Monday, September 30, 2002

Loudmouths At The Barbershop

A couple of activists have been mouthing off recently about the movie "Barbershop."

The movie is a hit at the box office, and deserves to be, for one simple reason: it's entertaining. But, in what has become their standard operating procedure, these big-mouth activists saw the movie's success and were determined to grab some of its spotlight and aim it at themselves. So they cooked up a controversy about some of the things said by Eddie, the character played by Cedric The Entertainer.

I've gotten to know Cedric in the last year, and I like him. The first time I saw him was in the "Original Kings Of Comedy" movie, in which he was the best of the quartet of comedians. He is, in a single word, funny. Then, he wrote a book called "Grown-Ass Man," and when he was in town, came on my show to promote it. The book was funny, he was a great guest, and we developed a nice rapport. Next, he got a primetime slot for his variety show on Fox, which debuted a couple of weeks ago, and it's a hit -- because it's funny. He called in one day to promote it, and again, he was funny. Then, "Barbershop" hit the big screen, and his character is -- guess what? Funny!

I keep using that word because "funny" is an important concept. It's a concept that these activists have lost touch with. Their sense of humor has been surgically removed, and replaced by an agenda.

These activists -- notice how I refuse to say their names, a direct response to their incredible desire to have their names said as often as possible -- are up in arms over Eddie's comments about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Naturally, none of them have actually seen the movie. That's the way it always is when loudmouths launch a protest. To them, it doesn't matter what the context was, it doesn't matter that other characters lambasted Eddie for what he said, it doesn't matter that the whole point of the scene is that, in the barbershop, anyone can say anything about anything and provoke a heated discussion.

That's important. The plot of the movie is not about damning Parks and King for their extraordinary achievements. These are just a couple of lines Eddie says during one scene, which are immediately followed by howls of protest from everyone else in the barbershop.

None of that matters to the loudmouths because this isn't really about the movie, or Cedric, or star Ice Cube, or the producers, writers, or directors. This is about the activists and their agenda, which states that there are certain things that are so sacred that no one can ever joke about them. Way up on that list, they claim, are Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King. Never mind that Eddie is just as outrageous commenting about Rodney King and OJ Simpson, because even Alan Dershowitz isn't going to stand up and complain about that!

I contend that the state of comedy in a nation as advanced as the USA has reached a point where we can joke about anything. If you need proof, check to see which show has brought in the biggest crowds in Broadway history over the last couple of years. It's "The Producers," the Mel Brooks farce with a funny Nazi and his play, "Springtime for Hitler." Talk about your untouchable comedic subjects, how about the thugs responsible for The Holocaust?

Not so incidentally, the dialogue in "Barbershop" includes, by my count, as least ten uses of the "N-word." But there hasn't been a peep about that, because the activists only get upset when Quentin Tarantino dares use the word in a script.

Ironically, this is the first hit movie in a long time made by and starring a long list of African-Americans. Rather than rejoice in the achievement, the activists chose to undercut it. What message does that send to the movie studios about future mostly-black projects? It would be a shame if future filmmakers had to be ultra-sensitive about this sort of thing or risk a boycott from the loudmouths. These are the same activists who wanted Hollywood to start employing more blacks -- apparently they must only be black moviemakers who would never offend the holy loudmouths.

What's most bothersome about this is that the activists in question are themselves a couple of punchlines -- their prior activities have put them squarely in the crosshairs of plenty of comedians, both black and white -- and yet, they still manage to garner media attention for blatant spotlight-stealing stunts such as this.

That's why the producers of the movie should have ignored them and never apologized. But to their credit, the filmmakers (and their studio, MGM) have steadfastly refused to bow to the activists' demand that the scene in question be removed from the video and DVD versions of the movie.

Best of all, they've announced plans for a sequel. I hope it includes a scene in which Eddie spouts off about these activists.

In the meantime, I hope more people will go see "Barbershop." Not just because it's highly entertaining, but to help shove its success right down the throats of the loudmouths.

That would be funny. Sometimes, that's all that counts.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Robert Schimmel

Comedian Robert Schimmel was on my show today with more amazing stories from his life, like the stunning request he got from his daughter, his trouble-making appearance on "Hollywood Squares," and the encounter between his mother and a porn star. Listen.

In a previous appearance [2/3/00], among other things, Bob told me about his heart attack and the accompanying sex pamphlet he was given by the American Cancer Society. Listen.