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Friday, January 5, 2018

Black Face Comedian Has Twitter Screaming

Okay, maybe the headline is a tad misleading, but a New Year's eve television show in Japan showed yet another comedian donning black face paint to portray himself as a Black person, which has everybody screaming racism.

In this case, the comedian was Hamada Masatoshi (above and on the left), who performed a filmed skit of him on a Japanese train on the show - a prank show called Gaki no Tsukai.

While yes, Black Face comedy is racist, I'm unsure if visually this one was.

Usually a Black Face is someone done up to exaggerate stereotypical features of Blacks... to paint the lips in such a way as to exaggerate them - implying that Blacks have huge lips, or big afros or have a bone stuck through their hair...

In this case, the character is meant to represent Eddie Murphy, and it is done without gross-exaggeration. The clothing seems good. The hair isn't over the top.

All is done is adding "color" to make the pale Japanese comedian look like the Black character of Axel Foley from Beverly Hills Cop.


I'm not going to lie, the Black Face comedy is about the lowest form of comedy there is. It is racist.

Having said that, I have heard many famous and popular comedians use race as the basis of their comedy, including Canadian (family from India) comedian Russell Peters... and to be honest, his stuff makes me cringe... even when he is making fun of other Indians.

For me, it's like - is that all you can do... make us laugh at racial stereotypes? 

I don't know the gist of the Japanese comedy skit (other than it was a Beverly Hills Cop rip), but while the whole skit was done to make fun of Black people on the train by gauging the reactions of the Japanese, the make-up done on this case was to make the Japanese comedian look as realistic as possible without demeaning Blacks as a physical stereotype.

The skit does make Blacks look "silly", but I do not think the make-up goes over to the extreme.

Perhaps what they could have done, was actually get one of their "talento" who is Black to perform the skit, rather than have a Japanese comedian don black face paint to pretend to be Black.

If that's what the hub-bub is about, then fine... naughty Japan... but if it was the way that Blacks were physically portrayed (via make-up) then, the Japanese didn't make them look bad... they only made them look bad in the skit through actions.

But yeah... they should have got a Black actor. That would have removed any chance of racial stigma.

It's like a Black person can call another person a "nigger", but no one else should, because then it's racist. For those that use that term, it's a way for Blacks to reclaim the word. For homosexuals, calling each other a "Fag" also removes the stigma of the term.

I'm not sure I agree with the way the words are being reclaimed, but I'm not doing the reclaiming and don't use the words anyhow. I do use them here, but not as part of a racist diatribe.

I should note that the Japanese skit did not use the word(s) either.

The skit involved a Beverley Hills Cop farce... which also underlies Japan's lack of performing current comedy... holy crap... that movie was 34 years ago! Surely they could have made light of a more recent comedy that people might actually know.

I haven't watched that movie in 30 years because... in my mind it has a due date of expiration... unlike say Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Miss Congeniality, A Knight's Tale, The Wizard of Oz, etc. I'm watching A Knight's Tale now (along with the first Kung Fu Panda - I have ecliptic tastes).

Yes... they should have got a Black actor who speaks Japanese... there are plenty of them, I am sure.

Just the act of donning Black face paint, however, is what has upset the non-Japanese... as the Japanese themselves do not appear to find anything wrong with their actions.

Japan has long had a sad history of depicting Black performers by donning black face paint... a comedic style that has gone the way of the dodo since Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor donned the face paint, with Jolson making a career out of it doing such hit minstrel songs as Mammy. I even have a 4-record set of 78s of Al Jolson. The music was good, but the stage show was ugly in my then 1970s mind. I found the record collection in my White father-in-laws place. He was a bit of a racist, but he treated me fine enough - perhaps because I had assimilated and knew more about hockey than he did.

Holy crap... he's wearing white gloves... like Mickey Mouse... he... you don't think that Mickey Mouse is in Black Face do you? No... he's a Black mouse wearing white gloves... but still... add a pair of mouse ears to Jolson...

Inki and the Minah Bird - from Warner Brothers. The cartoons are cute, but dammit that's one racist depiction of Blacks. Still... different era. It's why Jolson, Inki et al aren't part of today's popular culture in North America... heck anywhere.

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, cartoons made light of Blacks with their rendition of Inki, the pygmy warrior, and with Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarves (1943). Coal Black - one of those cartoons forever  banned from television is actually a swinging cartoon full of excellent music, but the stereotype of Coal Black, and the way Blacks were supposed to say the word "seven" is too much for modern television audiences - even in the 1950s. There's even a racist comment in there to the Japanese. The short rendition (no pun intended) of the Black dwarfs singing We're In The Army Now is actuyally quite a poignant statement on the allowance of Blacks in the US military.
Racist in depiction, but dammit the music was great! You can find copies on line by Googling the title.
There's also a cartoon called "You're A Sap. Mr. Jap", a Popeye cartoon that is also banned. Apparently the White North American folk running television back in the 1950s didn't want that racist stuff on TV.

Yes, I have a collection of Black Americana (such as a ViewMaster reel of Little Black Sambo), a bank giveaway of a "piggy bank" statuette showing a Black kid eating a watermelon... all very uncomfortable scenes, but hopefully all part of the past. 

As such, if North American audiences learned that nearly 70 years ago, why haven't Japanese audiences?

Japan regularly uses blonde wigs and large noses when depicting White gaijin, and donning Black Face and an afro for depicting Blacks. Comedy... sure... but when the rest of the world looks upon it and says its distasteful... then it should stop.

I don't think the Japanese are being racist (on purpose), but surely by 2018... they have to realize that the constant negative backlash for performing such stunts is a backlash for a reason.

Let's hope no one in Japan bothers to continue this form of unfunny comedy.

On a side note, it recently came to light that a London, Ontario, Canada police officer Const. Katrina Aarts had her face painted in blackface and dressed up in tribal costume 11 years ago - before she was a police officer.

We're talking 11 years ago, and someone who was going to be a cop... but still... it was 11 years ago. You can read that as sarcasm and pity, or anger that it was still done, regardless of how long ago it was done in the 21st century.

Andrew Joseph


  1. See if you can dig up "Superman vs the Japoteurs" it's as bad as it sounds.

    The Prelinger collection on is a treasure trove of interesting films. Contrast "The Children of Japan" released in early '41 with anything released on Japan after that.

    Another movie closer to the original subject is the US Army training film "A Welcome to Britain" on Youtube. Jump to 25:20 where Burgess Meredith explains that the Brits are not quite as racist a parts of the US.

    We've come a long way with further to go. As for Japan - well one can hope.

    1. Yeah, Pat... I know that Supes cartoon... same with Children of Japan... yeesh. I will check out that Welcome to Britain one... Burgess Meredith??! You ever see any of the non-racist stuff from Dr. Seuss and his part in army training with Private Snafu? It's great!