Laughter proved to be a valuable learning tool in N*gger, Wetb*ck, Ch*nk, a racially fueled comedy.
Walking into the Howard Gittis Student Center, students were welcomed to three unsettling words: “n*gger,” “wetb*ck” and “ch*nk.” Offended faces and double-takes became a normal site in the atrium.
On Wednesday, Sept. 22, the N.W.C. comedy show was brought to Baptist Temple by Main Campus Program Board. The show was free for Temple students.
Before the performance, the show’s title wasn’t sitting well with many students. MCPB received so many complaints that it was prompted to add the words, “It’s a Comedy,” to the top-right corner of the advertisements around Main Campus to let students know it wasn’t an ethnic attack – despite the sub headline, “A smash comedy with the name nobody wants to say.”
There was talk on campus about whether such a show should be allowed, comedic or not.
“People have stolen our boards and thrown away our boards,” said MCPB On-Campus Events Co-Chair Tania Neptune, a sophomore psychology major.
The actors said Temple wasn’t the first university where students were offended by the show’s title.
“The negative response is always to the title, never to the show,” Rafael Agustin, the show’s writer, said. “When people come out to the show, I think they get it. They get the comedy, they get the message and they get the irony.”
Reactions to the title were not all disapproving. Videos on YouTube and the show’s website allowed students to research the show and find out what it’s about.
“It was a really catchy title, and I had to go check it out because it said ‘It’s a Comedy’ on the side, and it looked pretty funny,” Stephen Negron, a sophomore film major, said.
The diverse crowd that filled Baptist Temple illustrated the curiosity of students who saw the posters around campus.
“Overall I think it was a very important piece to come to Temple because we are billed as the ‘diversity university,’ but we’re diverse in silos because everybody kind of sticks to the group that they feel comfortable with, which oftentimes means it’s homogenous,” said Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, an associate professor of theater history and head of undergraduate advising for the theater department.
Preconceived notions were quickly replaced with roaring laughter. At the show’s closing, a question-and-answer session took place with the actors. Many audience members were intrigued by how the controversially titled comedy came about.
With its autobiographical script, the N.W.C. comedy show incorporated poetry, history and, of course, comedy to make audience members do more than laugh. The show explored stereotypes and offered insight into the way that powerful words can negatively affect people.
Audience members caught a glimpse of the lives of those commonly referred to by the derogatory terms in the show’s title.
“I knew it was going to be controversial,” said Sarah Stoner, a junior business marketing major. “My roommate thought it was going to be racist, so I thought I would check it out. It was a really good show.”
The actors and students who brought the show to campus said it is capable of starting a dialogue among students about the issues that pertain to the pejorative terms of the title.
“Comedy makes it a little bit easier for people to come and see it and at least start up the discussion,” said MCPB On-Campus Events Co-Chair Tiffany Kee, a senior psychology major.
By the end of the N.W.C. comedy show, the audience was able to better understand the show’s simple message: “There is only one race – the human race.”
Danette Coombs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.