Tim Conway Jr and Sheron Bellio were suspended from their radio show following a nearly 5 minute skit where they used an Asian accent to impersonate Yuko Sakomoto, the wife of radio personality Vic “The Brick” Jacobs. IHeartMedia suspended Bellio and Conway after Guy Aoki, a civil rights activist and founding president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, pressured the company. They did issue an apology and promised to come back with “fresh perspective.” Sakamoto told KTLA5 she was “not happy about the skit at all,” but “hopes this can be a teachable moment.
First late me say that I listened to the skit which you can hear here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GMaXdepLqI Comedically it is god awful. I am offended as someone who is a comedian and a radio host. Not because of the accent but because the skit is trite and Ms. Sakomoto is not a public figure as far as I can tell. I’m sure most people listening had no idea who she was and just figured it was a poor attempt at an Asian accent. This skit would not lead me to violence against Asians. It would lead me to violence against Conway Jr. & Bellio for sucking at their job. I have never heard of their show but they are in Los Angeles which is a huge radio market. Is there nobody else available to fill this time slot? Do I think they should be suspended because they did an Asian accent? No. I think they should be fired because they actually thought this was funny. Years ago we did a bit called Arabs on the Arts. It was the three of us talking about entertainment using terrible Arab accents. After a few times we stopped. Not because we were worried about being insensitive but because if you have to rely on a bad accent then at heart the bit is not funny. An accent should enhance a comedy bit not be the whole bit. At some point you need good writing and jokes. Conway and Bellio’s skit lacked in jokes in my opinion.
Let’s talk about accents in comedy. They have been used for years. As I said, we used them for a time on Davin’s Den. Now we are seeing people get in trouble for using them. As we discussed a few weeks ago, some Italians were offended at the Italian accents and stereotypes used in a Saturday Night Live sketch depicting the Mario Brothers video game. I said since Saturday Night Live fired a comedian before he even started for an Asian joke they are showing they are sensitive and woke. That’s fine but you can’t pick and choose which accents are offensive and which ones are acceptable if you are sensitive and woke.
Sensibilities are changing and I am fine with it. On the Simpsons Hank Azaria no longer feels comfortable voicing Apu. Dr. Hibbard will now be voiced by an African American since he is an African American character. I’m fine with it. I don’t need to have a culture a war about accents in comedy. As I said, it is only an enhancement tool. I have seen plenty of comedians get laughs based on the accent of an Indian character saying basically, “Thank you come again.” That never impressed me. Audiences seemed to universally enjoy it. Now it seems more people are turned off by it. Again the comedic use of accents is not a culture war hill I am willing to die on.
That being said, we can’t pick and choose which ethnic accents are ok and which accents are cause to cost somebody their career. Is it ok to do Irish, Australian, Russian, and Italian accents because they are white? The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah routinely does accents on his show including a Russian accent. Is it ok because Trevor is half black? Is it ok because Trevor is a “woke” comedian so he gets a pass?
What are the rules America? You want to be entertained but the rules on how to do it are constantly shifting. We have already established that for some reason comedians are to be held to a higher standard than politicians. The court jester in our country can get exiled because of a joke but the politicians, the ones with real power, can say whatever they want no matter who they offend, with not only no punishment but with people cheering whole heartedly for them.
Let’s just say as a nation you can’t do ethnic accents. Then we will all be on the same playing field. It will also weed out a lot of lazy comedy. Or let’s say these are jokes and we are not trying to hurt anybody with them. There is no malice intended. All accents are allowed and if you are personally offended that is your right but you will gain no traction in trying to cost an entertainer a job because of their attempt at an accent. More and more accents are now deemed offensive so let’s just cut to the chase and put this comedic bit out to pasture with the pie to the face bit because as a society we are not mature enough to handle immature humor.