Monday, June 30, 2008


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Some Black Republicans Torn About Voting for Obama or McCain

By Nikki Schwab

Mon Jun 30, 4:44 PM ET

When Michael Varner attended historically black Howard University, he tried his best to rejuvenate Howard's chapter of the College Republicans, but he was a party of one. He debated politics with his mostly African-American and Democratic classmates, candidly discussing his views on personal responsibility and limited government as reasons for aligning himself politically with the GOP.

By the time he graduated this May, Varner was still the sole member of the College Republicans, having learned that it's "almost taboo" in the black community to be a Republican. "There's almost a stigma attached to the name," he says. "It was very frustrating for me."

Even after his hard work at Howard promoting the GOP, Varner finds himself undecided in the race between Republican John McCain and the first African-American presumptive nominee from a major party, Democrat Barack Obama. Varner wants to see the two men debate. He wants to better understand what kind of change Obama can bring. And then, he says, he'll decide. "I think they both have their strong points, and they both have their points where I can wait and see," says Varner.

This recent college grad isn't alone. More well-known black Republicans have also said they are at least considering Obama, including conservative talk show host Armstrong Williams and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Former Republican Rep. J. C. Watts received attention when he told reporters he was contemplating an Obama vote. "I'm a free agent," says Watts, who is one of the only two black Republicans to serve in the House of Representatives since the 1930s. "I wouldn't just vote for a Republican candidate just because they are Republican, no more than I would vote for a black candidate just because they're black." For Watts it's not the historical nature of the race that leaves him undecided, it's frustration toward his own party. "African-American Republicans in the faith community are the most forgotten demographic in the Republican Party," Watts says. And he hopes the GOP will allot more resources toward attracting black voters.

Watts and others argue that the GOP hasn't done a good job bringing African Americans into the ranks of the party. "It's an astonishing record of deliberate failure, which has been carried over by John McCain this season," says Lee A. Daniels, author of a new book, Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. "None of the primary candidates had anything to say with issues of any concern to blacks as a group."

This perceived failure has been reflected at the polls. In 2004, George W. Bush attracted 11 percent of the black vote, up from the 9 percent he garnered in 2000. In 1996, Bob Dole, running against the nation's so-called "first black president," Bill Clinton, received 12 percent. And now with Obama in the picture, more conservative blacks may feel compelled to join the heftier group of black voters who support the Democrat.

"They're practical if nothing else, and they want to see a black president," Ronald Walters, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, says of black Republican voters. "The historical factor is going to overrun some of the other considerations." In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 7 percent of the surveyed African-American adults supported McCain, while 90 percent supported Obama.

Despite the high support for Obama, there are some who are encouraging members of the black community to consider the GOP. One is Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association. She paints a very different historical picture than most African-Americans, pointing to what she says is the Democrats' racist past. She brings up Democrats who fought to keep blacks enslaved and those who were members of the Ku Klux Klan. "The Republican Party has been the champion of freedom and civil rights for blacks," she says. And the Democrats? "Their goal is to keep blacks in poverty and the Republicans out of power," Rice says.

However, Daniels says that after Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Democrats have been the ones who have talked about the issues, such as poverty, that are important to African-Americans. "In terms of black people, people say the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats have taken blacks for granted, but it's the Republican Party that takes blacks for granted," Daniels says.

Rice's organization refutes this and publishes the Black Republican, a magazine that provides biting criticism of the Democratic Party and sponsors large billboards in the South touting, "Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican." (While his family may have originally been Republican, King supported Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson).

As for supporting Obama, she says absolutely not. For Rice, it will be a vote for McCain come November.

Another "very likely" McCain vote, but a more moderate one, will come from Richard Ivory, founder of the blog HipHopRepublican. Ivory has a different view of the Republican Party, one that downplays the past and focuses on building the party up from a local level and bringing in urban African-American voters. "My blog was about starting a dialogue--basically get people to understand some Republican concepts from an urban perspective," Ivory says. And like Varner at Howard University, Ivory finds that some are miffed by his Republicanness and don't quite understand why he would support a "white old guy." But with the general election in full swing, he has found a good way to express his feelings: "I tell my friends, my heart is with Obama, and my brain is with McCain," Ivory says.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm quoted in an Obama article in The San Jose Mercury News

Obama's historic run provides comic fodder with race as punch line
By Mark de la Viña
Mercury News
Article Launched: 06/26/2008 07:21:19 PM PDT

Did you hear the one about the black guy running for president?

