There’s something about American comedians and Africa. You’re not sure whether they’re laughing at us or with us. Not even some African-Americans comedians can steer clear of the stereotypes. There’s a research project in there somewhere for an intrepid graduate student of the humanities. BTW, 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 of African-American comedians and Africa. I missed the talk, so I wrote to the departments in question asking about a tape, transcript or the paper. With no luck. Maybe someone can help find it. Anyway, I can think of a few examples of this trope.
Not all of it is that terrible. For starters, take this legendary mid-1970s stand-up bit (above) by Richard Pryor on “The African Jungle.”
Incidentally, Pryor 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.