Elon James White
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Elon James White

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
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No one would dispute that HBO’s Def Comedy Jam ushered in a golden era for African-American comedy, helping launch Dave Chappelle, Chris Tucker and Bernie Mac, among others. But the Russell Simmons–produced showcase (which aired from 1992 to 1997, and was revived in 2006) also created a prototype for what audiences expected black comics to be: raunchy and in-your-face, yet not so left-of-center or conservative as to come across as weird or “white.”

Consider this weekend’s Black Comedy Experiment, a three-day showcase of diverse and eccentric humorists at the Tank in Tribeca, an antidote to a decade and a half of DCJ conditioning. In addition to Souled Out, a collective of clean-language NYC stand-up vets who initially bonded over their outcast status during the original DCJ era, performers include Onion editor and political satirist Baratunde Thurston, and Desiree Burch, an alt-comedy diva best known locally as the host of Galapagos’s dirty-lit reading series, Smut. Queer comics Keith Price and Robin Cloud bring provocative solo shows entitled Ebony Chunky Love Part 2: Heartaches and Hard-Ons and Bag of Bitches, respectively. “The diversity within the black community got glossed over [during the DCJ era] because everything was supposed to be all hard and urban,” says Souled Out’s Leighann Lord. “Richard Pryor was great, but there’s also Bill Cosby and Flip Wilson.”

Created and programmed by Bed-Stuy’s Elon James White, the Black Comedy Experiment is an outgrowth of the Black Comedy Project, a web forum White and fellow comic Baron Vaughn established last year. “I used to catch flak from people saying, ‘Oh you’re just kinda black,’ and I didn’t understand it, [but] then I’d talk to other comics like Baron and he’d say, ‘I get the same thing,’?” says White, who also founded Shades of Black, a traveling, Brooklyn-based showcase with a similar mission. “People [talked] about it after a show, but no one was putting it out there. So we decided to create something that would start a discussion among comics nationwide, and then see what’s the next step.”

When the opportunity came to bring that next step—this week’s showcase—to fruition, White (whose Web address is elonjamesisnotwhite.com) didn’t have to look far: Many acts he wanted to highlight were already posting commentary to the Black Comedy Project site.

While White and Vaughn say the response to the Black Comedy Project has been overwhelmingly positive, their movement hasn’t been without detractors. “Certain black comics have suggested we’re doing this to create our own hype because we’re not funny and can’t own up to it,” laughs Vaughn, a Shades of Black regular who debuts his one-man show Mystery Up at Negro Creek Saturday.

White is quick to explain that he means to provide an alternative to the brand of comedy put forth on DCJ and BET, not a condemnation of it. “It’s not like, ‘Eww, I wouldn’t do Def Jam’—all of us would do it in a heartbeat,” White says. “Why wouldn’t you? It was great—so many faces you’d have never known about were suddenly in America’s homes. What we’re saying is, ‘Why can’t there also be such a thing as a black Andy Kaufman?’ - Time Out New York


More than just a funny comedian, Elon James White (myspace) is becoming a notable force for his efforts to introduce new audiences to the sometimes overlooked diversity of talent within the world of black comedians. In other words, there’s more to black comedy than you might think by watching Def Comedy Jam. By creating The Black Comedy Project with comedian Baron Vaughn, White has helped cultivate an expanding community of artists who might be classified as Black-Alt comedians, for lack of a better term. At the end of the month, White will gather some of most innovative performers in New York for the first ever Black Comedy Experiment festival, which runs from February 28th to March 1st. The three day marathon (it’s a leap year) features an intriguing lineup of stand up, sketch comedy and solo shows, all gathered under one roof at the The Tank (Collective: Unconscious) in Tribeca. Tickets.

What are some of the more subtle racist tendencies or behavior that you’ve noticed in Americans today? Oh, the BEST is Alcoholic Racism. That's when my various white friends say racist things without knowing they're racist. I was at a wedding and they were playing Journey and one guy comes up to me and was like "Bet you didn't think you'd be somewhere listening to this huh? Don't they have a REMIX or something?"

Because we black people LOVE our Remixes.

I'm not saying other races don't do it. But normally non-white racism is always something awesome about us. This Asian guy saw a group of friends and I and just started yelling "Why are you guys just standing there, you're black! All these women want--er--YOU KNOW. COME ON MAN YOU'RE BLACK!" Which is equally racist as the first comment, but acceptable. Black people don't suffer from Alcoholic racism. We've come to terms with our racism and live with it. We just let it out when it comes. No build up for us!

Are there any topics you consider off-limits in with your act? No. Off-Limits means that you're actually putting limits on yourself. If I have thoughts about it, I'll write a joke about it.

Your website is Elon James is Not White. Does race influence your work more than a white comedian’s ethnicity influences his or her work? Well the website was named that simply because I have a Hebrew first name and the last name White. I used to go on job interviews and just confuse the the hell out of the employer. "Um...Elon White? Are you sure?"

As for my race affecting my act, it probably does. My race affects my daily interaction with most people. It’s why race humor is so funny. Its’ a constant tension that's almost always around. One time my co-worker said she had to come up with a nickname for me. I told her why not just "Minority #1" (I was a bit 'exotic' there) and she laughed for 10 minutes. It's something that you're not supposed to talk about but everyone knows it. I used to shy away from race humor until after every show I'd hear "I didn't expect that from a black comic" Even if I didn't point it out, its there. Every word I say is laced with racial innuendo. Like watch this. "Bread-stick" See. You know what you were thinking. Come on. Admit it. Now watch this. "Black Cock" See! It's just there all the time.