If not, you most certainly will.

Jokes and comedy routines about candidates are as much a part of election landscapes as bumper stickers and smear campaigns. But with Obama's history-making role as the first African-American presidential nominee, the cavalcade of campaign cracks has a new wrinkle, at least for white audiences: race.

In comedy clubs and casino showrooms, comics happily get their funny on at the expense of Obama's ethnicity. The quips range from mild-mannered lines about how Obama's suspect bowling skills prove his blackness to Chris Rock's bit about how the politician would be more electable with a compliant white wife rather than the assertive - and black - Michelle Obama. Even Dave and Jay's writers slip the rare jab touching on Obama's race into network TV's late-night monologues.

Oddly enough, the serious issue of race is providing rich fodder for more inventive funnymen and women. Much like fools in Shakespeare's plays, these comedians call out the elephant in the room while giving the raspberry to political correctness.

But move into the mainstream and you'll find late-night talk shows working the other side of the spectrum - offering toothless material if they address the subject at all.

Ralphie May, a white comedian who is among the few crossover acts popular among black audiences, said comedians are doing a disservice if they ignore Obama's ethnicity.

"The historic part of Obama's presidential run is not the fact he's young or that he's a first-term senator from Illinois or that he's an orator or an inspirational leader for Americans," said May, who will perform at the San Jose Improv on July 10-13.

And indeed May can't resist making an Obama joke, noting that he used to think the politician was Latino rather than black.

"Obama sounds kind of Spanish," the hefty funnyman said in his Arkansas drawl, "Like, 'Cómo se llama, Obama?' El Presidente!"

Veteran comedian Paul Mooney, an African-American who grew up in Oakland, has no qualms about playing off of Obama's race. The former writer for Richard Pryor has worked with nearly every iconic African-American comic, from Flip Wilson to Redd Foxx. He also appeared as Negrodamus on "Chappelle's Show."

Mooney said race is a factor in every election.

"We've always had to say, does this white man like us?" said Mooney, who's writing the memoir "Too Black for Hollywood." "We've always had to think race. And this is the first time white people have had to think race."

Still, comedians such as Mooney are like canaries in a coal mine when it comes to testing subjects that make people uneasy.

Roland S. Martin, author of "A Black Man's View of America," said that comedy can create that rare sanctuary where the verboten is fair game.

"The comedic moment liberates people to laugh out loud at what they really feel and what they really think, but they're going to naturally suppress those thoughts and views once they're outside that particular arena," he said. "It's OK to sit in that arena and just crack up laughing about rednecks, making jokes about Obama's ears or his race or whatever, but the moment you want to have the conversation, the whole dynamic changes."

The worthwhile stand-up performers will delve into the provocative, said W. Kamau Bell, the San Francisco comedian whose theater piece "The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour," proposes that racism is making a comeback. The solo show is at the Shelton Theater in San Francisco, through July 30.

"I'm voting for Barack Obama," he says in his show. "Not for the reason you expect. I did it because he's black. Not because he's intelligent, or well spoken or represents hope. Nope. You had me at Negro."

Though late-night talk shows are viewed as a sort of measuring stick for mainstream American tastes in humor, they are usually too timid to address the issue of race, said Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University. (Representatives from "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and "The Late Show With David Letterman" declined comment for this story, saying that the jokes on the programs speak for themselves.)

"Network television, especially commercial-supported television, takes it sweet old time in areas of controversy," Thompson said. "It doesn't push envelopes; it licks envelopes."

The problem isn't limited to network timidity. NBC's "Saturday Night Live," for years knocked for its lack of ethnic diversity, has cast white actor Fred Armisen as Obama.

"Whether the jokes are funny or not, the fact that you don't have a black actor to play Barack Obama says something about the institution of 'Saturday Night Live,' " Bell said. "And that's horribly troubling."

Stand-up comedy in the Bay Area and beyond has a legacy of tangling with unpleasant subjects - witness "Daily Show" correspondent and political comedian Lewis Black telling jokes about Sept. 11 to the raw but ultimately receptive audience in San Francisco days after the terrorist attacks.

