Obama impersonator Reggie Brown was the entertainment at the Republican Leadership Conference meeting on Saturday. At least, he was the entertainment until he got the hook. He was right in the middle of a joke about Michele Bachmann when the music went up and he was escorted off the stage.
Why was Mr. Brown’s performance cut short? According to RLC president Charlie Davis, it was due to some racially tinged material at the beginning of the comedian’s set.
“We have zero tolerance for racially insensitive jokes. As soon as I realized what was going on I rushed backstage and had him pulled,” said Mr. Davis Monday in a statement about the incident.
Brown himself has a different story. He believes he was running a bit long – and that the conference organizers may have been miffed that he was jabbing at Republican presidential candidates as well as Obama.
“I do believe that I was over my time by a few minutes, and I also believe that the material was starting to get to a point to where maybe they started to feel uncomfortable with where it was going,” said Brown Monday on CNN.
We won’t adjudicate this argument ourselves. Was it racially insensitive for Brown – posing as Obama – to joke that Michelle Obama celebrates all of Black History Month, while he only celebrates half? (Both Michelle’s parents are African-American, while he is the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother).
It might just be that the RLC did not want to give Democrats any reason to complain that the group is tinged with racism. As comedian Jon Stewart pointed out during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” that’s a charge with which conservatives are often battered, fairly or not.
“People on the right are called ‘racist’ and other things with an ease I am uncomfortable with.... That’s something I think they have a real right to be angry about,” said the Comedy Central star during an otherwise combative interview with Fox host Chris Wallace.
On the other hand, as Brown himself admits, he’d rambled on for about 15 minutes – and he had just gotten into a portion of his performance that was pretty tough on Republicans.
He’d made a joke about Mitt Romney possibly having multiple First Ladies, due to his Mormon faith. He’d said Tim Pawlenty was off having his foot removed from his mouth, but not to worry – it was covered under “ObamneyCare.” As to Congresswoman Bachmann, the Obama impersonator said ... well, we don’t know, because at that moment a smiling gent appeared on stage and whisked him away.
However, after looking at all the evidence available to this point, we do have this to ask of the conference organizers: What were they thinking when they booked this guy?
That’s not a comment as to the humor or perceived lack thereof of Brown’s performance. It’s a reference to the fact that if you’re running a political gathering you better make darn sure of what kinds of jokes you’re getting. Look at it this way – if you’re putting together a Red Sox fan banquet, you know attendees want to laugh at jokes about Derek Jeter, not David Ortiz.
And it’s clear from his website that if you hire Reggie Brown you’re not going to be able to predict where the jokes are going. He’s bipartisan in the sense that he’s an equal opportunity offender. Kind of like Stephen Colbert, who in his infamous 2006 appearance at the White House Correspondents Association dinner ripped everybody, including the reporters in his audience.
Brown’s highlight tape includes a joke about how Sarah Palin helped him get elected in 2008. It includes a long riff that involves Arizona’s immigration law, police harassment, and Sen. John McCain. We won’t even get into the one whose punch line includes the words “Lindsey Lohan” and “sobriety.”
Brown promises his performance “will be something your audience will never forget.” Looks like that point was dead on.