TL;DR – What is racism exactly?
It’s one of those nights that I had my friends over for dinner and we were all too lazy to do any other activities after a scrumptious meal, I suggested that we should just Netflix and chill.
Literally, not figuratively.
I saw a familiar face on the recommended content. It was none other than one of Singapore’s top stand-up comedians, Fakkah Fuzz. I love stand-up comedy and I love Fuzz. In fact, I had met him some years ago when he was performing at the then-Home Club and I was pretty impressed by him. By his jokes, his energy and overall vibes from his brilliant performance. I even walked up to him after that like a little fanboy to thank him for the set and he gave me a firm handshake and thanked me for the compliment.
Sadly, I can’t say the same for his Netflix special, Almost Banned. I thought it was just me but my company felt the same too. He looked way too tense and his comedic timing was a little off. Not too sure if it was because he was working under pressure as he knew this was going to be on Netflix.
All these I can understand but the jokes?
They weren’t exactly the best either.
Fans of stand-up comedy will know that there are a few topics that are evergreen – Sex, Politics, and Race. If I were to make a guess, the first lesson in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Stand-up Comedy would probably be it’s not funny if it’s not offensive.
In Almost Banned, Fuzz definitely banged hard on the racist jokes and tried to follow Russell Peter’s footsteps by doing some self-deprecating jokes on him and his fellow Malay community.
Sadly, the jokes were relatively dry and lack surprise.
I had this exchange with one of my friends during the performance,
Him: “Must standup comedy always have to be like this? How this is acceptable just because I paid $120 to be in there but it’s not okay if I say it out loud on my Facebook?”
Me, “I might have watched a lot of such shows but I do not have a good answer but I guess the major difference is that one is a performance for pure entertainment while the other can be purely offensive?”
Him, “So you mean racism is okay just because it’s a performance? But if these jokes are fine, why can’t we have such content on regular TV since it’s also for entertainment purpose? Can you imagine how the Internet will go crazy if Mediacorp includes such racist content in their dramas?”
It got me thinking, if this is acceptable on TV, does that mean that it is really true that there can be a proper time and space for racism?
One can choose to say that it’s a case of po-tay-to vs. po-tah-to but I would say that this actually says a lot about how more often than not, people really don’t see the difference between racial stereotypes and racism.
So what’s what?
According to Google,
Ethnic (Racial) Stereotypes – are considered funny because they are realistic caricatures of various cultures, and the pervasiveness of such jokes stems from the significant cultural differences.
Racism – prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
To put into context, so when Fuzz laughs at how Malay Maciks (and probably Madam Halimah too, his joke not mine!) are typically very passive-aggressive, this is a racial stereotype but if you choose not to hire someone at your workplace because he or she is a Malay, that is racism.
Same same, but totally different.
That being said, there is this rather interesting commentary about how we cannot call ourselves a truly inclusive society in Singapore, if racial stereotypes in the media and in daily interactions continue to be the stimuli for entertainment.
What do you think?
Side note, you should totally check out some of Fuzz’s older videos on YouTube, they really do him a lot more justice.