Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Heard on FX’s Wilfred: “Not Asian-American…Real Asian!”

June 28th, 2011

by Latoya Peterson

So last Thursday night, I was peacefully watching Wilfred. My dog, the reason I thought the promos were hysterical, was napping at my feet. Wilfred is an FX remake of an Australian comedy, about a suicidal man named Ryan (Elijah Wood) who prepares to kill himself in the first episode. After a failed attempt, Ryan finds himself helping out his next door neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) by watching her dog Wilfred (Jason Gann). The set-up is fairly simple – it’s kind of like I Love You, Man, only one of them is in a dog suit.

I was just in the middle of wondering how a show with a dark, funny premise could end up as just another dudebro comedy when a line floated to my ears. Kristen (Dorian Brown), Ryan’s sister, a doctor, and the show’s resident shrew (because there’s always one in these kinds of comedies) is busy screaming at him about getting his life together. She launches in on another explanation of why her life sucks, but this time, she says:

You had a rough morning? Try prying twin boys out of a tight little Asian gal. She wasn’t Asian American, Ryan, she was REAL ASIAN!

As if Thick Dumpling Skin needed another thing to write about.

Whenever I get around to writing about Archer, I’ll talk about the difference between writing a joke that involves race and writing a racist joke. But, in essence, this is the Kate Rigg rule:

When someone tells a joke about Asian people and there’s no actual joke – the joke is the Asian people. The joke is [racist-comic voice] the funny way they talkie-talkie! “They don’t use proper diction! Only verb and noun! Verb and noun!” I just heard a comic that I respect doing that fucking joke the other night. An Asian comic. And I was like, “Dude! Write a punch line or you’re just being racist!”

I apply this rule all over the place, as did Carmen back when she wrote about how to respond to a racist joke. The joke only works with the implicit acceptance of a certain stereotype. If the stereotype isn’t there to play on, the joke falls apart. (Hence Carmen’s advice to play dumb, and try to get the joke teller to explain exactly why that joke is funny.)

When will comedy writers, producers, and directors learn that throwaway racist jokes just aren’t funny?

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Categories: asian, asian-american, everyday racism, F/X, Kate Rigg, tv, Wilfred

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