There’s something about American comedians and Africa. You’re not sure whether they’re laughing at us or with us. African-Americans comedians, in particular, always return to the subject. There’s an essay in there somewhere. I swear I once saw a notice for a talk at Columbia’s Institute for African-American Studies or NYU’s Africana Studies, on this very subject. I wrote to the departments, with no luck. Maybe someone can help. Anyway, I can think of a few examples of this trope. For starters, take this legendary mid-1970s stand-up bit (above) by Richard Pryor on “The African Jungle.” (Pryor, incidentally, visited Kenya in 1979 after which he swore–in an interview with Ebony Magazine–to never use the N-word again).
Now compare Pryor’s subtle humor to the more recent, weak, attempt at laughs by Jamie Foxx, who visited Mozambique and South Africa (both countries standing in for 1974-era Zaire) while filming “Ali” with Will Smith.
Or the predictable punchline from Chris Rock, who filmed his most recent special partly in Johannesburg:
Finally, there’s the more edgy comedy of Wyatt Cenac. [Cenac, btw, is also a very good actor (ref: "Medicine for Melancholy") and makes his living working for Jon Stewart]:
And as an extra I could not leave out this clip of white American comedian, Robin Williams, channeling the atrocious “The Gods Must be Crazy” on Jay Leno: