Comedic Timing in “C.P. Time.”

We’ve been somewhat preoccupied this week with rehearsals for our annual brief appearance on the amateur theatrical stage, in a satirical song-and-skit fund-raising revue put on by some of the local media, but we’ve been able to pay enough attention to the news to notice that the Democratic Party’s putative presidential front-runner has thoroughly embarrassed herself in a similar effort.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long presumed First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton volunteered for a comedy bit in the New York City’s Inner Circle show, which is apparently Gotham’s equivalent of our own Gridiron Show, albeit with bigger-name guest stars, and she wound up creating one of those racial imbroglios that inevitably result from Democrat politics. The bit involved Clinton, the more or less commie Mayor of New York City Bill DeBlasio and one of the black guys from the current Broadway hit “Hamilton,” and a joke about how DeBlasio had been slow to endorse Clinton’s candidacy because he was acting on “C.P. Time.” For those who don’t run in racist white circles or self-effacingly jocular black folk circles, “C.P. Time” stands for “Colored People’s Time,” which implies that people of color are congenitally unpunctual, but it all led up to the putative punchline that DeBlasio had been acting on “cautious politician time,” so there is a certain unsatisfying humor to the gag, but it seemed to fall flat with not only the audience but the broader Democratic primary-voting pubic.
As former professional drama critics and ambitious semi-professional satirists, we found the entire performance entirely second-rate yet rife with intriguing unintended ironies. There’s the fact of that black guy dressed as Aaron Burr from the big Broadway hit “Hamilton,” for one thing, because it’s an all-black-and-Latino cast celebrating in hip-hop fashion the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, which is so rich by itself. Hamilton remains the most controversial of the founding fathers, and the one slated to be expelled from the currency instead of the slave-holding and Indian-slaying but Democrat-party-founding Andrew Jackson, because he was the foremost founding father of America as a capitalist country and the only one who would inarguably be a Republican today, but he was also an illegitimate sire of a Caribbean family and a New York City urbanite and ardent abolitionist who envisioned a nation of similar strivers who wound up dying in a duel over a “dis,” so he’s actually a pretty likely hero for a hip-hop Broadway hit. We don’t even mind that some reportedly talented people of color have culturally appropriated this dead white male, and we suspect that Hamilton also wouldn’t mind, but we’ll resent on Hamilton’s behalf that he was somehow involved in this awful skit.
Neither Clinton nor DeBlasio exhibit any timing, and the presumably talented “Hamilton” star’s lines are clearly thrown off, and the part where he says he’s not comfortable with the whole “C.P. Time” thing hang more portentously than the punchline can stave off, and the funniest part is that both Clinton and DeBlasio are being criticized by even their most adoring press. DeBlasio might have thought he was immune by virtue of a black wife and half-black afro-wearing and fist-raising son, and Clinton might have thought she was immune by virtue of being the oft-betrayed wife of the first First Black President and the long presumed First Woman President, but they’re both still white and stuck with the comedic limitations.
Our own ventures on the amateur stage often entail some slightly uncomfortable humor about America’s convoluted race relations, and last year we had to refuse a local celebrity guest’s interest in a role because she was uncomfortable with a gag about a Starbucks barista telling a middle-aged white guy to “check his white privilege” and him responding that he hadn’t been laid in months, and challenging her to find a brother who would do the same thing, which got a big but obviously nervous laugh from our mostly liberal audience, but then again we’re not running for president as Democrats. If we were running for president as Democrats we’d know better than to frankly acknowledge such nervous understandings, and stick with a humorless scolding of any frank acknowledgements any Republican might make.

— Bud Norman


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