With the rise of the latter we risk losing the former. Many comedians no longer perform at college campuses because campuses in America have turned into humorless dens of fascism with “speech codes,” “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions” – anti-intellectual devices designed to suppress expression and thought.
In the words of the American poet Charles Bukowski, “beware those who are quick to censor, they are afraid of what they do not know.”
Racial humor has always been a touchstone of comedy, and if that ceases to be then the world will be less funny and diverse peoples will become more and more alienated from each other.
Countless comedians have based their entire oeuvre on their ethnicity, from Mel Brooks to Margaret Cho, Paul Rodriguez to Chris Rock. Comedians, like Don Rickles, who use crass racial humor in a positive light as a means to bring people together, are often misunderstood and shunned by the ignorant and the self-righteous.
This translates to music. Artists from Louis Jordan to Louis Prima created humorous songs by playing up ethnic idiosyncrasies and stereotypes.
So this holiday season, here are a few of my favorite racist, culturally appropriated Christmas songs.
Trigger Warning: some of these records may induce joy and cause one to laugh at oneself. In severe cases, they may allow an appreciation of others’ experiences and cause one to recognize elements of those experiences in their own.
“¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” – Augie Rios
Augie Rios was a child theater actor born in New York City to Puerto Rican immigrants. In 1958, at the time of this record, he was appearing in Jamacia alongside Lena Horn, Ricardo Montalban and Ossie Davis. “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” is credited to Rod Parker, Al Greiner and Rios’ manager at the time, George Scheck. Considering the flip side, “Ol’ Fatso (I Don’t Care Who You Are Old Fatso, Get Those Reindeer Off My Roof),” this 45 should come with a double trigger warning. “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” remains a holiday staple in many Latino-American homes.
Yesterday marked the 110th anniversary of the birth of Bob Hope. He was as deeply rooted in the public consciousness as he was difficult to classify. He was a song and dance man from the old school – known as a comedian, actor, singer, dancer and author. But it is doubtful he would be remembered for any one of those talents independently. He was the first to admit that he was not a serious, or a particularly good, actor. He possessed impeccable comedic timing, but his comedy was corny and often harmless. His singing voice (much like his looks) was not all that impressive, but was somehow pleasant and disarming enough to work. More than anything Bob Hope was an entertainer, a personality. He came from the time and tradition of vaudeville where a performer had to be able to do a little bit of everything – act, sing, dance, tell jokes. There is something endearing about icons such as Bob Hope who managed to make the whole of their legacy so much more than the mere sum of its parts. We no longer have celebrities of this type. Nobody has their own theme song these days and we live in an era where it is impossible to find a single personality big enough to successfully host the Academy Awards, Hollywood’s most self-celebratory night. Bob Hope hosted the Oscars 14 times spanning five decades.
Perhaps this neutrality of personality is the reason he Continue reading →