This isn’t his first rodeo — watch a 2001 video of him discussing racist epithets on “Politically Incorrect”
As reported, Bill Maher has lined up a panel of guests who will no doubt attempt to help him talk through the furor he created when he called himself the n-word last Friday on his HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher”.
While the host has already offered a partially well-wrought apology in the face of intense pressure and criticism, this is not his first public go around with the loaded racial epithet.
In 2001, following a similar controversy tied to comedian Sarah Silverman’s use of the anti-Chinese racial epithet “chink,” Maher invited her, Guy Aoki of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans and the actor and activist Anne-Marie Johnson to discuss the issue on his ABC show “Politically Incorrect”. David Spade, much to his apparent and understandable embarrassment, was there too.
As you can see in the video below, the discussion around Silverman’s joke seems even more broken and fraught than it probably did at the time. It’s doubtful Silverman — or any accomplished comedian for that matter — would perform it today, let alone go on network TV to tell an Asian-rights activist they were wrong for taking offense to it.
Talk turns, as one would expect, to the n-word. The combative exchange between Johnson and Maher starts at about 13:40. It does not go well for the host.
“Blacks are like ‘whites cannot say this word,’” he says. “I disagree. This word has changed in the last 10, 15 years.” “According to who?” asks Johnson. “According to culture . . .” Maher booms back at her. “Ask any African-American person in this audience what that means,” Johnson replies with an appropriate amount of alarm. “Every African-American person in this audience users that word night and day, it’s in every song it’s all through culture” says Maher.
With Johnson declaring “you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Maher brings up the worn old penny about the n-word now being a term of endearment, explaining to a black woman how she should feel. He then states to the light-skinned Johnson, “First of all, I wouldn’t even know you were black if you didn’t tell me.”
“I love it when white people try to define what is ‘African American,’” says Johnson. “I’m African American regardless of my skin color or my hair,” she added. “I think I’m only one on this stage who’s qualified to talk about the meaning of the word, how it hurts, how it doesn’t hurt, where it’s used, the history of it. Because I live it everyday.” David Spade continues to look miserable.