CSPAN Roast
Short, Direct, and Candid.

Let Capehart Be Jostled, Larry Wilmore’s, “You Did It My Nigga” Was Fine

Washington Post columnist and opinionist, Jonathan Capehart, was rattled by Larry Wilmore’s epic roast of President Barack Obama at the recent White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner – the President’s last Correspondents’ Dinner. In front of a rather posh and apparently emotionally sensitive Washington insider audience and reminiscent of Steven Colbert’s roast of George W. Bush, Larry Wilmore launched one joke after another, each punchline barbed with one biting “truth” after another covering everything from drone killings to not closing Guantanamo. It wasn’t the sharp wit that jostled our opinionist though, it was ironically, the soft closing remarks.

At the end of his presentation, Wilmore turns to the President, the first Black President. Taps his chest and says,

Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President,
if i’m going to keep it 100. Yo, Barry, you did it, my nigga. You did it.

I disagree with President Obama on probably 20 different things regarding major policy; but I love seeing him in that office. Warts and all. Wilmore said the line for two reasons. One, to make some people uncomfortable. And two, to say what a lot of people in this country would love the opportunity to say. They wouldn’t have the balls to say it, but they do feel it. And to the degree the “n” word  makes me uncomfortable, if I’m being honest, I agree with Wilmore. Capehart however, was appalled! He angrily typed,

That’s why Wilmore’s use of it was as shocking as it was disrespectful.

People experience reality in different ways. Capehart may see the reality Wilmore is representing in his performance as invalid relative to his own, but so what!? That reality is just as real and valid. I’d argue there are likely more people, that if they were being gutterally honest with themselves, would find that to be more honest and heartfelt, than people in the sanitized Washington Post version of reality our opinionist resides.

Consider yourself for the moment, representing the voice of millions of voiceless people. Yes, the unwashed masses, whether they watched it not, all the people that have felt this way at some point. He only has 7 months left in his presidency. Why is it not fair for that sort of release? Well, Capehart wasn’t having it. From his perch at the Washington Post,

And that’s why many African Americans in the room and watching on television were appalled by Wilmore’s excessive and inappropriate down-home familiarity with the leader of the free world in front of the world.

Three things. First, are you saying he should not have said it because it made some people uncomfortable? It’s what great comedians do. The joke takes aim at race in an emotional and damn clever, rather tough-ishly tender way, and this is the “flaw” you have worried your talent and pen to shame?

Second, “leader of the free world”? I don’t know what that means. How about opinions on the drones murders or why the kill list is getting longer? How about opinioning on Obama’s lying about troops fighting in Syria or about a corrupt campaign finance system? And if Capehart has one of these, I duly apologize. But my point remains. Of all the things in the world one could heap scorn upon for that day – certainly this is far down the list. And if it’s not, the question is shouldn’t it be!?

Wilmore’s roast was frankly awesome. Uncomfortable is fair. To a lot of people though, uncomfortable in a way that is assuaged by a deep cultural understanding that what he said is only understood in the shared bond of a minority collective experience. Wilmore’s intent has been satisfied. I wasn’t thinking it, a bit jostled by his comments myself, but now that it’s been said: I can live with it. The people who hate him, can’t hate him any more. The people who love him, will not love him any less. The President, as was the majority of audience were adults; they’ll be all right Mr. Capehart. Being jostled every now and then is perfectly fine. Even for a DC audience.