Glenn Garvin TV Reviews

White Famous Hilariously Tackles the Racial Tensions of Comedy

Jay Pharoah gets space to shine on Showtime.


'White Famous'
'White Famous,' Showtime

White Famous. Showtime. Sunday, October 15, 10 p.m.

Young black comedian Floyd Mooney is unfamiliar with the concept of "white famous," so his agent explains it for him: a fame so singular that the name alone obliterates all ethnic boundaries: "Obama. Tiger Woods. Will Smith before the Jada shit." And it is within Floyd's grasp, the agent cheerily adds: "All you gotta do is be willing to wrap your lips around a little white dick now and then."

That exchange pretty much sums up White Famous, a scathingly funny cocktail of hardball racial humor, caustic Hollywood self-lampoon and general filthy talk. It hits gender and race hot-buttons like Ali and Frazier hit each other—fast, hard and bloody—and if you're interested, you might want to see it soon, because even on premium cable, its life span may be short.

Jay Pharoah (whose impressions of Barack Obama, Kanye West, Chris Rock and others have been a staple of Saturday Night Live the past few years) plays Floyd, an Eddie Murphy-ish stand-up comedian who's popular in Los Angeles' black clubs but hasn't had much crossover success.

Still, with a steady income, a little son he loves like crazy and a pretty ex-girlfriend (Cleopatra Coleman, The Last Man On Earth) he can talk back into bed on a semi-routine basis, Floyd's life rolls along on a pleasant-enough track. His biggest challenge seems to be deadpan during his regular encounters with white Hollywood big kahunas who cringingly try to show how woke they are by saying "motherfucker" a lot and botching attempts at giving dap.

When a tape of a particularly surreal exchange with a director finds its way onto the Internet, Floyd quickly becomes a viral sensation and even gets a movie offer. The catch: He has to play the role in drag, a prospect that horrifies him. "Every time there's a funny black brother in Hollywood, they try to emasculate him," Floyd complains to his sharkish agent Malcolm (Utkarsh Ambudkar, The Mindy Project), who responds with his definition of "white famous" and his prescription for what's required to attain it.

Floyd doesn't buy it, and the ensuing argument—like virtually every frame of White Famous—is drenched in profound obscenity and scorched-earth racial invective until it ends with Floyd firing his agent in the middle of a posh restaurant while screaming, "Go ride a carpet!" (Malcolm's shrieked rejoinder: "How is that insulting? You know how dope it would be to have a carpet that flies?")

White Famous was created by Tom Kapinos, and it embraces ethnic obloquy with the same manic zeal his show Californication did sexual depravity. Likewise with its gloriously cascading tides of obscenities, embedded in even the most mundane dialogue ("The heart wants what the heart wants, motherfucker") with such frequency that it may revive the fucks-per-minute meters that many websites used to monitor the old HBO Western Deadwood.

Another meter may be necessary to track—or even identify—the political agenda of White Famous. Some gender warriors, for instance, have already identified Floyd's complaint about having to cross-dress to get a role as hetero-norming fascism.

Others may think it's a shot at Tyler Perry's crotchety grandma character Madea, who's either an appalling modern incarnation of the mammy stereotype or the heroic, politically incorrect voice of the black working class, depending on which side of the debate you fall on.

Actually, though, there's a tradition of male black comedians in cross-dressing roles going back at least half a century to Flip Wilson's Geraldine. Whether they've been a cultural positive, allowing for the presentation of alternative voices, or just a modern Stepin Fetchit device to give white people a laugh at the expense of blacks is a long-standing debate that's a lot more complex than modern moralists will acknowledge.

But whatever Kapinos or his characters really think about putting black men in dresses, at the bottom line it's a Hitchockian MacGuffin—a plot element that triggers action without being of much innate importance to viewers.

What White Famous is really about is compromise and career, identifying the line between settling and selling out. Even when the disputation over cross-dressing is settled, Floyd is uncertain about whether he's pursing his own dream or somebody else's. "A lot of that stuff," he says, referring to the scripts he's being offered, "is like a dick punch to the soul."

Pharoah, freed from the constraints of the two-minute impression, does a nice job in White Famous, displaying a good sense of when to go over the top and when to show restraint. His foil, most often, is the soulless agent played with manic relish by Ambudkar.

But there are also a host of recurring guest stars for Pharoah to trade comic punches with, including Jamie Foxx (who is also one of the show's producers and had a cross-dressing cycle of his own back in his In Living Color days) and Michael Rapaport.

Playing slimy producers and directors, they trash their own industry with undisguised glee. "He once had a year-long relationship with a blow-up doll of his ex-wife," says Rapaport's character of another director. "He brought her everywhere—showed up to a red carpet with it once." He pauses in contemplation, then adds: "Huge horse cock, though." Harvey Weinstein please note: In Hollywood, redemption is always possible.

