I wanted to call this post nigger, but it is more than just one word. If humans are good at one thing, it is coming up with words to insult and humiliate others. Nigger, faggot, kike, spic, and others have been used to hold people down and marginalize groups of people for centuries. Progress spelled the end of using these words brazenly, but with that there has been a surge of performers, using it in their art. Just like with the topic of rape there are ways to do it as to not berate a group of people. Now, I am no expert in what will work 100 percent of the time, but I have seen what works and what doesn’t.
The first thing that is important and it’s kinda weird is that if you ain’t the slur you can’t use willy nilly. If you are black, you can say nigger. If you are gay you can say fag. The idea is to minimize the hurtfulness of the word by having the person that it was used against say it. If you are not those things (say a straight white male), you can still use it, but with plenty of context. The reason I think this is is because it was always used by people who weren’t agains the people that were. So it is seen in bad taste to just call someone that unless you have some meaning and context behind what you just said. For example. I am black, but it would be in bad taste to call someone a faggot. I am not gay, so the use of that word by mean is seen in a more negative light.
You can use these words in direct quotes. For instance, if I was talking about someone that called someone a kike, I can say that and it would not be seen as me saying that to someone.
If you are going to use a racial slur on stage you have to OWN it. You can’t sound like you are not sure about it! The audience is trusting that you can get them through this without making them all bigots. If you are not strong in your convictions, then why should they. If you say nigger and you stumbled on it or paused and seem unsure then the audience will bail on the joke. No one wants to be painted in a corner and the job of the comic is to make it seem like that will not happen, that you are skilled enough to not have it weigh on you.
You also have to seem human. I know that is a funny thing to say, but no one likes a bully. An audience will not go with you if it seems like you are “better” than everyone else. Example. Daniel Tosh. When he is on stage performing he seems like the guy that has everything. Fame, money, women, so it is a lot harder for him to say a slur because people already have it in their heads that he has everything. Louis C.K. can get away with it because it seems like he isn’t gonna leave you hanging with a random nigger for no reason, but just by looking at him you don’t assume he is there to bully anyone.
Personally, I try to avoid racial slurs in my act. Now, when I was a little earlier in my career, I had a joke where I said nigger. I stopped doing it because I didn’t like the look on my audience faces when I said it. Now, remember. I started out in the Northwest. The majority of the people here are white and they just don’t know how to take it. So, I just stopped using it in my act altogether. It wasn’t like it was a bit I needed. I want to entertain people. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. Especially over just a word that holds so much venom that people don’t process it right. The biggest thing to take away from this is to be mindful of your audience. Take a second and think about the divide you may cause by saying this. I have no problem with the word nigger. I just hate when people use it to make me seem smaller. If you have a joke that the audience will not feel uncomfortable with then go ahead, just remember that not all people feel as I do. You may run into a black guy that doesn’t like it when any white person says it. So make sure you joke is worth the misunderstandings. I hope this helped you decide if and how to use it in your acts