(Aaron McGruder's highly anticipated 'Black Jesus' debuted last night. Damon and Panama exchanged a few emails about it this morning.)
So, let me tell you about my day yesterday.
Between 8am and 11pm, I wrote an 800 word piece for EBONY, wrote a 400 word piece for Madame Noire, edited and formatted Alex's piece yesterday, edited and formatted Maya's interview for today, played basketball for two hours, went grocery shopping, set up a phone interview about gentrification in Pittsburgh, had a two hour meeting at the Heinz Endowments, and completed my various daily VSB and EBONY duties.
Oh, and I walked my dog. Twice.
I made sure to get this all done before 11pm because I wanted nothing to interfere with me watching 'Black Jesus.' I honestly can't recall a time when I was more excited for a show's premiere. And, by 11pm, I was on my living room couch, waiting to drink my ice cold cup of 'Black Jesus' extra-sweetened iced tea.
And, well…let me just say this.
I logged on Twitter at roughly 11:20 to share some of my thoughts about the show. But first, I wanted to read a few 'Black Jesus'-related tweets to see if others' thoughts mirrored mine.
They did not. At least not on my timeline. Every single tweet I saw mentioned how ridiculously hilarious it was. It was so unanimous that I ended up not even posting my tweet ("20 minutes in. Only laughed once."). Didn't want to be the only turd in the punchbowl. I'm fine with being the turd if there are other turds. But not the only turd. The only turd is lonely.
There are only three possible conclusions from what I just said.
1. It was actually funny, and I just missed the humor.
2. It wasn't actually funny, and people were just more amused by the concept of a weed-smoking, Black Jesus in Compton than the execution.
3. I'm a hater.
You had quite the day yesterday. All I did was save 15 percent of my car insurance by switching to Geico. And even that's a lie. I already have Geico.
While I typically refrain from referring to myself as a turd, you and I share a similar sentiment. I was waiting for it to be funny. It wasn't. In fact, it was so unfunny, I'm almost inclined to say that Aaron McGruder has totally lost whatever magic he had that brought all the boys and girls to the yard in the first place. This was a 3-minute sketch that wins on novelty stretched into an entire season and I can't for the life of me figure out why. To be fair, it was only one episode. I felt similarly after the first episode of 'The Boondocks' and that show ended up having some brilliant moments to coincide with its craptastic moments.
So I think your #2 is more accurate. Set Black Jesus in southwest Compton, saddle him with a crew of not-quite misfits, throw in stereotypes and let the shenanigans ensue. Oh, and make sure that Black Jesus is okay with non-sense and fuckery couched in using his tenets of peace and goodwill towards man to suit his needs…oh and to help his boy not catch a mollywop at the hands of his crazy Mexican girlfriend. Even Charlie Murphy wasn't funny. Do you know how hard it is to make Charlie Murphy unfunny? I am surprised that folks were proclaiming it to be hilarious. Those people need Jesus. So they got 'Black Jesus.'
I suspect we're not the only ones who felt this way. Which makes me think we (Black people) are so starved for Black representation on television that…
1. "Black people are in it" adds like 8 points to some of our enjoyment scales. Basically, "Black people are in it" are to (some) Black people's enjoyment scales what "she light skinned with a fat ass" are to (some) Black men's condom discernment scales.
2. Those unimpressed stay quiet because they don't want to be accused of not supporting Black creatives.
And, you're right. It was just the first episode. It seems like comedies don't really start to get their footing until mid-way through the first season, after certain jokes/themes/characters have been established. Also, I wouldn't go as far to say that McGruder has lost it. I think the concept is great, I think it has a shitload of potential, and I won't be surprised if, two months from now, we've both changed our minds. Plus, John Witherspoon, Charlie Murphy, and Corey Holcomb are involved. (And for the record, the Charlie Murphy scene was actually funny to me.)
I think my main problem with 'Black Jesus' — the first episode of 'Black Jesus', at least — might be the one thing neither of us have mentioned yet: Black Jesus. Slink Johnson is an imposing presence on screen. He literally towards over everyone, making him equal parts Jesus and Julius Peppers. But while he's supposed to be the show's fulcrum, he's actually one of the weaker characters.
And maybe this goes back to the point about drawing comedy from the concept of a Black Jesus in Compton. "He's a Black Jesus in Compton. So everything we write for him will be funny. Because it'll be said by a Black Jesus in Compton."
You know, you're right. I do think the concept is great. It does have a shitload of potential. So I'm hoping it is potential that does get realized and I revert back to Aaron McGruder is my brilli-tant spirit animal. By the way, that's the combination of brilliant and militant.
I definitely used to be apart of the "it has Black people in it" so it gets points. But somewhere between Tyler Perry movies and rappers taking all of the acting roles I realized that Blackness =/= good. I mean I'm definitely going to watch everything with Black people, but I've realized that sometimes shit is what it is, entertainment (sometimes for better or worse) featuring Black people. I do think that the idea of Black Jesus in Compton is hilarious though. I mean, Black Jesus in Compton sounds like a '70s Blaxploitation title. Hell, I'm sure the only reason that Isaac Hayes was Black Moses and not Black Jesus is because white folks back then just were not having it. But you know, we're all post-racial and everything now so they can't say shit. So, yeah. Thanks, Obama.
You know what this actually reminds me of? Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood. A spoof of a bunch of stereotypes and ideals, etc. That's what's taking place here. And I think that is one of the most brilliant movies ever. So if this television show just gets funnier, I'm convinced it could become something big. As of now, it's just a show that features Black Jesus. And he's a hot damn mess. You know what did make me laugh? The white boys who robbed them being named Chandler, Ross, and Michael. I did laugh at that.
The Chandler, Ross, and Michael bit felt like a metaphor for the entire show. Because it felt almost like a Black show created by behind-the-scenes White people. Not to say that White people can't write good Black characters or create good Black humor, but the humor seemed to be drawn just from the fact that these were Black people in a Black neighborhood doing "Black" things.
"Holy shit, Ross. How funny would it be to have a Black Jesus in the hood?" "That's fucking brilliant, Chandler. Call Michael up so his dad can finance it."
Well, let's hope that we're all happy that Michael's dad financed it in the end. I mean, its Black Jesus. And we all win with Black Jesus. That's in Tupac 3:16.