. Baldwin has certainly sat staring in a mirror practicing his Tracey face and listening to the voice coming out of his mouth. I can get with that, even if maybe I shouldn't. (However, Alec definitely needs to work on his young Michael Jackson.)

Somebody recently asked me in an interview where the line is between offensive and funny. I told them, the problem is everybody has their own line. And you don't really know where that individual line is until you cross it. Ultimately, it is up to each performer to decide whether to care whether that line is crossed or not. Well, Ashton crossed a lot of people's lines with his Pop Chips commercial. And I don't think Ashton counts himself among the line-crossing ranks of Doug Stanhope or Jim Norton, or even Kathy Griffin. Again, it is ultimately up to him to decide if he cares or not.

So, Ashton, do you?

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Kamau's Komedy Korner is a periodic blog column about San Francisco comedy by W. Kamau Bell. This Friday and Saturday he will be appearing at The Stress Factory in New Jersey.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Punch Line

444 Battery, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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5 comments
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Guest
Guest

I think the difference is that Alex Baldwin is retelling of an anecdote of a co-worker, if not friend, an he is not doing "black man".

What is ironic about the Hasan video though is that the first video released was extremely offensive in and of itself.  He made an analogy to "fat chicks" who wouldn't give it up insinuating that they should because they are fat.  He got some heat, edited, made some half-assed comment via Twitter ("can we all agree fat is relative") and reposted it.  No mention of it. Kind of funny considering Pop Chips got heat, took it down and apologized.

W. Kamau Bell
W. Kamau Bell

So you think the voice Ashton is doing is in the same league with the voice that Alec Baldwin is doing?

And if what you are saying did happen with Hasan video, I would much prefer people corrected their mistakes than just hide behind and apology. If what you say is true then I applaud Hasan for what he did.

As a comic I have told jokes I later regretted. I wish I could edit them off the Internet. Alas. Alack.

Guest
Guest

Sorry, I wasn't very clear with that first statement at all!!

I was agreeing with you and adding my take, was that Alec Baldwin was impersonating a friend and not a version of "black man" (which I have never seen or hear done in a way that I did not think came across as anything other than racist), and as such Alec's impersonation does not appear, to me at least, to be racist at all.

While I understand the idea that editing something is great, the point remains that it's ironic that in order to make his point about "clowning" on Indians and Asians he did so by insulting another group of people and he apparently didn't even realize the error until it was pointed out to him.  Kind of exactly what Pop Chips is claiming.

It's also ironic that the Pop Chips video was pulled and the company made a public apology while Hasan seems to have chosen to hide his mistake.  

I totally get not believing some internet commenter, so why not ask him to provide the original upload.

W. Kamau Bell
W. Kamau Bell

I guess as a comic, I understand when we go too far and I get excited when I see my fellow comics evolve as artists. In comedy it is necessary to make mistakes in front of people. That's the only way to get better. Maybe this weekend Hasan made a quantum leap forward in his comedic evolution. I can't speak fro him, bu I would ask Hasan directly his thoughts. I'm sure he would have interesting things to say about this.

Scott Ortner
Scott Ortner

Was lead here by my GF, Lucia, well said sir, wellllll said...

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