Greetings, saints. I won’t be keeping you long today because I actually have to work on a book of short stories exclusively written for a certain sister of mine, so brevity will have to be the order of the day.
Do you consider Black women to be funny? No, seriously…think about it. Can/are Black women considered comedic “geniuses”, and why/why not? I ask because of several events I’ve witnessed unfold on social media.
Between 2008-2010, I used to run a blog called MaizeBreak.com. It was a breaking news website, wholly devoted to satire. My cousin Ms. Naa used to read some of the stories on her radio program to rave reviews. By chance, she revealed to a certain mutual acquaintance in the entertainment industry that I was the sole entity behind all of the writing on the blog. (I had one guest post during its entire run.) His reply?
“What? I know guys have humor like this…but a chick? Nah!”
I was young(er) in those days, and foolishly took his surprise that someone of my gender could be capable of such a feat as a compliment. Much like when white people mark with (pleasant) surprise that Africans can grow their own crops or know what a rolling pin is. Nevertheless, his remark troubled me: Why wouldn’t I be considered funny because I am a woman? Why would anyone not expect me to be?
Black women the world over are expected to conform to a specific set of stereotypes, and even when we refuse to, that roguishness must not extend beyond a certain margin. In Ghana just this week, Nana Aba Anamoah discovered the hard way what the repercussions are for evoking humor in a society that:
- Doesn’t understand a particular genre or brand of humor
- Doesn’t anticipate women being capable of that brand of humor
Being an African comedienne in this day and age is much like being a Vaudeville performer thrust into the 21 Century. Women who are deemed “funny” are expected to perform tropes that depict them as clueless, humble, struggling to navigate even the simplest of tasks. Ugandan actress and comedienne, Anne Kansiime, is one of the few women who has been able to break the dependence on these tired tropes for laughs to great success. And then, there’s Luvvie No-Last-Name-Needed-Nuff-Said-Ajayi.
In Nana Aba’s case, she shared a picture of a football match and implied that she was present in an attempt to prank her followers. Only she and her followers know what kind of rapport they share, so it was for them to get the joke. If I photoshopped an image of myself perched on the edge of Prince’s guitar for instance, with the caption “Haters will say I was never here” every faithful reader of MOM would understand what was implied. The rest of the clueless world would not, and then accuse me of madness. (But you know… actually mean it. Not in that “ha ha, Malaka, you so crazy kinda way.) Image manipulation is a tool widely used in the realm of humor in this age of technology. Some have suggested she not venture into the realm of comedy again. (A woman actually said this to me.) Why the hindrances and false outrage that eventually cost her her job?
Someone shared this video with me earlier today and instructed me to “listen to this buffoonery” that better be a joke.
OF. COURSE. IT. WAS. A. JOKE. How could anyone take this seriously?
Like fart jokes or geek humor, this type of humor isn’t for everyone. It’s a parody of real life events that are a result of the global phenomenon “Netflix and chill”. It’s commonly accepted that if a guy invites a girl over for “Netflix and chill”, he really is gunning for sex in the long run. And it is also a rebuke to Netflix to update their title selection – which does, save for a few exceptions – is really antiquated and does suck. Even as I type, I’m watching ‘Murder She Wrote’ because it is one of Netflix’s better offerings. Also, note her interjections during her speech. This was my favorite:
“I’m sorry… I’m 16 and I have heartburn from this Netflix baby and the lemon pepper wings.”
But of course, because Black women are ONLY perceived as ratchet, unaware, bumbling hood rats with no common sense, it would be impossible to see this as one of our own poking fun at herself or the stereotype she’s been made to bear.
Bassey Ikpi, whom I think is one of the funniest African women breathing life, often makes references to her imaginary relationship with Chiwetel Ejiofor…and has gotten a lot of us to buy into it. I have appointed myself as the plantain prefect for their wedding. (Bassey doesn’t know yet. It’s my wedding gift.) And STILL, there are enough clowns (not of the delightful sort)that jump into her newsfeed to ask – without irony and no shame – if she should seek professional mental assistance.
Again. IT’S A JOKE.
Ms. Ikpi has quite a firm grasp on reality, people.
So what’s the deal? Why aren’t Black women expected or allowed to explore these facets of their personhood? Why must we be constantly reduced to raging, furious caricatures of who we actually are? Anyone?
NB: If you’re trying to Google MaizeBreak and coming up empty, it’s because I stopped paying on the domain. I could have told you that in the middle of this post, but I wanted to watch you run in circles.
NB: And before you mental Oompa Loompas swoop into my comments about Nana Aba, I am aware she was fired for “copyright infringement”, not for a joke. She denies this claim, and until it’s proven otherwise, I believe her.