I can’t be the only one old enough to remember the SNL racist word association sketch featuring Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase.
I couldn’t find this for last night’s piece, for whatever reason. Consider this an open thread.
*** Update ***
The classic Eddie Murphy “White Like Me” sketch. is it just me, or did this Hulu come out of nowhere. I had never heard of it until a couple of days ago when Atrios linked it, and now I see it everywhere.
Still one of the funniest damn sketches they ever did.
Maybe because it had a funny premise, a few good punchlines, no “recurring characters,” no “catchphrases” and didn’t go on too long.
Maybe I’m getting old. Damn kids.
thanks for digging this out. richard pryor had to be one of the funniest — and most truthful — people ever.
chevy chase… not so much.
Thanks. Great classic. I miss Richard Pryor.
Ah, I remember it well. This is one of my favorite sketches ever. The writing is great, but I also think Pryor’s increasingly frenzied reactions are what really make it go.
I’m not Chase’s biggest fan, either, but I like his delivery here. (“Furhead…jungle bunny….”)
…ah back when SNL was funny.
Some great Eddie Murphy clips popped up in the related videos too. Mr. Robbinson’s neighborhood, “Kill the White People”, etc.
E.M. going undercover as a Caucasian was also a classic.
Why the hell doesn’t someone drive a stake through SNL?
Rev. Wrights Reggae Band?
Most amazing one I remember was the time Eddie impersonated a white guy – makeup was amazing. I cannot find it anywhere…
And so it begins
I bet Adm. Fallon just threw up in his mouth a little.
Jeebus of the Cheetos
“Most amazing one I remember was the time Eddie impersonated a white guy”
Was that when he picked up the pre-op tranny?
HULU! has it.
And South Park episodes are all available at the SP site now.
Godspeed, Richie. Godspeed.
Just watching reminded me of watching the last 20 minutes of “Live on the Sunset Strip” – where Rich talked about the “setting himself on fire” incident and overcoming his addiction with amazing candor and humor…it’s amazing that the only folks we ever really allow to be totally truthful with us when it comes to sensitive issues are the ones who can make us laugh while they do it…
They played a bit of that sketch during Weekend Update when Pryor passed away.
Hilarious sketch and, like BLAZING SADDLES, something no one could ever get away with doing nowadays.
Last weekend was the Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm.
Okay, I just made a co-worker mad when talking about this sketch. Tell me exactly what the joke of this sketch is. What is the meaning or subtext? Is the funny part that Chevy Chase got to call Richard Pryor a “nigger” on network television? Is the funny part that the sketch ends with the white manager giving a black janitor a job with extra pay out of fear? The sketch lacks any sense of substance to justify the language.
Dave Chappelle once told an audience why they watched The Chappelle Show, “Because it’s good. You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you’re not smart enough to get what I’m doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid.”
That’s what I mean about meaning and subtext. I just don’t think that Chase/Pryor sketch was funny. It had nothing to say.
I remember seeing that over 30 years ago, and being shocked at “nigger”, but nowhere near as shocked as I would be if I were to hear it in any broadcast comedy today.
It worked then, I think, because this was Richard Pryor, who took risks all the time, which, paradoxically, made it safe for that lightweight Chevy Chase to use a word he probably couldn’t have gotten away with otherwise.
Understand, as a nice, polite, white Canadian, I’m not campaigning for the broad use of “nigger” in comedy. But I am wondering who uses it now effectively. There’s Chris Rock’s routine on black people (which seems to have given some white people, including that Instapunk racist, free rein to use the word and concept lavishly) but not much else I can think of in mainstream comedy. I don’t think even Chappelle’s show touched the word, though his live shows did.
But it is striking that SNL would not get away with a sketch like this today. We needed a Pryor then to give white people permission to laugh at it, I think, and we have no one like Pryor any more.
Oh yeah it did. I cannot link to youtube (stupid webfilter!), but it was about the white family who’s last name was N#gger, and the reverse play between the white and black family who keep saying the word throughout the sketch.
