That's the Funny Thing About Race

Key and Peele belong to a new breed of black comics who use universal humor to tackle the topic.

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Even if we can laugh about it, racism -- the ugly core found inside any race-based comedy -- still exists. As Dave Chappelle's milkman character and his wife laugh at the end of the controversial skit "The Niggar Family," Chappelle sighs, "This racism is killing me inside." Why can't Americans just talk about race? Peele turns the question around, asking instead why race is so funny.

"At its core, race is an absurd notion," he says. "For some reason we find ourselves obsessed with something that's primal: If you don't look like me, you must be from a tribe that's not next door to me. It is intertwined with our basic fears. Only in this point of time, as the world gets smaller and smaller and we achieve a greater sense of what it means to be human in this world, can we find the humor in it."

"The reason comedy is the spoonful of sugar that makes medicine go down is because human beings are really expert at deflection," Key says. "They're allowed to have their own private moment of 'I often act like the fool on the screen.' You can use me or Jordan as the scapegoat, and then you can go home and examine it."

Anthonia Akitunde is a freelance writer living in Astoria, Queens. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Fast Company and The Root DC. Follow her on Twitter.

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