I’m sure I’ve got the quote wrong, but I believe there’s an episode of the old Mary Tyler Moore show in which Mary is complaining to her boss Lou about her pay. In typical Lou fashion, he tries to reassure her that
“It’s not because you’re not doing a good job. It’s just because you’re a woman.”
I was reminded of this by a story that Bill Dennis and Eugene Volokh are writing about. It’s been reported that Jewish comedian Jackie Mason had local Chicago comic Ray Hanania kicked out as his opening act at Zanie’s comedy club because Hanania is a Palestinian.
There’s some question as to what really happened, but quotes from Mason’s manager don’t sound too good:
“It’s not exactly like he’s just an Arab-American. This guy’s a Palestinian. We were not told about it ahead of time,” said Jyll Rosenfeld, Mason’s manager. “Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him. Right now, it’s a very sensitive thing, it’s just not a good idea.”
“Nothing personal against this fellow,” Rosenfeld said. “Jackie doesn’t even know him.”
Of course, that’s exactly backwards: It’s precisely because this is
“nothing personal” that it is wrong.
If it had been personal, if Mason thought Hanania was humorless or that his style was wrong for opening the show, that would have been a reasonable artistic judgment on the merits. Heck, even if Mason simply didn’t like Ray Hanania, at least he knew the guy before he judged him. People might have called him “childish,” but no one would have called him a racist.
(Wrong already. I’ve softened the original piece slightly to reflect some new information.)
Either the Mason folks are improving their spin technique or this is turning into a non-story. (Not that it was ever much of a story.) Another Chicago Tribune Article makes it sound more like a clash of styles: Hanania, a Palestinian whose wife is Jewish, has obvious opportunities to use the Israel-Palestinian conflict as background for his humor. Mason, on the other hand, (1) doesn’t think the violence and terrorism can be made funny, (2) felt that Hanania’s publicity for the event was further exploiting the conflict, and (3) felt that Hanania wasn’t experienced enough to be his opening act.
It seems that either Jackie Mason and staff made a nuanced artistic decision, or they’ve offered three excuses for the same bad behavior.
I should have known better than to try to talk about showbiz