In 1968 the comedy film The Party directed by Blake Edwards, starring Peter Sellers and Claudine Longet was released. The comedy is based on a fish out of water premise, in which a bungling Indian actor, played by Peter Sellers accidentally gets invited to a lavish Hollywood inner (in crowd) party and ‘makes terrible mistakes’ based upon ignorance of Western ways, whatever that means. It has a loose structure and serves as a series of set pieces for Sellers’s improvisational comedy talents.
Is it funny?
Yes and no. Yes from a perspective of the situation and no because it unknowingly set the tone for stereotypes that has worn the test of time (head shakes et al). No, also because of the assumption that Indians are accident prone and stupid. Let us forget that it was a white person blacked/browned up to pay a brown person. Maybe I’m a bit too serious. Maybe I cannot take cultural humour seriously. Or, is it a case that cultural humour is fine if made by your own kind. However, Russell Peters and Paul Chowdry are comedians who have made careers out of mocking idiotic stereotypes or even how cultures colliding and morph over generations.
For example, classic Peters when he asks a person from Indian origin In an Australian audience where he is from (Notorious tour). The audience member answers, ‘South Africa’. Peters contorts back, ‘no where are you really from’? When the same answer is given again, Peters says, ‘have you looked at yourself in the mirror recently’? The conclusion is that the chap’s (audience member’s) ancestors came from India along with many others who migrated to Kenya at various stages of the colonisation strategy of the British.
So when we, ethnics (!) see Cricket Australia’s decision to sack the PA announcer for introducing Panesar at Alice Springs in a faux Indian accent, it is suggested that the whole episode is a huge insensitive error of judgement.
To hope that lessons have been learnt about the latter, is a big ask when today, we see @CricketAus post the following absurd
In an article from the UK press (Source: The Mirror online:
England demand explanation over Cricket Australia’s Monty Panesar Teletubbies tweet. Controversial tweet came from Cricket Australia’s official account and was quickly deleted just before the second Test got underway in Adelaide. England cricket chiefs were demanding an explanation moments before the second Test began after Cricket Australia tweeted a potentially inflammatory picture regarding Monty Panesar. The Australian governing body tweeted a photo of four Sikhs dressed in multicoloured clothing which in itself is a lovely photo. The attached comment however read: “Will the real Monty Panesar please stand up?!”Their attempt at humour by suggesting that all Sikhs look the same was clearly in poor taste and unsurprisingly the tweet was widely condemned thereafter. They subsequently deleted the tweet in an admission of its distasteful nature before issuing an apology.
Is this just a case of sports banter to upset players or is there a deep rooted theme running here?
I’ve recently started contracting for a major UK Digital teleco. The work force is as multi-ethnic as it comes, with so many accents, foods on display at lunch time and some incredible talent that confirms strength through diversity. Together we are stronger. I’m not suggesting that we should all be cold-hearted and not laugh at each other, especially as we all bring our egos to the party. Maybe there is a time and place for good humour. NB I still insist that all Santa Banta jokes make my blood boil.
The Gap advert and controversy surrounding the reaction to it shows the underlying feeling of hate amongst people. Even if we take away the obvious marketing gimmick, it does help to confirm that a cosmopolitan world is much nicer than a world of clones, albeit that commercial fashion is based on a follow-ship strategy.
Maybe the honest truth is that humour only works if told by the right kind of person, at the right time and with a level of wit that only the joke teller can assess is safe before he/she is condemned!