"But a lot of comedians are shying away from telling the Obama jokes," said San Francisco-based Will Durst, one of the pre-eminent political comedians in the country,. "That makes me want to do it well."

Durst has peppered his routine with Obama's lines, which reflect how far we have come as a country, he said. "Race is just a very touchy subject to America. That we can make jokes about it proves that we have come quite a distance."

Recent jokes involving Barack Obama and race:

• "These pundits can be very unfair. They always ask Barack Obama if he's black enough. Nobody asks Mitt Romney if he's white enough. Well, I guess he is white enough." - Jay Leno

• "As if Obama doesn't have enough problems, he's being accused by members of the African-American community of not being black enough. What the hell does that mean? As your designated cracker for this evening, let me just say we don't make those kinds of distinctions. Trust me - he's plenty black." - Will Durst

• "If white people think that black people in America reacted to the O.J. verdict, if Obama gets into White House house, we're going to go crazy. We'll be partying like we're in the Mardi Gras and screaming out 'Obama beat yo' Mama!' The first thing I'm going to do is get on the first public bus and tell white people, "Get in the back where you belong. Obama is president!" - Paul Mooney

• "Senator Hillary Clinton has now lost eight primaries in a row to Barack Obama. Hillary dismissed Obama's success by saying, 'He's only winning states with a huge African-American population - like Maine.' " - Conan O'Brien, during the primaries

• "Barack has a handicap the other candidates don't have: Barack Obama has a black wife. And I don't think a black woman can be first lady of the United States. Yeah, I said it! A black woman can be president, no problem. First lady? Can't do it. You know why? Because a black woman cannot play the background of a relationship. Just imagine telling your black wife that you're president? 'Honey, I did it! I won! I'm the president.' 'No, we the president! And I want my girlfriends in the Cabinet! I want Kiki to be Secretary of State! She can fight!' " - Chris Rock

Several comedians were asked to comment on what sort of changes would come to the White House if Barack Obama is elected president. Here is what they said:

• "They'll be painting the White House black. And I hope white folks don't burn it down. It will be the first president living in a trailer" - Paul Mooney

• "Less Van Cliburn, more Stevie Wonder. Gets rid of the poached salmon on bruschetta rounds; brings out the braised catfish on beds of mustard greens. White House now refered to as 'The Big Crib.' When papers talk about 'Obama's Posse,' they mean his cabinet." - Will Durst

• "In mid-January, there is going to be helluva good barbecue. And I think that 'Hail to the Chief' will get an update and maybe a DJ will skip it a little bit." - Ralphie May

• "His presidential limo will have spinning rims and the secret service will all have bow ties. And the Washington Monument - they're going to add a couple of feet to it." - Blaine Capatch

• Racists are "afraid that the moment he takes that oath of office, he's immediately turning into (Flavor) Flav...And from now on there's gonna be Newports and grape drink served in the Rose Garden." - Robin Williams on "The Tonight Show," June 24

• "Can you imagine how many times the presidential motorcade is going to get pulled over for, DWB - driving while black? And he'll have to retrain the Secret Service to stop getting nervous every time there's black guy around." - W. Kamau Bell

Contact Mark de la Viña at or (408) 920-5914.

Why is it that most comic's Obama jokes involve Obama doing things that a man who grew
up in Hawaii and Indonesia would NEVER do. It's as if these comics had generic black president jokes sitting on a shelf waiting for a black guy to be president. And they have decided to use these jokes BY ANNNNNNNNNNNNY MEEEEEEEEEEEEEANS NECESSARY.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jokes that I was asked to submit to The San Jose Mercury News...

They wanted jokes about what Barack will do when he first gets to office.

As you will see I tried to steer clear of all the "starting the meetings on colored people time" and other Fuzzy Zoeller/Don Imus-esque nonsense.

Here are my attempts at humour. (Take special note the use of the British spelling of "humor.")

People ask me, "What do you think Barack Obama will do in office?" "As the first black president, I'm guessing the first thing he'll do is get blamed for things that George W. Bush did."

Can you imagine how many times the presidential motorcade is going to get pulled over for, DWB, driving while black?

