The thing that makes this skit so weird, and so funny, is that the parts you find funny have a lot to do with how you identify yourself.
Really, the audience was probably laughing at two different things.
Black America was laughing at white America.
Black people know that love and equality are nothing to be afraid of, but they also know that all of the things that President Pryor was talking about: black access to education, black participation in government and industry, Islam, interracial relationships — these things make a lot of white people nervous.
In short, as cruel as it sounds, a lot of minorities find white racist fear and naiveté absolutely hilarious. (Think of it as an alternative to being angry all the time).
But a lot of white people watched this, and thought that the joke was supposed to be that the first black president would be a total monster. It was funny to have their biases confirmed. In fact, there’s more than a few people out there that still don’t get the joke.
So it was no wonder that when Chapelle’s show came out, with skits like ‘Black Reparations’, which again, poked fun at white America’s fears (read: guilt) and assumptions about blacks, that a lot of white people didn’t get the joke. A lot of people saw the ‘reparations’ skit and simply thought:
‘Oh, wow, that’s totally true! If reparations happened,
black people would spend all of their money on fried chicken’.
It confirmed their expectations. And they laughed. And Dave left.
Here’s what Paul Mooney, who wrote the President Pryor script, had to say about the phenomenon of white reactions to black comedy:
When I imitate middle-class white speech, I see a flicker of unease cross the faces of the white people in the audience. Then, when I go into ghetto riff, the smiles return. They’re fine as long as I am making fun of the same kind of people they make fun of — chinks, spics and niggers. But as soon as I start talking about them, I can clear a room!