After president Trump’s inauguration, racists started to disparage minorities. To defend the minorities, host Aziz Ansari, in a Saturday Night Live show, performs his stand-up comedy. He argues against racism using the incongruity theory, which states that humor can change the way people think by breaking tension. The audience grow tense as he talks about the lower case kkk movement, that tends to rationalize racism. But when he makes fun of racists, the audience realize that the movement is ridiculous. Ansari proceeds his argument through broaching people’s fear of Muslims. To alleviate discrimination against them, he applies benign violation, a theory that says, “humor arise when something seems wrong and threatening but is completely safe” (McGraw 133). He reveals how people fear about Muslims, and then jokes about these people of their nonsensical fear. Finally, by glorifying former president George Bush’s anti-racist action and consoling the minorities, Ansari scorches the racists and urges Trump to upend racism. Although Ansari offends racists, who support Trump, he confesses, at the beginning, that people should respect them in terms of political opinions. He tells a joke that compares Trump to the popular singer Chris Brown. This joke makes Ansari’s humor successful by creating a common ground, in which people share the understanding of Chris Brown’s music. This common ground helps Ansari to be more understandable and inoffensive. Though he continues offending racists, he gains support from the audience, making the offense worth.
Regarding racism as a serious issue, Aziz Ansari begins his defense of minorities with a statement, “I’m talking about a tiny slice of people that have gotten way too fired up about the Trump thing for the wrong reasons.” (02:30-02:36). Ansari harnesses this statement to shift the audience’s focus toward the lower case kkk movement, and he uses humor to address this problem through implementing incongruity: He stresses the audience by imitating how racists excitedly claim they do not have to pretend to be non-racists. Then, by interrupting the lines, “If you’re one of these people, please go back to pretending” (02:51-02:57), Ansari breaks the audience’s tension and attacks those aggressive racists. He continues the attack through deriding their rationale. “They see me. Trump won, go back to … where you came from. Yeah. They’re not usually geography buffs” (03:53-04:03). Ansari tells this joke to discompose racists, making them laughable instead of intimidating. He proves Critchley’s note that, incongruity creates laughter, and “by laughing at power, we expose its contingency, we realize that what appeared to be fixed and oppressive is in fact the emperor’s new clothes” (Critchley 126). Ansari sensibly uses incongruity to satirize racists, and succeeds in changing the audience’s view about them. He also testifies Mary O’Hara’s belief about humor’s social functions, “Satire is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” (O’Hara 106). Ansari employs this belief to signify that lower case kkk movement makes minorities unsafe. But through satire, he balances the feelings of all the people.
Indeed, Ansari accomplishes refuting racists, making them embarrassed of their irrational actions. But to truly extinguish racism, Ansari should ensure that people are comfortable with minorities. To do this, Ansari leads the audience to another part of his problem, “A lot of people haven’t interacted with any brown people in normal life” (04:57-05:03), and demonstrates that brown people deserve being treated equally. He pokes fun at Muslims by applying benign violation theory, which states that humor makes things funny when the unsafe becomes safe. He first introduces most people’s feelings, “Any time they watch movies, TV shows and a character is Arabic, praying or something that scary music from ‘homeland’ is underneath it. It’s terrifying” (05:50-06:02). This sentence unsettles the audience because of their fear of Muslims. However, as he mocks Muslims, making it appears funny, the audience break into laughter and their fear toward Muslims wanes. According to Olga Khazan, “You can’t make a joke without inserting a wicked twist, and you can’t be a comedian without holding a small amount of power, for even a short period of time, over the audience” (Khazan 113). Ansari broaches Muslims to terrify the audience, gaining him the power to reveal the unsettling truth. Then, as he grasps the power, he shifts the atmosphere and progressively lessens their anxiety through humor. Eventually, he makes people laugh, and they realize that the fear is unnecessary.
After using humor to convince people that racism is absurd, Ansari, with a more emphatic attitude, furthers that president Trump should make a speech denouncing lower case kkk (06:32-06:40). Ansari employs George Bush, a former president of United States, to illustrate what a real president should do: After 9/11, Bush made a speech to denounce terrorists, and clarified that they do not represent Islam. Ansari appreciates Bush speaking for his argument, and uses delightful tone to praise Bush, “He guided us with his eloquence!” (07:44-08:00). Ansari harnesses this tone to empower the minorities, who are disappointed about Trump’s inauguration. He also consoles them by asserting, “If you look at our history, change doesn’t come from president. Change comes from large groups of angry people” (08:17-08:29) He uses this statement to encourage minorities to fight against racism if it still prevails.
So far, Ansari has provided a sounding argument against racism by using humor. Though his jokes offend racists, Ansari identifies with them at the beginning of the comedy. He points out that people should not disparage racists, part of the voters for Trump, and gives credit to them through a shared common ground, that is, knowing the popular singer Chris Brown. Chris Brown’s music has some characteristics that receive different comments from the population, and Ansari applies analogy to compare him with Trump, “Donald Trump is basically the Chris Brown of Politics” (01:54-02:01). Ansari acknowledges that people should respect others even if they hold different political standing. He also admits that split in political opinions, compared to racism, is not a big deal, “As long as we treat each other with respect and remember we are all Americans it will be fine” (02:14:02:20). From this sentence, he can distinguish between political conflict and racism; though Ansari offends racists later, he accomplishes in justifying his arguments against them.
In conclusion, Ansari presents a compelling comedy that targets toward racism. Though he explicitly discusses Trump’s inauguration and motivates people to respect Trump supporters, Ansari disagrees with racists, whom he offends through humor. He applies the incongruity theory to ridicule their reckless discrimination against minorities during the lower case kkk movement. By doing this, Ansari changes the audience’s view about the racists, making them appear funny. He also uses benign violation theory to tell people that interacting with minorities is fine. Finally, Ansari regards George Bush as a model against racism to persuade Trump to take similar actions. Should the racism still exist, Ansari encourages the minorities to defeat racism on their own.
“Aziz Ansari Stand-Up Monologue – SNL.” YouTube, uploaded by Saturday Night Live, 22 Jan.2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Whde50AacZs.
Critchley, Simon. “Did You Hear the One About the Philosopher Writing a Book on Humour?”Think, vol. 1, no. 2, Autumn 2002, pp. 103-112, doi.org/10.1017/S147717560000035X.Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC SanDiego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 122-131.
Khazan, Olga. “The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian.” Atlantic, 27 Feb. 2014,www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/02/the-dark-psychology-of-being-a-good-comedian/284104/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 112-115.
McGraw, Peter and Joel Warner. “Entry 1: What, Exactly, Makes Something Funny?” Slate, 23Mar. 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/features/2014/the_humor_code/what_makes_something_funny_a_bold_new_attempt_at_a_unified_theory_of_comedy.html. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 132-135.
O’Hara, Mary. “A Serious Business: What Can Comedy Do?” Mosaic, 23 Aug. 2016,www.mosaicscience.com/story/comedy-humour-jokes-political-satire-taboo. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore,2017, pp. 104-111.
I am grateful for my instructor Dr. Gocsik for facilitating me to write analysis effectively. I also appreciate my mentor Sarah for giving suggestions to my focus on the essay. My groupmates Flory and Shuli provide common reader responses and rhetorical analyses to help me revise the essay sensibly.