The difference between Paper Tiger and Sticks and Stones is that Chappelle's content actually has bite. Burr's material, on the other hand, feels toothless.
No doubt about it, Bill Burr is a very talented comedian.
Burr knows how to set up a joke and land a punchline. He knows how to shift a story to keep a joke running. And when an audience member heckles him, he knows how to shut them down. Love it or hate it, Bill Burr's new Netflix special, Paper Tiger, is certainly a well-crafted hour of stand-up comedy. But is well-crafted comedy necessarily funny? That's debatable.
Burr's title, Paper Tiger, refers to something that appears powerful or threatening but in reality is fragile and weak. Within the context of Burr's special, it holds two potential meanings: The phrase could either refer to Burr's role as an "angry" comedian whose jokes don't actually hold any real-world import or to the primary target of this special's ire––"PC culture" and the white women (and emasculated men) who Burr accuses of fueling it.
Inevitably, Burr's special will be compared to Dave Chappelle's incredibly controversial Sticks and Stones, which aired on Netflix just a few weeks prior and also largely revolved around confronting PC culture. Like Chappelle's special, Paper Tiger will almost definitely receive some degree of outrage over its subject matter. Or, at least that's what Netflix wants you to think. After all, controversy generates impressions.
Bill Burr: Paper Tiger | Official Trailer | Netflix www.youtube.com
Except, the difference between Paper Tiger and Sticks and Stones is that Dave Chappelle's content actually has bite. Burr's material, on the other hand, feels toothless. And while that might be the entire goal of a stand-up special titled "Paper Tiger," it doesn't exactly make for vibrant comedy. That's not to say Burr's jokes aren't funny. I laughed a number of times during his special. But none of it was particularly memorable, either.
Before going further, I want to make one thing crystal clear. Comedians should never be "canceled" over the jokes in their sets. For comedy to function as an art form, the stage needs to function almost like a "safe space" of sorts. Great comedy often pushes societal boundaries, and considering how intertwined comedy is with the social climate in which it exists, some jokes will age incredibly poorly (assuming they don't arrive stillborn in the first place). With that being said, comedy is always subject to criticism. A joke being "just a joke" does not make it immune from commentary, discussion, and judgment. If anything, good comedy should provoke thought.
Thought-provoking comedy is an area where Dave Chappelle has always thrived. Even when he's absolutely, 100% punching down, as he does multiple times in Sticks and Stones, his comedy always feels like it's wrestling with ideas and social structures that go beyond just a simple punchline. His impression bit wherein he fakes out the audience and rails against them for holding anything anyone ever does against them (leading into a defense of Michael Jackson, even if he did molest kids) was brilliant, holding up a mirror to the audience to force them to contemplate where their sentiments fall.
Dave Chappelle's Impressions Are Insanely Accurate | Netflix Is A Joke www.youtube.com
And yes, people still have every right to be offended by and critique the jokes for which he punches down. One might even argue that the thought-provoking nature of Chappelle's work makes his "problematic" jokes all the more impactful, as they're clearly more than simple observation––Chappelle has thought things through, and that's where he landed.
Burr spends a lot of time in his set punching down, too, but while a number of his jokes might induce laughter, they all seem geared towards a very specific boomer mentality––one wherein white women who care about social issues are big hypocrites, guys who care about those same things are big p*ssies who just want to get laid, and deep down, nobody actually cares about anything, no matter what they say. It's the same sentiment you can find all over boomer Facebook, albeit in neater, funnier, less word salad-y packaging. But Burr never goes much deeper than that.
At times, he gets close. One particularly stand out bit sees Burr arguing with his wife about whether or not Elvis appropriated black culture. His wife is black, and their perspectives clash. He concedes points––indeed, she's right, Elvis did take influence from black artists who never received anything close to the credit he did––but ultimately concludes that those black artists must have appropriated their stuff from someone else. Right? The joke could have done something transcendent, toeing the line of a white perspective against a black perspective and ending with an epiphany. Instead, Burr reaffirms the status quo and the joke lands flat.
Unfortunately, a lot of Burr's material doesn't even make it that far, oftentimes teetering on hackey lines of comedy that were done to death by the late '90s, akin to "men are like this, women are like this." For instance, Burr does a bit about how men wouldn't need women if there were sex robots, which I'm fairly certain I saw summarized in a poorly photoshopped Facebook meme over a decade ago. But Burr's delivery was good, so I laughed. The joke was still lazy.
Part of the issue might come down to Burr's ideology surrounding comedy. Whereas Chappelle has built his career around satirizing social institutions, Burr strongly believes that comedy doesn't actually matter. He's wrong. Great comedians influence thought. I can't even count the number of times I've been talking about an issue with someone and they've quoted a comedian on the topic––usually George Carlin or Dave Chappelle or Louis C.K. (at least before he was canceled).
That's because, a lot of the time, comedians put people's dissonant thoughts and feelings into words. Oftentimes, putting something into words cements it as an idea, and comedians spread ideas just as well as the best writers. If comedy doesn't matter, then nothing matters. And if "nothing matters" is Burr's comedic thesis, then maybe it's no wonder that Paper Tiger is largely void of substance.
- Bill Burr: Paper Tiger | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube ›
- Tuesday's Best TV: 'Bill Burr: Paper Tiger' comes to Netflix - The ... ›
- Bill Burr: Paper Tiger (2019) - Rotten Tomatoes ›
- Bill Burr on Twitter: "Paper Tiger premieres September 10th on ... ›
- Why Bill Burr Changed His 'Paper Tiger' Closer Just Before Taping ›
- Review: Bill Burr 'Paper Tiger' Netflix Comedy Special ›
- Bill Burr 'Paper Tiger' Netflix Special Premiere Date ›
- Bill Burr: Paper Tiger (2019) - IMDb ›
- The most outrageous jokes from Bill Burr's Paper Tiger comedy ... ›
- Bill Burr: Paper Tiger | Netflix Official Site ›
Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.