He'll have to retrain the Secret Service to stop getting nervous every time there's a black guy around.

Barack will have many things to keep himself busy when he first gets into office --- He'll have to balance the budget. He'll have to figure out how to pull The US out of Iraq. He'll have to dodge bullets.

I talked to the reporter, Mark de la Vina, who interviewed myself and other comedians, including Mr. Paul Mooney and Will Durst (who actually recommended me for the story). He is super cool, and apparently the article will be on the front page of The San Jose Mercury News on Thursday. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet!

Now, I have to figure out where to buy a copy of The San Jose Mercury News.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Radio host(ile) Don Imus strikes AGAIN...,0,7282680.story
Critics call Imus' 'Pacman' Jones comment racist


9:25 PM EDT, June 23, 2008

Don Imus, who was fired from a previous radio show 14 months ago after uttering racist and sexist remarks toward the Rutgers women's basketball team, was taking heat again Monday for a questionable comment.

It occurred during his morning program on WABC radio, while Imus and sportscaster Warner Wolf were addressing Dallas Cowboys football star Adam "Pacman" Jones' involvement in a fight at a Las Vegas nightclub last year that led to a shooting. Jones, who was not accused of the shooting, was suspended for the 2007 season.

When Wolf said Jones had been "arrested six times since he was drafted by Tennessee in 2005," Imus responded by asking "What color is he?"

"He's African-American," Wolf said.

"Well, there you go," Imus said. "Now we know."

Imus had earlier said of Jones' suspension: "You're in a nightclub, for God's sake. What do you think's gonna happen in a nightclub? People are drinking and doing drugs; there are women there and people have guns."

In an e-mail message to The New York Times Monday night, Imus said his comment was intended to be sympathetic with Jones; "I meant he was being picked on because he's black."

Imus wrote he would ask black comedian-activist Dick Gregory, a scheduled guest on his show Tuesday, what he thought of Monday's remarks.

"I mean ... come on!" Imus wrote.

Wolf Monday night said he was surprised the exchange had generated controversy.

Wolf said regular listeners would recognize it as part of a running, satirical joke in which Imus pokes fun at people who get into serious trouble, then cry racism. He made a similar joke about the Chicago Bears' Cedric Benson earlier this month after the football player's latest arrest.

"I think people are looking for something there that just isn't there," Wolf said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he found the comment "disturbing because it plays into stereotypes."

But he said he would reserve judgment while deciding whether the remarks warrant "direct action on our part as we did in April of last year."

Copyright © 2008, AM New York


Well, there you go. Imus, who's last comment was actually more sexist than racist, strikes again. Last time, he disappeared for a few months AND THEN he found a new job. And he pledged that not only that he wasn't racist that he would change his ways. But here we are... "Well there we go." And Dog The Bounty Hunter has his job back. It's only a matter of time.

White people, eventually you have to start policing yourselves.


OK... Everybody take a deep breath.

That is HILARIOUS! Now if we could only get that on split screen with Kobe watching it, so we could see his reaction it would be even better.

I think my two favorite parts are...

I think my two favorite parts are...

1) I think that is the first rap to reference a vasectomy. I'm sure that it is definitely the first rap to reference it in a GOOD way.

2) My other favorite part is the crowd chanting, "KOBE, TELL ME HOW MY ASS TASTES!!!"


P.S. The best thing about Kobe losing in the finals without Shaq is now NOBODY can EVER say that Kobe is as good or even as close to as good as Michael Jordan. I know I must sound like old man basketball, but HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

George Carlin R. I. P.

When I was trying to come up with an appropriate analogy for the importance of George Carlin to stand-up comedy, I initially had trouble until I thought of one man... Miles Davis.

George Carlin was to stand-up comedy what Miles Davis was to music. Both men always pushed the boundaries of their chosen art forms. Both men were alive and working during the heydays of their chosen art forms. And both men were STILL relevant up until (and after) death.

And both seemed to know that the end was near based on their last blasts of creativity.

Miles began playing songs fro early in his career right before he died.

And these are clips from Carlin's most recent HBO special that aired in March of this year.