You know that saying about how if you have to explain a joke, it won’t be funny? Fair warning.
What makes that sketch funny for me is that it skewers white privilege. Chase, as the sketch begins, is fully in charge, and casual in the way he throws the first racial epithet out there, and as he and Pryor raise the stakes, he gets more and more belligerent–until Chase drops the n-bomb, and Pryor fires back with “dead honky!” The joke isn’t in Chase’s statement–it’s in Pryor’s “I’m not taking your white privilege shit” comeback, and in Chase’s subsequent folding in the face of that power.
Socially based comedy is always strongest when it pops the powerful in the mouth. That’s what happened in this sketch–the powerful character got punched, and then folded. The dark side to the joke–which makes it all the more powerful–is that the job was to be a janitor, which reminded people who was still on top, even if the black guy had won this round.
Punchy, it was pulled from YouTube, I think, but it’s here.
That’s a lot sharper and has more depth than the SNL piece. Chappelle as the black milkman delightedly playing off the word and its connotations made the sketch for me.
Joe, I think I understand what you’re saying. The sketch works for me, in part, because a wimpy white guy in a position of power gets the tables turned on him, but it’s a pretty thin joke and I wouldn’t usually find “black guy as scary figure” automatically funny. The skit wouldn’t work at all without Pryor (or Dick Gregory, if he had been available.)
Incertus, I remember being disappointed that after the final confrontation, the job was as a janitor, but I think your reading of Pryor’s triumph as a Pyhrric victory makes sense.
Joe – Agree with Incertus, but it’s also funny because everyone has seen or heard or played the word association game and when it is done like this, it works as a nice send up of the psychoanalytical aspects of job interviews.
Have you seen the Colbert N Word investigative reporting piece? There is gratuitious use of the N word thourghout, mainly to underline and make fun of how uncomfortable people are with this issue.
I wasn’t actually expecting that kind of reply. Anymore, you say something in a forum and get rudely shot down. I was kind of shocked to see sincere and thoughtful replies.
You got us on a bad day.
Paul “Nigrodamus” Mooney strikes again. Man, is that guy funny.
There are several levels of “joke” in that sketch. Yes, you have the “tables turned” joke, but for me the joke is that Pryor is the first candidate to get the word association answers “right”
The absurd setup — that a white manager would give this kind of test to begin with — assumes that there are certain responses that would be correct. Pryor….without realizing it….nails it.
And yes, explaining the joke kills it…..
Keep in mind that this was aired in the mid-1970’s loooooooooong before black comedians (all of whom owe a great debt to Pryor’s groundbreaking work) were saying the n-word on cable TV. This was even before cable TV, frankly. And it was less than a decade after the assassinations of RFK and MLK in 1968.
You have to think of it in context to appreciate it. No, I wouldn’t expect that sketch to work now.
Yeah, sorry, Joe. You asked a reasonable and apparently sincere question, and we tried to answer you reasonably. It’s a good point — why is the sketch funny? I mean, seriously, it’s both threatening and phenomenally offensive, and yet, Oh My God, sidesplitting. I remember the first time I saw it (when it was, in fact, Live from New York…) I was horrified, and expected Pryor to jump across the desk and deck Chase at the word “Nigger”…so “Dead honky” was such a relief, and yet such a perfect response.
But why is it funny? I think Brian (Incertus) pretty much nails it, although I’d be inclined to also go a little Aristotelian on yo’ asses and mention catharsis due to the incredible tension in the scene during the beat after “nigger!”…while we wait for “dey-id honkey”.
Either way, RIP, Richard.
Hulu was just launched last week, but has been long in the works. Think it’s a partnership between Fox and NBC, among others.
Hulu was just launched last week, but has been long in the works. Think it’s a partnership between Fox and NBC, among others.