NEXT: Can grad students' conversation about how gays could be executed in Muslim countries lead to discipline at a U.S. university?

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  1. Somehow, it still looks derivative.

    1. The black-men-crossdressing kerfuffle was the plot of an episode of 30 Rock back in 2006.

      1. And Martin was a whole show dedicated to mocking the idea of crossdressing black men in media. I can only assume that at least, otherwise Martin was just a shitty show.

        1. Tracy Jordan: “You burned me! There’s nothing wrong with a black comedian wearing a dress! Eddie does it. Martin does it. Jamie Foxx. Flip Wilson. Whoopi Goldberg does it every day!”

          1. I shit on Martin so often, that if anyone I know in real life sees this post they can probably identify me.

            1. this is flatly unacceptable

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      2. Flip Wilson did it with Geraldine in 1970 when his variety show was the number one show on TV. He was black, had the number one show on TV in 1970. According to activists, that’s only because he was an Uncle Tom and non-threatening to whites. They said that then too. The Left will never be colorblind, which is one of the reasons why they are so much more racist than the rest of us.

  2. Oddly enough, this is one of those shows I actually want to watch since I suspect Jamie Foxx probably has a whole shit ton of valid and personal experiences to inform the material. I think his acting is generally not that great, but this looked interesting.

    1. Jamie Foxx can be funny when he’s not being utterly obnoxious.

  3. When you see a racial comedy described as “hilarious” in Reason, you can be pretty sure that whites will be the butt of the hilarity. If it was anyone else, they’d be denouncing as racist, xenophobic, nativist, etc., etc, etc….

    1. Thanks for your valuable and original contribution.

    2. Pander to conservatives, do a 180, pander to progressives, repeat. Everybody finds a niche, just like that junk that is permanently lodged in the moulding in your kitchen and bathroom, even if you keep the floor clean.

    3. I agree Mr. Dick Puller, Great name btw. The thing I don’t understand is why isn’t it called jew famous? Because jews freely admit they run Hollywood and they like to demasculate straight men of any color by putting a dress on them. That being said, no one is forced to join Hollywood so if blacks did have a problem working in that environment they will have to tell the jews they are not going to do certain things and if it is a problem go their separate ways. Not only do blacks blame whites for failure now we get blamed for their low set standards called “Hollywood success?”

  4. The commercial looked pretty bad so by hilarious are we signing actually funny or I pretend to find it funny to prove how woke I am.

    1. From the description it is apparently quite blue. A long string of f-bombs is inherently hilarious, don’t you know?

  5. “it may revive the fucks-per-minute meters that many websites used to monitor the old HBO Western Deadwood.”

    But what about my fucks *given* per minute meter? It’s not moving at all.

  6. I despised Californication for the few minutes I watched it.

  7. So, Tiger Woods (and others) became “white famous” by metaphorically sucking white dick?

    Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Tiger Woods is not putting on an act. This concept is just an extension of “white privilege”. Calling successful black people Uncle Toms is bullshit.

    It might be funny though.

    1. If it’s funny (about as funny as Bob Hope’s jokes when he was a cue card reading AARP member), well that must mean it’s true, right??? Don’t know much about golf or TW, but I figure that life under the tutalage of his dad either cramped Tiger’s style …or Tiger grew up to be just like his pop, in every way imaginable. Doesn’t explain the allure and the sexuality of golf and IHOP, but the universe is full of mysteries and well other stuff.

  8. Without losing a sense of humor in all this, don’t all people, white and black, have to wrap their lips around white dick to get ahead? Well, increasingly, plant lips on white pussy, at least in my industry.

    1. The porn industry?

  9. It sounds like a mediocre comedy trying to score bonus points by being ‘racial.’

    1. Isn’t that pretty much everything for well over the last decade? It MUST toe the de jour proggy agenda in order to be “edgy”, in order to cover up the lack of originality, skill, or substance?

  10. “Givin’ dap”?! Huh, dat’s sum serous brutha shit. You be keepin’ it reel with tha homeboys, Reesun contributah Glenn Garvin! Give us morra dat dap!

    People often tend to wear their grievances on their sleeve and build prisons for themselves, and that goes for more than some 20% of the country’s population. I often wish people would become invisible and silent as the grave so that they could go anywhere, see everything, do little, and maybe even forget about themselves and their own problems for a while and learn something. Or maybe that’ll happen to us all when we die, purgatory 4 evah.

  11. …and no redemption for Harvey Weinstein. May he burn, and light up many of his buddies with him. Many of his accusers as well. Good riddance.

  12. Situs QQ 2018
    HP QQ

    Once you get past the initial insult (how could they!?) it’s time to seek revenge with a caustic comments like “well you cut out the only good part of this picture,” or worse “Good choice, I looked better than you anyway.” Rough.

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