For those of you who wisely spent the holiday weekend away from social media because your willpower is god-like and true, here’s a video of Chris Rock telling Louis CK that he can use the N-word that melted Twitter’s mind on Saturday.
I know black folks who are completely comfortable with white people saying the n-word in their presence. Have had to tell a few white folks that I’m not that black person. Still it says something the only person who was uncomfortable was Seinfeld pic.twitter.com/8wrGGufBUS— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 23, 2018
If you have relatives nearby who don’t want to hear profanity and racial slurs flying out of your phone — they’ll save that for Christmas dinner when it’s time to talk about why the president should get his strong, beautiful wall, thank you very much — here’s a rundown of the clip from E! News:
“When white people are rich, they’re just rich, forever and ever. Even their kids are rich,” Louis tells Gervais, Rock and Seinfeld. “But when a black guy gets rich, it’s countdown to when he’s poor again.”
“He’s the blackest white guy I f—king know,” Rock says. “And then all the negative things we think about black people, this f—ker-“
“You’re saying I’m a n——r,” Louis says, cutting off the comedian, a longtime friend and colleague—Louis was a writer on his series The Chris Rock Show in the late ’90s.
“Yes, you are the n——rest f—king white man I have ever-” Rock says, spurring Gervais to burst out laughing and exclaim, “Amazing!”
Seinfeld, the most successful comedian in the world who is known not only for Seinfeld but also for his overall clean, observational standup comedy, did not look amused.
“I don’t think he could do that,” he said, dryly. “I don’t think he has those qualities.”
“I wouldn’t use [that word] anywhere,” he adds.
“We say ‘n——r’ on stage,” Louis says, referring to himself and Rock. “You guys don’t.”
“That’s the difference between…we compare them in different ways but that’s definitely a pairing,” Gervais says. “Who says ‘n——r’ on stage? We don’t.”
“Well you just did,” Seinfeld replies.
So let’s put this video in context because surprisingly a lot of entertainment writers on Twitter had absolutely zero idea where the clip came from, and instead of doing two seconds of digging, they started firing off bad takes like, “Why was Louis CK even there?” as if the video was magically filmed that day. Just… goddammit.
In 2011, Ricky Gervais was a big deal as a successful TV writer, producer, and actor. What he was not famous for at the time, and clearly desperately wanted to be, is a stand-up comedian on par with Rock, CK, and Seinfeld. So he leveraged his pull at HBO (and presumably his friendship with CK) to film a special called Talking Funny where the four men acted like they were contemporaries even though one of them glaringly was not. In fact, one of the best moments in the special is when Chris Rock makes a very deliberate jab about why the hell Gervais is even in the room.
As for Louis CK, again, this was 2011. The accusations against him were still years away from becoming an internet rumor, and were only being quietly whispered in the comedy world. So his presence in the special makes perfect sense at the time. He was blowing up huge back then. Now, is there a chance that Rock and/or Seinfeld heard whispers about CK’s behavior and chose to ignore it? Definitely. But an even more likely scenario is that they’re out-of-touch millionaires who wouldn’t want to be “bothered” with that kind of talk, so nobody did.
Which brings us to Seinfeld who’s been getting some unusual praise for bringing the “That’s enough internet for today” meme to life. First off, at the end of the clip, Seinfeld f**king laughs. Second, he did the absolute bare minimum, and Wayne Brady has the accurate take on that.
Wayne isn’t as conciliatory. He tells us Louis shouldn’t have said it, Chris shouldn’t have allowed it, and Ricky definitely shouldn’t have chimed in with so much glee. He also says Seinfeld isn’t a saint for his mild protest … calling him more tactical than anything. Ouch …
In 2011, Seinfeld had tried to make a comeback on NBC with The Marriage Ref, which embarrassingly crashed and burned, and he hadn’t yet launched Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Acura. So it behooved Jerry to maintain his bland, middle-of-the-road persona that advertisers love, which involves never once having the slightest whiff of controversy on him. So Wayne Brady is right. Jerry was only looking out for Jerry.
As for Chris Rock, I’m a white guy from the middle of nowhere PA, so I’m going to highly recommend you read Stereo Williams’ op-ed for The Daily Beast which takes Rock to task and calls him out for acting a lot like a Republican. And if you’ve seen Rock’s latest Netflix special, then you know this criticism is on point.
Rock has always had glaring blind spots in his commentary on race—the kind that often come when your contempt for racism is also tied to an anti-Black filter born of surrounding yourself with successful white people. Call it “the Kanye lens.” For every moment of biting prescience (“You’d think every once in a while the cops would shoot a white kid just to make it look good”), there has been one that was staggeringly obtuse (“Black people did not protest [the Oscars]. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematography”). And while building a career on undeniably topical comedy, Rock, like many comics of his generation, has shown himself to be critical of the current wave of social commentary permeating pop culture. When The Federalist wrote that “Tragedy-laced pleas for social action may be having their moment in comedy, but Jerry Seinfeld and Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee are, mercifully, not part of it” in reaction to what was described as “the insufferable wokeness of comedy,” Rock shared the article with the comment: “Thank God for Jerry.”
Jemele Hill also brought the good-ass takes:
Note how proud Ricky Gervais was of the fact he used the n-word. And Louis CK basically said he’s one because black folks ain’t shit. Chris Rock is getting crucified, but those other two deserve massive smoke.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 23, 2018
It’s quite clear that even if Chris Rock wasn’t born, Gervais and Louis CK were going to be using the n-word. Black people never have and never will give white folks ✌🏾permission✌🏾to call us that. That’s the jig. We get blamed for their use of it like they ever need our approval. https://t.co/0ToaL3LbdQ— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 23, 2018
Can’t find the lie. https://t.co/j8J8tySJdN— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 23, 2018
So here are the key takeaways:
1. Louis CK should not be saying the N-word, and oh by the way, is also an “alleged” sexual abuser who shouldn’t have been immediately welcomed back to comedy clubs.
2. Chris Rock acts like a rich, white dude and shouldn’t be encouraging them to use the N-word.
3. Ricky Gervais is an unfunny edgelord who very clearly thinks his fame and wealth entitles him to being blown for every word that comes out of his mouth.
4. Jerry Seinfeld was just kind of there.
This has been another batshit moment in our current timeline that will be swept away in moments by way of even more random batshit that no one could’ve possibly predicted. God, I love life right now.
Header Image Source: Getty