Bill Maher, exactly what have you started? If you haven’t heard, there’s a beef between comedians Wayne Brady and Bill Maher. Maher, the HBO late night show host, raised Brady’s ire when he repeatedly called President Obama “your Wayne Brady.”
Brady, obviously deciding he had enough, fought back. He said he would “gladly slap the sh*t out of Bill Maher in front of Coco and Ebony and Fox, the three ladies of the night he has hired,” a reference to Maher’s preference for black women.
“That means it’s a diss to Obama to be called me because he wants a brother brother,” Brady said. “Just because you f*ck black hookers, just because you had that particular black experience… I have to stop myself to getting into it because I realize the thing is if I had gone on his show, or even doing it online, I’m not going to win. Because as soon as you back off, he still has his platform to say whatever he wants to.”
Comedy aside, Maher has put his money where his mouth is when it comes to politics and supporting the nation’s first black president. He contributed $1 million to a pro-Obama super PAC in the hopes that other wealthy liberals would follow suit. Black celebrities should take the hint. Furthermore, on his talk show Real Time with Bill Maher, he has called out the Republican Party and the Tea Party for their racism, and criticized Obama for not acting forcefully enough on health care and other issues. And he has appropriately singled out black conservative politicians such as Allen West and Herman Cain, and has spoken out on the Trayvon Martin shooting.
But with that said, Maher, for all of his clever satirical skills, has rubbed black folks, and others, the wrong way from time to time with his racial stereotyping. For example, he once called Obama “President Sanford and Son,” and expressed disappointment that Obama isn’t a “real black president,” the kind that “lifts up his shirt so they can see the gun in his pants.” Maher also has been taken to task for his caricatured statements about the Arab-American community, including the comment that “women who have dated an Arab man, the results aren’t good.”
To be sure, making over-the-top statements is Bill Maher’s shtick. But sometimes it reminds you of the white guy with black friends who slips and says the “n-word,” much to the dismay of that white guy’s former black friends.
Meanwhile, Maher’s depiction of Wayne Brady as a “non-threatening black man,” or a white man’s black man, is dated, misplaced, and frankly unfair. On Chappelle’s Show, comedian Paul Mooney’s character “Negrodamus” once said that “white people love Wayne Brady because he makes…Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.” But that was eight years ago, and since then Brady has long redeemed himself with his famed Funny or Die parodies, including the infamous Chappelle’s Show sketch “Dave’s Night Out With Wayne Brady.” Now, that was funny.
But on a serious note, the notion of black male stereotypes—both threatening and non-threatening— has had an impact on the lives and livelihoods of the black men they impact. Black actors such as Morgan Freeman and Cuba Gooding, Jr. receive criticism from the black community, and rightly so, for too often playing the role of the “Magical Negro” on the big screen — the black sidekick or supporting character with special powers who comes to the aid of the film’s white protagonist.
As Clutch magazine notes, gay black men have become the new mammies of reality television, the modern reincarnation of the sexually non-threatening black servant presented in the spirit of Gone With the Wind.