Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

On Slate.com :: Randy Newman’s "Korean Parents"

Here’s my piece on Randy Newman’s “Korean Parents” and his new album, Harps & Angels. A teaser…

Post-racial may be the new black, but race humor is as perilous as it ever was. This summer, satirists—from second-time offender Don Imus to The New Yorker’s Barry Blitt—have found being funny on race hard to do. The latest entertainer to step into this spotlight is Randy Newman, whose new album, Harps and Angels, includes an uproarious song titled “Korean Parents.”

The song will probably not prompt boycotts the way Ice Cube’s “Black Korea” did months before the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Nor will it lead to confrontations with activists like those that Sarah Silverman faced in 2000 after telling Conan O’Brien that her friend advised her to avoid jury duty by writing, “I hate Chinks” on her form. She told O’Brien that she wrote, “I love Chinks! And who doesn’t?” If the race dialogue in this country—such as it is—has moved from culture-war rancor to lame meta-satire, perhaps that’s progress. But Newman, with “Korean Parents,” offers a more enjoyable way forward.

He has always shown a particular fondness for picking at the scabs left by America’s ongoing racial unease. Against the backdrop of Nixonland backlash, he devised a carny for 1972′s “Sail Away” who pitched slaves on a free ride across the Middle Passage. “In America you’ll get food to eat, won’t have to run through the jungle and scuff up your feet,” the carny sang. “It’s great to be an American.”

Read it all here

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