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Maybe Cedric Richmond Shouldn’t Have Crawfished Out of That Comedy Open Mic Spot

Full disclosure: I’ve never been accused of being a great stand-up comedian. As my co-host Sunny Weathers said in a recent episode of The Red Shtick Podcast, the only time I killed in front of a room of people was in the Pearl Jam song “Jeremy.”

Nevertheless, as mediocre as I may have been during my much-too-long five-year stand-up career, I’m fairly confident my jokes weren’t nearly as awful as what Congressman Cedric Richmond is peddling as humor.

Like a lot of people, Richmond decided to get his two cents in on a picture showing President Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office during a presidential photo op with dozens of leaders from historically black universities and colleges.

For the record, I decided to steer clear of commenting on the matter. I didn’t think it would be constructive to get into a discussion about women kneeling in the Oval Office.

I’d criticize Richmond’s joke structure, but it wasn’t really a joke. Nor did it have any structure. It was more like a blob of words I assume he just assumed people would find amusing.

Richmond, on the other hand, offered his take at the annual Washington Press Club Foundation’s congressional dinner last week. The New Orleans Democrat and recently elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus served up what I assume is his “A” material after an earlier speaker referenced the photo.

“I really just want to know what was going on there, because, you know, I won’t tell anybody. And you can just explain to me that … that circumstance, because she really looked kind of familiar, uh, in that position there. But don’t answer. And I don’t want you to refer back to the ’90s,” Richmond said, employing a word economy that would make Steven Wright jealous.

Many people — including fellow Democrats like Chelsea Clinton and Gov. John Bel Edwards — took offense at the remarkably clumsy joke (???) for its sexual innuendo. Claiming it’s sexist and demeaning to women, they, along with numerous Republicans, called on Richmond to apologize for his comments.

As a recovering shitty comic, I think he should apologize for trying to pass that off as comedy. It’s one thing for your material to be of a crude nature. It’s another thing entirely for your delivery and timing to be crude, as in unprepared and unpolished.

In all honesty, before I started telling subpar jokes on our podcast that’s listened to by untold dozens of people, I delivered my fair share of cringe-worthy material on local stages in front of relatively laugh-free audiences. Then again, the biggest audience I ever got was on our short-lived Red Stick Comedy Block show on the old local UPN affiliate on Saturday nights at 10:30. Our target demographic was people who were too high to change the channel to Saturday Night Live.

Unlike Cedric the Untertainer, I never was booked to perform a set on the Comedy Central of D.C. (CSPAN2). The people tuning in to that channel are in desperate need of comic relief, so if you’re going to tell a joke about a woman kneeling in the Oval Office on the “Twin SPAN” (trademarked), you better bring it. Don’t offer up any of that weak-ass shit.

The next day, after executing the worst bombing in D.C. since the pilot episode of Designated Survivor, Richmond released a statement in which he refused to apologize.

I’d criticize Richmond’s joke structure, but it wasn’t really a joke. Nor did it have any structure. It was more like a blob of words I assume he just assumed people would find amusing.

The next day, after executing the worst bombing in D.C. since the pilot episode of Designated Survivor, Richmond released a statement in which he refused to apologize.

Normally, I tend to support people who refuse to apologize for their comedy, as long as it’s at least moderately funny and well-thought-out. However, Richmond’s attempt at humor didn’t come close to meeting that standard.

Plus, in his statement, he did something that comedians detest even more than seeing another comic apologize for his routine: He tried to explain the joke. And not only that, but in his lame attempt to explain the joke, he tried to “clarify” that he didn’t really mean what he was obviously insinuating:

Since some people have interpreted my joke to mean something that it didn’t I think it is important to clarify what I meant. Last night was a night of levity. Where I grew up saying that someone is looking or acting “familiar” simply means that they are behaving too comfortably.

I decided to use that joke due to the large social media backlash over her inappropriate posture considering there were more than 60 HBCU Presidents in the room.

Bull. Shit. Absolute bullshit. What, insulting our comedic sensibilities wasn’t bad enough, so he decided to insult our intelligence, too?

Then, to thoroughly complete the job of stepping on his dick, Richmond eventually did issue an apology … four days later.

After a discussion with people I know and trust I understand the way my remarks have been received by many. I have consistently been a champion for women and women’s issues, and because of that the last thing I would want to ever do is utter words that would hurt or demean them. I apologize to Kellyanne Conway and everyone who has found my comments to be offensive.

So just to recap: Richmond insinuated Kellyanne Conway is a slut in an ill-prepared joke delivered very sloppily on national TV, initially refused to apologize, claimed he wasn’t insinuating she’s a slut, then apologized over half a week later while insisting he’s a “champion for women and women’s issues.”

