Justice

5 Times Comedians Nailed The Truth About Police Brutality

Comedy plays a special role in our society. Often, comedians ridicule societal injustices and call out the deep-rooted truths of our nation's decades-long struggle with racism and the history of slavery.

Comedians can ultimately expose and highlight some of the biggest indignities encountered by Americans in mediums from cartoon, to stand-up, to improv. Some of the top artists layer real-life injustices into comedy to inform audiences on their own experiences, or, invite the ones outside their world, in.

We saw this happen at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, after a police officer did a barrel roll there shortly before he slammed a Black teenager in a bikini to the ground. That's when one comic called out the ridiculous moves by modern-day cops—the comic used a comic medium to address stereotypes and the difficulties associated with aggressive policing.

There are many examples of this from Dave Chappelle to Chris Rock (and even South Park). Here are five times comedians nailed the real problems with police brutality and racism in America.

1. Dave Chappelle

 


Comedian Dave Chappelle—known for his Comedy Central sketch hit "Chappelle show"—explained to the Washington Post in June that artists are instrumental in contextualizing what happens in the world, particularly as conversations around race and police brutality grow.

"So Black people are very afraid of the police. That is a big part of our culture. It doesn't matter how rich you are, how old you are, we're just afraid of them. We've got every reason to be afraid of them."

2. Richard Pryor

 

Late comedian Richard Pryor was a comedy legend known for his standup style, on-stage charisma, and also his criticism of police tactics against the Black community years before riots struck in Ferguson or Baltimore. In 1978, Pryor joked about police officers' use of chokeholds—the exact method New York Police officer Daniel Pantaleo used on Eric Garner in July 2014. In the humorous bit, he alludes institutional racism and a larger societal concern.

"Police got a chokehold they use out here though man, they n****** to death. That mean you be dead when they through. Did you know that?"

3. Chris Rock

 


In Chris Rock's hilarious PSA-esque "How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By Police," he delves into the tips on how Black men should behave during traffic stops. His suggestions echo the fears many people of color face while driving or when approached by police. In fact, people of color are at a significantly higher risk of getting pulled over by police than those who are white, according to the National Institute of Justice.

"If you follow these simple pointers you probably won't get your ass kicked by the police."

4. Paul Mooney

 

Paul Mooney's career has spanned decades, touching on subjects ranging from racial inequality, culture, family, and politics. In his 2007 movie "Jesus is Black - So Was Cleopatra - Know Your History," Mooney talks about the frustration of being a Black man during a police encounter, described in his experiences with racial profiling. (You can see the part at 1:03:22).

"'Does the owner of the car know you have it?' I beg your pardon."

5. Katt Williams

 


Katt Williams called police tactics and violence in both a serious and hysterical way in his standup performance for "Priceless: Afterlife" in 2014. He explains how the media contributes to this narrative and conditions people to accept that stereotype.

"The police used to be serve and protect. Used to be, you are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty. Police is on some different shit. They done figured out they can kill your ass today and come up with a different story for the news tomorrow."