I literally laughed out loud as President Obama landed joke after joke at his eighth White House Correspondents Dinner. Commentators kept noting that no professional comedian had thus far outshone him at the annual event. Larry Wilmore, this year’s guest comedian, was given the final opportunity to do so.
The vast majority of Wilmore’s jokes fell flat, eliciting more groans than giggles from the press-filled audience who he hammered with offensive and arguably tactless zingers. Because I’ve occasionally watched his Comedy Central series, none of his content surprised me. Then in his last two words, he took the address from mildly offensive to glaringly inappropriate.
Wilmore closed referring to the President as “my nigga” which many black folks on the internet took no issue with. Some claim the term has been turned by black folks from one of oppression into one of empowerment. If that was true then everyone should be able to use the term freely. Obviously everyone can’t. In this context it seemed crass and inappropriate, especially as the last two words used to address the first black president in his very last guest of honor appearance at this event.
After sharing that opinion on social media, I was told to keep my opinions to myself. A Jamaican family member said the term was a construct of African-Americans and that it is their issue to deal with. As a Jamaican, she said, it was none of my business. I’m actually an American citizen and the broadcast was meant for all of us as an audience, so in my opinion, it was my business. To me, this had nothing to do with embracing black culture.
In both black and white communities there is classy and classless behavior. That was a pretty classless way for Wilmore to send the president’s off.
That said, this is his brand of comedy. I’ll continue to watch his show, and he’ll continue not to care about my opinion one way or another. Most importantly, I don’t think there’s anything anyone could have done to spoil the awesomeness of the Obamas that night anyway.
Calibe Thompson is a television producer and personality, public speaker and author. Watch her Mon at 10:00PM and Tues, Thurs and Sat at 9:00PM on South Florida’s BECON-TV (Ch 63 / Comcast 19), and follow www.facebook.com/misscalibe.