What is the Black Comedy Experiment festival? There are festivals but not like this. I have an agenda. This isn't just "Get black comedians together and yuk it up." I'm trying to change a misconception. I'm booking acts to specifically dispel the notion that you can just say "black comedian" and know what you're getting. Are there aspects of black comedy that I'm not promoting? Yes, indeed. But that's simply because they don't need promotions. They are the general definition of black comedy. I'm not trying to get rid of the other styles, but create a broader base for people to judge upon. It's like affirmative action for the discriminated styles of Black Comedy.

So what inspired you to organize this? I got into arguments with other comedians. "The reason why black comedy is this way is because there aren't places that allow for growth!" Fine. I'll concede to that idea. But instead of sitting back and continuing the status quo, or praying that there's a way to break through the cracks of the mainstream rooms, I'll open new doors. Make enough of a fuss that people have to go "Well what the heck is he so excited about?" And one day people will laugh at the time when it was popularly misunderstood that black comedians all came in one flavor.

Are you anti-Def Comedy Jam? No. What I am is anti-ghetto. I'm not for the pure negativity that some comedians base their entire acts on. Def Comedy Jam was great. But it turned into something else. It doesn't seem to promote an even-keeled perspective of black life and thought. But I just saw an episode with Patrice O'Neal and 2 other comedians on that same episode that I thought were great. Kyle Grooms and Roy Wood Jr. were both on and they are what I'm talking about when I say outside the box.

- Gothamist.com


After eight years of easy laughs at the expense of a bumbling President Bush, now the joke is on Barack Obama.

Comedy writers began a liberal new era of laughs this week, as they tried their best to lampoon a much harder target in the good-looking, smooth-talking, gaffe-free president-elect.

Comedy Central's "South Park" did turn out an election-themed episode on Wednesday.

The cartoon show took it relatively easy on Obama, putting him in a fantastic plot in which his election is a ruse so that he can team up with John McCain and Sarah Palin in a scheme to steal the Hope Diamond in Washington.

The kid-glove treatment shows how hard it will be to take on Obama.

"White comics will be nervous because they don't want to seem racist," said comic Elon James White, who produces a weekly Internet show, "This Week in Blackness."

"I think that black comics will have to lead the way."

One black comic who is not waiting to lay into Obama is Comedy Central's David Alan Grier, whose show "Chocolate News" is poised to be to the Obama administration what "The Daily Show" was to the Bush years.

In a post-election monologue about "advice" to Obama, Grier warned that the new president should "Ignore those parts of your black half that, oh, I don't know, may make you want to smoke crack with a hooker in a DC motel." The show then flashed a picture of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry.

Grier then said "While you're at it, ignore those parts of your white half that may make you want to lie to the country to start a war . . . or use a fat white girl . . . as a cigar holder."

The Onion posted a Web video about aimless Obama supporters realizing they are "insufferably annoying" maniacs who now have nothing in their lives. - The New York Post


The minds behind “Stuff White People Like” and “This Week in Blackness,” entertained a packed Great Hall with their comedic ways, including a full-length rap on brunch and readings on the social value of scarves and being friends with black people.
The speakers of the self-proclaimed “Post-Racial Comedy Tour,” Christian Lander and Elon James White combined their disparaging humor with a serious emphasis on the state of race in America.
White, a comedian from Brooklyn whose blog “This Week in Blackness” explores the perceptions of blacks by society, opened the event.
White compared the level of fantasy in gangster rap to Harry Potter novels while pointing out serious flaws with the attitudes that are prevalent in a country that claims to be post-racial due to the election of a black president.
He debunked a popular claim of those trying to be politically correct —“I don’t see color” — by stating the issue is not with seeing the color.
“The problem is not that you see color, but the thought you get after you see it,” White said.
He asserted that “racism cannot be overcome in a moment,” in reference to the election of Barack Obama, despite contrary claims by the media post-election.
Lander spoke less about race and more on the process of becoming a published writer. He turned his blog into a New York Times bestselling book.
He detailed his own meteoric rise from obscurity to Internet fame in the span of two months. He said his blog’s first views were people searching for “organic fair-trade coffee.” “Stuff White People Like” soon evolved into a blog with more than 60 million views, which led to the book deal.
He credited his rise to his honest writing and a simple, relatable concept.
While his emphasis was on his own rise to fame, he still found time to address race. He said that many of the traits that he documented in his blog were the result of “white privilege.”
He said many people are free to pursue their trendy lifestyles because they are free from having to provide for themselves.
Both writers addressed the volume of criticism they receive for their supposed racism, which both wrote off as ignorance and a failure to understand their intentions.
The speakers closed with the epistle to “confront race head-on and to simply discuss it.”
The pair were crowd-pleasers.
“Awesome, because you attack serious issues through humor and you can say things that you wouldn’t normally say,” said Katelyn DeBerardinis, a sociology and women’s studies major, of the event.
- The Daily Tar Heel, February 10, 2010, By Kyle Olson


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Bio

Comedian and Host of This Week in Blackness
Elon James White is a Brooklyn-based comedian, writer and host of the popular web series This Week in Blackness, a satirical look at race, politics and pop-culture in a so-called “post-racial” America. White has been a featured commentator on VH1's Black to the Future and The Great Debate. His commentary on race and politics has been featured on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Root.

Praised as "the perfect comedian for the Obama era, talking race while exploding racial stereotypes" by Dr. Harris-Lacewell of Princeton on Politco.com and as "precise, thought provoking and hilarious" by Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, White continues to win accolades from critics, academia, and audiences alike.

Elon James White has been featured in the New York Observer, New York Post, Gothamist, Newsweek, and Gawker and has appeared on ComedyCentral.com and Sirius Satellite Radio. White’s live stand up appearances include the DC Comedy Festival, the NY Underground Festival, and New York University. He is currently developing his one man show, A Terrible Setback, and is bringing This Week in Blackness to larger audiences via his rampant Twitter addiction.