Carlin also has the increasingly RAAAAAAAAAAARE distinction of spending his whole career being known as a stand-up comic. Not a stand-up/talk show host. Not a stand-up/attempted movie star. Not a stand-up/sitcom star. He went onstage. He said what he felt with jokes added in. And he left town. Beautiful. We will never see his like again for many reasons. He is the last comic who could get arrested for what he said. back when you had to have a certain amount of bravery to go up on stage and say what you felt.

He died at 71 and we definitely lost him too soon.

P.S. Carlin's last special was recorded in Santa Rosa at The Luther Burbank Center. I performed there once. Tommy Smothers of The Smothers Brothers was in the audience. He is another comic who was on the forefront of the freedom of speech movement in comedy in the 60's. I was really excited to see what he thought of me, a dude doing socially relevant and slightly (at the time) political material. After the show he said nothing to me and enthusiastically complimented a guy who was doing circus tricks. Tommy SMothers is still alive. George is dead. Further proof that only the good die young.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Ultimate Karaoke Champion

I'm only half kidding this dude has apparently been in successful Filipino bands for years, and it has all added up to THIS...

If that whet your palette then you can watch the extended remix of the story here...

And this is him in the clip that got him the job. He had no idea that one day he would be doing this same song in front of thousands of screaming fans instead of just a few disinterested drunks. Nobody even really claps at the end and the tables look empty.

I don't know why I like this so much, but somehow it makes me feel all warm inside, while at the same time, it gives me hope for humanity.


This is him doing Black dog by Led Zepplin, but weirdly his Robert Plant sounds more like Steven Tyler.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

And now a word on Barack Obama from Cornell West...

I think that Cornell West saying that he hates white supremacy is one of the most awesomely redundant things that I think ever heard in my life.

I know you're busy Jason, but....

You HAVE to watch this...

Yes, that's Rage Against The Machine. And YES! They are dressed like prisoners from Guantanamo. And yes, they keep the masks on the whole song.

AHHH, I feel so young. This kind of protest takes me back to the early 90's.

Cassette tapes, personal ads in the newspaper, Sony Discmans, carrying around extra AA batteries, and thinking a girl liked me only to find out later that she wasn't that interested or didn't know I existed.

MY SHOW gets it's first OFFICIAL REVIEW & it's GOOOOOOD!

RECOMMENDED --- The Bell Curve Shelton Theatre, 533 Sutter; $20. Thurs, 8pm. Through June 12. Just when you thought identity politics were passé, along comes the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primary, forcing us all to endure many a tired stereotype that should have died out with the advent of the disco era. Luckily, we have W. Kamau Bell to help us recover from the trauma while guiding us safely away from the precipice of other bad habits. In this 90-minute show, the longtime solo performer and half of the comedy duo Siskel and Negro breaks down the problems with PC terminology, while coming up with a few absurd ones of his own. With today's headlines providing him new material, Bell constantly updates the show, optimizing it for multiple viewings. We also get the back story on how Bell was raised by a single mom with a PhD instead of, as you might now be wondering, a rap sheet, and how early childhood experiences with skin-color bias shaped his future outlook. Along the way, Bell flows easily from biting to charming, pensive to goofy. Through studying martial arts, dating white women, getting a fancy salon haircut, and living in San Francisco, Bell comes to realize there are really only two kinds of people in this world. I was glad to find out that he and I are the same kind. (Giattina)


Thanks to Debra Giattina and The SF Bay Guardian for helping to make a little boy's dream come true. My favorite part is "Bell flows easily from biting to charming, pensive to goofy." And also the stuff about me guiding people safely through trauma.

For the record NONE of this would be possible without Bruce Pachtmnan, Martha Rynberg, Lisa Marie Rollins, and The Solo Performance Workshop... and Lee Hahn... and Paul E. Hunt and Conjure... and The JCC East Bay... and The Shelton Theater... and Molly Schminke... and Jeremy Townsend... and Adam Davis... and Mike Paunovich... my mom and dad and mom and the number 37 and by the letter "U.

It looks like we're going to EXTEND the show at The Shelton for several weeks, so come once, come often, spread the word...

P.S. And Jason B. Smith and Dwayne Kennedy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I'm gonna start going to church...

not necessarily cuz I believe, but just cuz it's entertaining.