Bitch, please.

Richmond has had opportunity to hone his extremely rough comedic edges, but decided not to.

And you want to know the most infuriating part about all this? It’s the fact that Richmond has had opportunity to hone his extremely rough comedic edges — in a much more low-key setting, in front of a rather forgiving audience, and surrounded with seasoned comedians who could offer him pointers — but decided not to.

Back in 2004, I was producing a weekly comedy open mic show at what was then Richoux’s (now Raising Cane’s) in downtown Baton Rouge. Braggadocio risk notwithstanding, it was a solid, well-attended show in a room that, over a decade later, is still looked back at fondly by many who performed there. A number of folks who did stand-up at Richoux’s have gone on to enjoy success as professional comics today.

In other words, it wasn’t some little rinky-dink open mic.

Pete Richoux’s place also happened to be a popular watering hole for folks who worked at the State Capitol, including lobbyists and lawmakers during legislative sessions. While most of them would leave by the time we started at 8 p.m. on Wednesday nights, a few would occasionally linger in the back at the bar or go sit and chat in the dormant restaurant portion of the building just beyond the bar.

On one Wednesday night when I was hosting the show, I received word that then-state Rep. Don Cazayoux was in the shuttered restaurant section and wanted to see me. Don’s a close friend of my in-laws with whom I always enjoy talking politics. And since it was the middle of a session, after introducing one of the acts, I went back there in hopes of maybe getting a quick low-down on what was happening at the Capitol.

The now-former U.S. attorney was sitting at a table, enjoying a beverage with then-state Rep. Cedric Richmond. Don introduced us and asked me if his fellow Democratic legislator could be part of the show, insisting Richmond’s “really funny.”

I’ll have to remind Don about that recently debunked endorsement next time I see him.

I proceeded to explain that the list of comics, who signed up earlier in the evening, was full, and that we capped the show at about 15 performers to avoid fatiguing the audience. The now last two Democrats to be elected to Congress from the state of Louisiana then took on the role of lobbyist in trying to get me to bend the show’s rules and let Richmond have five minutes on stage to do stand-up.

While I didn’t relent, I did promise that if a spot somehow opened up, he’d have dibs on the vacancy.

Sure enough, not 20 minutes later, one of the guys set to perform had to leave for a family emergency. So I immediately went back to the pair and told Richmond he was in luck as a spot had indeed opened up.

This mofo literally begged me for an open mic spot, and when I offered him one, he couldn’t turn it down fast enough. I know damn well he didn’t sober up in 20 minutes.

To this day, I wish I had a video of the pathetic stammering, stuttering, and string of “wells,” “uhs,” and “ums” that flowed from Richmond’s mouth. Webster’s really should put a picture of Richmond next to the word “crawfish.”

This mofo literally begged me for an open mic spot, and when I offered him one, he couldn’t turn it down fast enough. I know damn well he didn’t sober up in 20 minutes.

So when the comic onstage wrapped up his set, I went up to introduce the next performer. But before I did, I told the crowd about my interactions with Richmond that evening and observed, “Just like a politician: talks real big, but when it comes time to deliver, he’s nowhere to be found.”

In the 13 years since that evening, I’m certain Richmond has passed on taking advantage of literally hundreds of chances to work on his material and delivery at several well-run open mics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. They’re in or near his district. It’s not like he has far to go to get to them. And even if he totally bombed, I’m pretty sure the audiences would still be way more friendly than anything the Republicans are currently being greeted with at their town hall meetings.

In contrast to Richmond’s sorry-ass excuse of a joke last week, Republican Sen. Tim Scott, of South Carolina, delivered an actually funny, well-written joke about the Conway photo earlier in the evening.

“Has anyone seen the controversy around Kellyanne Conway and a couch in the Oval Office?” he asked. “Come on, people. You remember the ’90s. That couch has had a whole lot worse things.”

See, there’s a guy who either understands the basic rules of joke writing or is smart enough to hire someone who does.

Incidentally, a video cropped up earlier this year showing Conway doing stand-up in the late ’90s. Sure, it was an absolutely atrocious 11 minutes of mostly cringe-worthy political insider jokes capped with an awkward jazz number, but you know what? She actually had the balls to get onstage and do stand-up, and as much as I dislike Kellyanne Conway, that’s more than I can say for Cedric Richmond.

 

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About Jeremy White

Jeremy White
Jeremy White is an engineer by education, but a smartass by birth. He managed to overcome the obstacles presented by his technical background, and has brilliantly devised a way to make a living making fun of people.

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