Racially-Charged Dirty Jokes Cost Comedian Artie Lange Comedy Central Job

Racially-Charged Dirty Jokes Cost Comedian Artie Lange Comedy Central Job

Until racially-tinged Twitter jokes aimed at ESPN First Take host Cari Champion caused an uproar,comedian Artie Lange was scheduled to appear on Comedy Central’s @Midnight. He will now be sitting home Thursday night.

Lange tweeted a sexual fantasy involving himself as a plantation owner and Champion, who is black, as his slave. “Here’s the scenario I’m using to j—off to chick on First Take,” he tweeted. “I’m T. Jefferson & she’s my slave. She beats the shit out of me & runs free. Then I c— and she’s free! The Happiest ending ever!” He also tweeted about showing her his “white d—” and trying to whip her.

Lange, who is best known for stints on The Howard Stern Show and MADtv, announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he had been dropped from @midnight. “I don’t hate women,” he wrote. “And to you PC groups that did this, I wanna be clear. Go F— yourselves!” He added: “If you ppl protesting me end my career, what have you accomplished?!”

Lange did finally relent and apologize. According to his Twitter feed, he also appeared on a Racewars podcast to discuss and explain his jokes. ESPN was quick to condemn Lange.

As someone who believes comedians should be given the absolute widest latitude possible to satirize themselves (which is what I think Lange was doing here) and any other sacred cow out there, including those I hold sacred, what Lange did feels different. Twitter isn’t the stage. Moreover, in one of those tweets, Lange actually @’d Cari Champion directly, which definitely crossed a line.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that I would’ve found Lange’s jokes funny or tasteful on stage or anywhere.  Nonetheless, a healthy democracy must gives its satirists (no matter how crude or tasteless) unlimited space. Context matters, though, and when you single out an individual and/or address them directly (especially with crude sexual and racial jokes) that’s not satire, it’s creepy.

John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC