Friday, March 30, 2007

Second City Responds Re: The "F word"

Subject: RE: Second City uses the F word
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 15:33:17 -0500


Thank you very much for your e-mail. As an improv based theatre, we value the input of our audiences.

As you astutely pointed out, we do sometimes use offensive language in order to make a satirical point. In simplistic terms, sometimes the characters we portray believe and say things that we ourselves abhor. And we do believe that words have power, but by the use of satire we can rob these words of some of their venom.

We at The Second City believe nothing should be off limits to our actors. And we have used many offensive terms in our shows. Since the actors write their own material, they choose the political and social issues that they believe it is important to tackle. In this case, Brian, who happens to be gay, chose to consciously use the word “faggot”. And to your address your point, our African-American cast members have indeed used the word “nigger” in shows as well.

I would never suggest that you not be offended by something we choose to present. It is just that we believe in our inalienable “right to offend” which opens dialogue such as this and helps us all to reexamine our beliefs.

Thank you once again for taking the time to write.

Kirk Hanley

Producer – The Second City

Subject: RE: Second City uses the F word
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 16:22:55 -0500


Thank you so much for your e-mail.

As I stated before I would never wish or hope that Second City become concerned with political correctness. I think comedy should be open to offending anyone and everyone. I love South Park for example.

I was really addressing a concern for the society in general where "faggot" is an acceptable put down from straight man to straight man. However the "N" word would not be thrown around like that anymore. The parallel was what was nagging at my conscience.

I have been thinking a lot about gays and humor. Why every late night monologue, comedy show, etc etc - has some form of gay joke in it. What is funny about it? Is it just the uncomfortable factor among straight men about gay men etc? What is it culturally that makes it funny? That is not something I can answer and is probably worthy of a thesis paper and documentary.

If you think a gay man gets a pass in my world for saying "Faggot" - you're wrong. My friends and I do not call each other or others by it. I don't think African Americans should be throwing around the "n-word" at each other either or rapping with it etc. That is for their community to debate I guess.

In these days where actors on night time dramas, political commentators, local sports coaches and more are saying "faggot" and not knowing its wrong until there is a controversy - I thought it was worth bringing it up. (None of those people would have said the N-word) When advertisers think it's ok to have men kiss in a snickers ad to "gross out" the straight Super Bowl fans. It was worth mentioning.

I love second city - keep testing the boundaries and making us laugh. This communication was just food for thought.

If you knew me you'd know I'm not the most easily offended person. Your current show is hilarous.

Thanks for replying.


The Uptown Theatre - a dying treasure

The other day I was at a Walgreens downtown Chicago and I saw several items for tourists to buy. There were magnets with Chicago "fun facts" on them. One of them said "Chicago is the home of the largest theatre in the country - the Uptown theatre" I knew the tourists would never suspect this crown jewel of Chicago is run down, decaying and near death. It is one second from being a thing of the past.

The Uptown theatre is bigger than any other movie palace in the United States. (Even bigger than Radio City Music hall). Many other treasures of Chicago's past have recently been renovated like the Oriental theatre (incredible), the Palace theatre and The Shubert (now called LaSalle Bank Theatre). The best one of all is still sitting in rubble decaying day by day like Norma Desmond sitting alone in the dark watching her old movies.

I saw the documentary "Uptown: Portrait of a Palace" where they took you on a tour of the inside of the theatre. Despite all the years of flooding, neglect and vandalism the theatre is still incredibly gorgeous. Fine architectural details and ornamentation everywhere you look. If it was rehabbed it would be an incredible place to see a show or concert. The Oriental theatre went from being forgotten to one of the most beautiful places in the city - the Uptown would trump even that Triumph.

Once again I feel like I don't know what to do. There is a group called "Friends of Uptown" who have been rallying for the theatre. (There is a petition on their website you can sign) There was a million dollars donated for the theatre but it seems like that money hasn't helped in anyway I can see. It's just too expensive an undertaking to renovate such a large theatre.

Who should we call? Can we convince Oprah to help? She's opening schools in Africa and bankrolling "The Color Purple" musical. Can she help us out? Where are the local elite - can't they be having their fundraisers to save this part of Chicago history? Where are the local actors who are now stars like Gary Sinise, John Malkovich, William Petersen, John Mahoney etc? Where are the local media covering this story? Can Richard Roeper stop chatting about Lindsay Lohan for one day and cover this piece of our history that is having it's last gasp?

Part of the problem is location. Uptown is a slowly or rapidly (depending on your point of view) gentrifying neighborhood on the far north side. It still has many challenges and problems but it's heart is beating strong. I don't think residents in the gold coast or Lincoln park care very much about what happens in Uptown. They should care.

The next time someone comes to Uptown to hear jazz at the Green Mill, see a concert at the Riviera or attend a big party at the Aragon Ballroom they should be aware of the huge lurking theatre they're not supporting. If the Uptown stays empty it does nothing good for the neighborhood or any of those venues. If it becomes condos then we all lose except the lucky few who can buy a unit.

Let's hope it doesn't befall the same fate as the Landmark Theatre in Lakeview. It has been a mall since I moved to the city in 1990. I enjoy seeing foreign and gay films there but I would have preferred a real theatre instead. If I want a mall I can go to the burbs.

So as I sit here frustrated at what to do - I know the great uptown theatre is dying and I don't know what to do about that.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

More on the F word

Imagine if an actor on a major television show called one of his co-workers the "n-word" - he would be shunned and most likely fired. Isaiah Washington from Grey's Anatomy had been criticized for calling his co-worker T.R. Knight a "fag". It wasn't until he said "Fag" again at an awards show that he was taken to task. He ended up going to "rehab" or some other excuse. The media would not be so kind if it had been a white actor on a drama saying the "N-word".

Ann Coulter was recently let go from several of her syndicated columns for calling John Edwards a "fag." However she had already said this word several times in the media. At one point she even called Al Gore a "fag". Do people have to say this several times before the media takes notice?

Then don't even mention sports - where NBA players feel free to make homophobic comments to the media, Ozzie Guillen of our own White Sox calls a reporter a "fag" and then outright bigots like John Rocker say whatever they want.

It's time for straight men and women to stop using the "f-word" in casual conversation as a put down at each other. It's time for Americans to say enough is enough with this hateful word.

It's time for the American military to stop using homophobic language to inspire their troops. What does it say that you have to be homophobic to make yourself feel more masculine. It says "you have issues" to me.

It's time Hollywood gets involved too. Why is the Best Picture of the year "The Departed" full of homophobic "Faggot" talk?

If gay people weren't taunted every day in school for being different or killed on the streets then I would say "this word is no big deal" but until that happens it IS a big deal.

I used to hear casual homophobic language in conversation "that's so gay" etc and I would let it slide. I told myself it was all about "intent". If the person didn't mean to be homophobic I would let it go. I refuse to do that anymore. I made that decision because I think this tolerance of the language gets passed down to the children.

When the children think homophobia is ok then gay youth have to suffer. They suffer because of "self hate" or at the hands of bullies on the playground. Gay teenagers commit suicide every day in this country.

Maybe not saying "Faggot" or "That's so Gay" won't change a thing - but if it prevents one death isn't it worth it?

Second City uses the "F" word

This letter was sent to the famous Second City in Chicago:

Dear Cast of "Between Barack and a hard place" at Second City,

I caught a performace of your show and I must say I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. You are obviously a very talented group of people. It's hard to pinpoint which part of the show was my favorite there were so many. However after watching this show something began to nag at me and I thought it was worth commenting on.

In your skit lampooning the Chief Illiniwick controversy the actor portraying the school official said "Faggot" three times during the sketch. Now I realize the point of that sketch was to show the insensitivity of the school versus the Native Americans offended by the mascot. By renaming the other college groups various offensive things you were making a point.

However the fact that you feel comfortable yelling out "Faggot" onstage began to bother me. It was disturbing to me because although you said you would rename the drama club the "Faggots" you never at any time said you would rename the basketball team the "Niggers". (I'm saying the N-word for a reason - I also despise that word)

If you are daring enough to yell out "Faggot" at your shows then you certainly should be yelling out "Nigger". Part of the reason "Nigger" is offensive is because it has been used against African Americans in violent ways - sometimes even when black people were being lynched. "Faggot" has and is still used when Gay & Lesbian people are beaten with bats and murdered in the street.

Do I think comedy should be politically correct? Absolutely not. I don't think stand up comedians or improv actors should be held to the same standard as elected officials etc. I do however think it's time to remove "Faggot" from the casual conversation of the American males of this county. ('That's so gay' is another topic altogether)

If you're ashamed to say "Nigger" then you should be ashamed to say "Faggot". Period.

Cranky Cub

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cranky Cub Introduction

I need to explain why I started this blog. First I must confess I don't read blogs unless someone sends me one. I have always thought blogs were very "self indulgent" and that blogging was like a talk radio call in show. You know those shows - where the moderator sends out a topic like 'abortion' and people call in with their opinions. I always thought "who cares what these people think??? They're just regurgitating what their parents or church told them to think" etc.

Then I started watching how blogs were changing the political landscape and actually influencing our democratic process. The documentary 'blog wars' also inspired me.

At the same time lots of things are happening in the world now that I feel like I have no control over. A war I don't agree with, Corporate greed at an all time high, people acting inhumane towards one another etc etc - and I feel frustrated about that.

I also am getting very sick of all the "casual homophobia" I have been seeing everywhere I go. I'm starting to want to call people out on it.

So what is my blog about? Well a little about current events and politics, A little about the daily struggles of living in a big city and lots about my gay american perspective on things.

I hope you enjoy my blog. I welcome all people who want to cheer me on or want to debate. Random insults without any debate happening will be ignored. What is the point of that?

Thank you for reading this!

Cranky Cub