Biography, Books for the News, Chicago

Tim and Tom on the future of racial humor

Tim and Tom at Black Expo 1970Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen contributed an editorial piece to about the effect of Barack Obama’s election on racial humor—a topic they are well-qualified to address as evidenced by their book Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White. In the editorial they touch on the routines they developed forty years ago, using them to illustrate the “challenge and the opportunity that comedy about race faces today.”

We figured that if we were going to make comedy out of a black man and a white man sharing the same stage, it would have to be equal-opportunity comedy. Race wasn’t the punch line in our routines, it was the vehicle. The aim was to get people to see, and to laugh at, the irony of racial attitudes in America.
And that’s the challenge and the opportunity that comedy about race faces today. The presence of the Obama family in the White House means that it can’t be business as usual any more.
America, black and white, won’t be amused by humor that trades on the old stereotypes of interracial social encounters, impressions and fears. Like it or not, change has come. O.J. is in prison, and a black man is in the White House. Is everybody happy now?

In conjunction with the editorial piece, Reid was interviewed by CNN’s D. L. Hughley. Hughley and Reid engage in a comedian-to-comedian dialogue about the changing attitudes towards racial comedy and why there hasn’t been another interracial stand-up act since Tim and Tom left the stage back in the 70’s.
Since the election Reid and Dreesen have been getting renewed attention. Learn more on the Tim and Tom website and read an excerpt from the book.