How Do You Make Racism Funny? Ask "Saturday Night Live" Because They Just Did

Many wondered if NBC would dare touch Eric Garner, and amazingly, they did it -- and did it well.
Publish date:
December 8, 2014
saturday night live, Eric Garner

The decision by two grand juries to clear the cops who killed Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, led to a sucker punch felt around the world.

So while protesters flooded the streets over the weekend from Hollywood and Austin to Chicago, New York and even Tokyo, “Saturday Night Live” pegged the national embarrassment as a situation worth laughing about -- if only to keep from crying.

“This Eric Garner decision has upset me so much that in three days I have gained over 100 pounds,” said a pre-weight-loss version of the Rev. Al Sharpton in the person of “SNL” regular Kenan Thompson. “For the first time in my life, everyone agrees with me. Folks are high-five-ing with me, inviting me places. This must be what it feels like to be Beyoncé.”

Thompson-as-Sharpton went on to say: “I mean this is crazy. What does a man have to do to be put on trial? How you gonna get the whole thing on video and turn around and say 'There’s no crime here’? This is not a ‘Whodunit,’ it’s a 'He did it'!”

Unfortunately, this stuff writes itself.

Indeed, much of the coverage in the cases of Daniel Pantaleo and Darrin Wilson has reached farcical proportions. Just turn on Fox News any given day or watch Twitter go apoplectic over Don Lemon’s claims of smelling marijuana at the Ferguson Decision protest -- as if that mattered or was a defining piece of revelation that added any context whatsoever.

Watch social justice tactics take a new twist when John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen sent over free food trucks to N.Y.’s Union Square so crowds would be fortified.

The truth is these tragedies deserve treatment in every corner of American conversation, from the profound to the profane. So while thought-leaders like Jelani Cobb and Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman of RainbowPUSH, decry weasel definitions like “racial profiling” to describe what is just plain ol’ racism, we need comedy to help us access and process truth through laughter even if it does come from America’s default milquetoast version of comedy a la “SNL.”

“This is very complicated,” said Peter Dinello (played by “SNL"’s Bobby Moynihan), a deputy spokesman for Staten Island's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. “On one side, you've got a video seen by millions that seems to clearly show police negligence. But on the other side ... I mean, yeah."

Meanwhile, back in real life, Jackson challenged President Obama Saturday before a national TV audience: “Are we going to archive this, study it or compile it, or is it time to move on it? We can do better than this. This was a miscarriage.”

And this miscarriage is why if protestors can’t breathe, they can certainly laugh, if only to keep from, well, you know.