Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Current and Former Black Employees at Comedy Central are Not Laughing

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*Many Black employees – both former and current – have accused Comedy Central of using them in racially degrading ways, in attempts to make the cable channel appear to be more diverse and inclusive of African American workers.

In many cases, the Black former and current employees were forced to attend meetings as props, when most attendees were white colleagues or white executives.  In an interview with Business Insider, many of the African American employees spoke out against Comedy Central but wanted to stay anonymous for fear of long-term professional repercussions.

Interestingly, for more than three decades, Comedy Central has been known for pushing the comedic boundaries with shows such as “South Park,” “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” and “Inside Amy Schumer.”  Comedy Central really pushed the envelope on “South Park” in 2007, when the episode, “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson” used the N-word 42 times.  The episode was hailed as a teaching moment for viewers and received praise from activists with the NAACP.

Even when Comedy Central aired controversial and widely watched shows like “Chappelle’s Show” and “Reno 911,” there was “an appeal rooted in unfiltered tones, which was paired with a racially diverse cast of comedians.”

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Despite the network’s progressive content, former and current Black employees from the network’s creative team told Business Insider that Comedy Central’s culture was not without discriminatory behavior.  Business Insider reported that top creative executives at the New York headquarters sometimes tokenized employees of color and fostered a culture rampant with microaggressions. Of the 17 past and current employees that Business Insider spoke to, 15 said they either witnessed or experienced inappropriate behavior that they believed was influenced by their colleagues’ race.

In late 2018, a Black project manager was meeting with the senior VP and another white employee about the show “South Side,” which stars two Black comedians.

“They were talking about flying out to the pitch in LA and who’s going to go,” she said. The senior VP insisted that the white designer who was assigned to the project shouldn’t go “because then it will just be a room full of white people,” the ex-manager recalled.

The senior VP proceeded to suggest that a Black writer who neither was assigned to the project nor had any design experience be sent in the white designer’s place

“There is a toxic family environment there,” one former project manager said, “where people can act out of line, be disrespectful, and do racist things, but still be protected.”

In a statement to Business Insider, a Comedy Central representative said: “We take these allegations very seriously and are investigating them. Our commitment is to ensure an inclusive, respectful and supportive work environment for all employees.”

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