I also think one element of the joke is that Pryor runs out of things to say but Chase still has more and more degrading epithets to hurl. When Pryor does the “honkey . . . honkey-honkey . . . dead-honkey” sequence it always seemed to me like the subtext was that the white advantage (in this case the advantage of more and better insults) drives blacks to frustration and anger.
That may be a stretch, but I have always thought that element was there.
When Pryor does the “honkey . . . honkey-honkey . . . dead-honkey” sequence it always seemed to me like the subtext was that the white advantage (in this case the advantage of more and better insults) drives blacks to frustration and anger.
I remember another SNL comic–I think it was Chris Rock, but it might have been Eddie Murphy–who did a Weekend Update bit on new epithets black people could use on white people. He wanted to retire “honky” because it wasn’t bad-ass enough, especially since George Jefferson had weakened it. Wish I could remember more of it now, but most of those brain cells are long gone.
Hulu rocks. I’ve been a beta member for about 4 months now (click my name above for the original post on a friend’s site) and it’s completely changed the way I watch TV/movies at home. CBS Sportsline’s coverage of the NCAA tourney is the next extension of this.
I now know to avoid Hulu, because it’s regular TV. Full-on commercial haven. If I wanted that I would _watch_ TV. As in TV TV. I watch internet videos (with their postage-stamp badly-compressed quality) to avoid all that.
Bad enough getting extended commercial breaks on DVDs. On the internet, I really can ‘not go there’.
I think Leo has some of it. It’s in part gallows humor about the many more insulting names that whites have for blacks than visa versa. It’s also a product of its time, and part of the pleasure of this sketch in 1976 was seeing some white person using such terms being stood up to by a black man.
Newer SNL skits will do that.
That was a great sketch. I loved how gleeful Chappelle was during the whole thing.
And what about the Clayton Bigsby skit, where he plays the blind, black white supremacist. That one really revealed the importance of who says the n-word. Here it’s clearly not okay for Chappelle’s character to use the term, despite his race, because he doesn’t realize that he himself is black. That skit worked so well to poke holes in racism and identity on so many levels.
Heavens, no! I didn’t even realize Chevy Chase was white.
I don’t “see” race. Because I am “full of shit.”
Speaking of ‘edgy’ early SNL shows, anyone remember the skit with Garrett Morris playing the prison inmate brought before the all-white parole board, who after being coached by a prison mentor before his hearing to ‘be nice’, breaks into a song and dance routine singing “I’m gonna get me a shotgun and shoot every whitey I see…”
“I also think one element of the joke is that Pryor runs out of things to say but Chase still has more and more degrading epithets to hurl. When Pryor does the “honkey . . . honkey-honkey . . . dead-honkey” sequence it always seemed to me like the subtext was that the white advantage (in this case the advantage of more and better insults) drives blacks to frustration and anger.
That may be a stretch, but I have always thought that element was there.”
I got that feeling as well.
To be honest though, I thought that the sketch sort of fell apart after the “Dead honkey” line. Chase does the first half fine, but his specialty is deadpanning and he’s really not that good at the sort of apologetic servility that the last bit needs.
When I was watching it I started thinking about how John Cleese would have handled the same sketch in Chase’s role. Pryor is a god, however.
Wasn’t it Eddie Murphy who played Floyd the Barber from the Andy Griffith show? Damn, that was funny.
Hulu did appear somewhat suddenly, but that’s because it’s no entrepeneur/geek-created platform like YouTube. Hulu is a wholly-owned joint venture of NBC and FOX.
Yup. Been around for a while in closed beta and finally opened up to the public a week or two ago. I’m surprised it’s catching on so fast.
stuck in 200
WRT the Clayton Bigsby sketch – I saw an interview with Chapelle (it might have been Inside the Actor’s Studio) where he said that sketch was the reason he started The Chapelle Show. He had the idea and didn’t have anywhere to use it (wouldn’t work as part of his standup routine, not enough to carry a movie, could never get it on someone else’s sketch show), so he invented one.