Racist? Me?

Matt Price is accused of causing offense

I didn’t know I was racist until someone white, middle class and who has probably never faced prejudice pointed it out to me last night.

I’m making assumptions about the person of course. I don’t know them. They were at the gig in Vienna and they don’t know me either. It’s also hard to have a conversation with someone when English is their second language. Am I being racist in pointing this out? Or will anyone reading this suspend their judgeent until I explain a little further what happened?

I thought that the gig went quite well given that there is no culture of stand-up in Vienna and that there was an audience of 22. I bantered with a woman in the front row who said I spoke too quickly. I deliberately slowed down and made a joke of doing so, explaining that I tried to cater for everyone.

I didn’t know what the German was for ‘cater for’ and neither did she. It was fun. She liked it and occasionally asked her boyfriend to translate. Another audience member contributed and it turns out that ‘train spotter’ translated from German to English is ‘Train lover’.

It was only after the gig that another woman suggested that my story about deaf comedian Steve Day singing at the airport on the way to Germany is offensive. More specifically, it could be deemed very offensive in Vienna because in the story I make a brief reference to Jewish people who were at the airport. The woman complaining wasn’t Jewish, she was ‘just being helpful’.

I was horrified. I explained that I never thought of it as a Jewish joke. That I would never make a Jewish joke or any joke or comment that would potentially hurt someone.

I told her that I thought I had explained that the point of the story is that my deaf friend is consoling me because he understands what my girlfriend Martha was going through in losing her hearing. It was his way of showing that actually, it’s all right to have a laugh about something that could be and was very upsetting at the time.

I explained that I never considered the story to be about anything other than my girlfriend losing her hearing and Steve consoling me. If anyone should be upset it should be Steve. The more I tried to reason with her, the less she believed me.

Eventually she said that I was very naïve and that I should be careful what I say. She also said me referencing my Mum’s moustache in a different story is offensive because Hitler also had a moustache. Although I didn’t mention him, I was alluding to it, etc.

I really wasn’t.

Originally, I mentioned Martha’s brain tumour in the Steve Day story so as to explain how she lost her hearing, but it’s too much for an audience to hear. This is understandable and I don’t want to talk about it on stage. I never imagined that any other aspect of what I thought was a heartwarming story, could cause me any problems.

Are people really this sensitive? I try to avoid offending anyone. It’s just not me. I love to watch comics who people might find offensive, such as Jim Jeffries who I think is hilarious. His story about taking his disabled friend to a brothel is one of the finest pieces of comedy I have ever seen. I see it as a guy with a big heart, telling a brilliant story. I can’t imagine how offended some people might be by it and I think if they are, then they are wrong.

I couldn’t cope with people having a go at me every night and it takes a great a deal of skill to push boundaries and break taboos. I just want to entertain the audience in front of me which also takes a great deal of skill. It happens to be where I am the moment.

Those who are actually trying to be edgy, I salute you. Perhaps I should be careful using the word salute and rephrase that as,’I take my hat off you to you?’ I don’t want anyone reading this and getting the wrong idea.

Here is the routing that was questioned:

Published: 25 Jan 2012

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