WaPost Writer Who Called Amy Schumer's Jokes Racist Never Even Watched Her Show

Colleges are no-joke zones.


Amy Schumer

The Washington Post contributor who branded Amy Schumer a racist for telling jokes about black people and Mexicans didn't even bother to watch any episodes of Schumer's show, or clips from her stand-up routines, before writing the piece.

This information comes from The Interrobang's Debra Kessler, who interviewed Stacey Patton—the author of the WaPost article—about her motivation for blasting Schumer. Kessler also consulted WaPost Deputy Editor Mike Madden, and immediately uncovered a contradiction:

I asked Madden if he knew why the article's author, Dr. Stacey Patton had chosen Amy Schumer as the topic for her article. "I think she pitched this piece because Schumer was in the news, at least in some circles in the news. Probably because of that Guardian piece," he said, and suggested that I talk directly with Dr. Patton.  I did.

I was also surprised to learn that Dr. Patton hadn't "pitched" the article to The Washington Post. She said it wasn't her idea at all, and in fact she initially turned down the story, because, she thought there wasn't much there.

"… And so when I kind of looked at some of the coverage on Schumer, I initially thought meh," [Stacey Patton told Kessler].  "This woman is joking.  You know, myself and a lot of people are still grieving the lives of those people in Charleston.

"But then I thought about Donald Trump's remarks and then the fact that a few days layer Dylann Roof stands up in a church and before shooting nine people says, "taking over my country you're raping our women" despite the fact that most of his victims were black women.  And then it was Schumer's comments about Mexican men and rapists.  And I thought, see, that's when I had to say something."

But Patton didn't give Schumer's material even a cursory examination before labelling it racist, according to Kessler:

The Interrobang; Have you ever watched Amy's television show… in preparation for the article?
Stacey Patton: Nope. Not at all. 
The Interrobang: Her stand up set[s]? have you ever watched any of them?
Stacey Patton: Nope. None of them.

Despite seeing the quotes out of context, and without the benefit of knowing anything about Amy's comedy, she was comfortable making judgements about whether Schumer's comedy was or wasn't racist.  She also was comfortable deciding whether Schumer's audience was or wasn't racially diverse (she characterizes Amy's following as predominately white), and she was comfortable to conclude that Schumer's comedy breeds racism in others.

Keep in mind that Patton's accusations were quite weighty. She lumped Schumer in with Donald Trump and suggested that their statements inspire "monsters like Dylann Roof to craft a manifesto with deadly consequences." This is quite a stretch, obviously; I would be surprised to learn that Roof was a fan of Schumer's comedy.

But the problem with Patton's article is not merely that it's incendiary. It's also ill-considered and unsubstantiated, as evidenced by the fact that Patton didn't do a remotely passable job of investigating the work she was blasting.

People who have watched clips from Schumer's show and routines (like me!) know that these racially problematic comments aren't coming from her own point-of-view. Schumer is often playing the part of a stereotypically obnoxious, culturally oblivious white girl. Her comedy is as much a slight against people who make casually racist comments as it is a slight against anyone else.

Schumer is hardly a pioneer of this kind of comedy. Think of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Kaitlin Olson, whose character on the show occasionally dresses up as "Martina Martinez," an offensive caricature of a Latina newscaster. The act is hilarious—not because Olson is making fun of Latina women, but because she's making fun of people who don't realize how racist they are.

Patton's condemnation of Schumer has already drawn an apology from the young comedian and a promise to be more responsible in the future. But it would be a real shame if Schumer decided to start censoring herself, writes Kessler:

To suggest that Schumer needs to be more responsible with her comedy with one hand, while casually branding a young artist with powerful words like Racism with the other, seems to have its own irresponsibility not only toward Schumer, but toward other young artists trying to decide what they can and cannot talk about.  And to tie an artist– particularly an artist who is herself breaking down long standing barriers–  in with murder, the Klan and the burning of black churches is something that should not be done lightly.  There are serious consequences to such statements.

It's hard not to connect Patton's treatment of Schumer with the recent Huffington Post op-ed instructing Jerry Seinfeld on how to be more politically correct. Patton is a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, and her co-author on the Schumer piece, David Leonard, is an associate professor of race at Washington State University. The author of the HuffPost piece is a student. Many college liberals seem to suffer from an inability to contextualize offensive comedy, and as a result, campuses are becoming no-joke zones, it seems.