Comedy by comedians of colour who attracted white

Comedy is the ‘most popular of all genres in British cinema, sustaining the film industry in time of economic slump in the 1920s and 1970s, and drawing mass audiences when other genres fail’ (Porter and Hunter, 2012: 1). It plays a vital role in British cultural life. It has emerged as ‘booming’ multi-million pound industry and also stands as an important way of understanding British cultural tastes and identities (Logan 2010; Medhurst 2007). In addition, it also represents one of the very few industries to experience significant growth in the event economic downturn (Salter 2009). 
Humour is something socially and historically situated (Abrahams and Dundes, 1969; Weaver, 2010). Jokes may be perceived as funny or unfunny in different contexts and periods. Jokes are polysemic, ambiguous, and elusive (Lockyer and Pickering, 2008).
Racism in comedy is something that has been ongoing for decades now. Boskin and Dorinso (1985) called the pre-civil rights period the ‘humour of accommodation’ (that is, accommodating to white tastes and expectations). They argued that it was during and after the civil rights period that ethnic and racial minorities, openly engaged in anti-racist comedy as a form of resistance to oppression (Weaver, 2010). Sigmund Freud (1856-1938) came up with the relief theory. This theory states that humour functions as a way to release social tensions, break social taboos, and subvert ‘polite realities’ (Attardo, 2000; Billig, 2001; Morreall, 2009; Ritchie, 2005).  Some scholars argue that the racial conflict during the period of the civil rights was softened and relieved by comedians of colour who attracted white audiences as they aimed to challenge racial inequality with their wit (Boskin 1979).
Weaver (2010) helps to distinguish between racist and anti-racist humour. He proposed ‘where humour draws on dichotomous stereotypes of race and/or seeks to inferiorise an ethnic or racial minority, not labelling the humour racist’ as opposed to racial, ‘is a form of ideo- logical denial’. He also suggests that there is an exaggeration of ‘racial’ humour in literature. 
Racism towards black people in particularly has caused many problems. Simon Weaver (2010) outlines the ‘reverse discourses’ of black, African-American and Afro- Caribbean comedians in the UK and USA in his article “The ‘Other’ Laughs Back: Humour and Resistance in Anti-racist Comedy”. He argues that these ‘reverse discourses’ appear in comic acts that engage with cultural racism, but seek to develop a reverse semantic effect. He argues that the humour reverse discourse is important in relation to racism because it forms “a type resistance  that can, first, act rhetorically against racist meaning and so attack racist truth claims and points of ambivalence”. He aims to analyse the relationship between racist and non-racist meaning in comedic performances.
The massively successful British Black comedian Lenny Henry. Henry uses his personal experience in his jokes and comedy sketches to attract his audience. However, in his case, this is often an effective technique to interact with his very positive relationship with his white audiences. In his Live and Loud tour (1994) he describes a conversation he had with a taxi driver who tells him ‘I hate them black bastards, except for you Len because you’re famous’. Henry then adds a final line for effect that the answer to racism must therefore be for all blacks to become famous. This joke clearly highlights the ridiculousness and  absurdity of some forms of racism. 
Dick Gregory (2004) was the first African American comedian to reach fame. He was famously quoted in the early 1960s describing the power of comedy as an instrument of social change: “humour can no more find the solution to race problems than it can cure cancer.”
Aristotle was one of the first scholars to write about comedy as a genre in the Western critical tradition. In Part V of his Poetics he described comedy as a genre that is offensive and indelicate in both form and content, an opinion that still stands in the world today. He writes, “comedy is an imitation of baser men. These are characterised not by every kind of   vice but specifically by ‘the ridiculous,’ which is a subdivision of the category of ‘deformity’. What we mean by ‘the ridiculous’ is some error or ugliness that is painless and has no harmful effects” (Aristotle 45). Many of the basic elements he outlines in his Poetics still remain today.
 As many scholars have noted, racial humour can actually serve as a teaching tool which audience members can learn. Rossing (2011), for example, has said “comic discourses on race provoke reactions that reveal important insights and understandings of this domain of racial knowledge construction” (p.434). In media as diverse as situational comedy television programs, stand-up comedy acts, advertisements, news satire, political cartoons, homemade viral videos, and pop music parodies, racialized humour has been observed to ignite a wide range of emotions in viewers. Similarly, in Ellie Fitts Fulmer and Nia Nunn’s (2015) article “It’s Okay to Laugh, Right?”:Toward a Pedagogy of Racial Comedy in Multicultural Education examine the use of 9racial comedy as a teaching tool for multicultural education.
Popular comedians such as Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor, Jon Stewart, and Louis C.K. offer examples of the comedic world “calling attention to the troubles of racial culture” (Rossing, 2011, p. 423). In recent decades, social media sites such as YouTube have created an opportunity for lesser known comedians, to also contribute to the formation of this critical race comedy (Rossing, 2014), including popular online videos such as the parody song “Typecast” (Paras, 2014). Humour and laughter also unite people in significant ways, and furthermore can be a reliable means for gaining perspective on popular culture or social issues (Hall, Keeter, & Williamson, 1993).
Goodness Gracious Me, however, aimed to offer a voice to a generation of Young Asians, speaking to them and also about them. This was the first time in a mainstream British comedy. Unfortunately, there has not been a lot of Asian-based comedy in recent years.