Basketball legend, writer, actor and Celebrity Jeopardy stalwart Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has always been incisive. Yes, the man who scored more points than anyone else in NBA history can also score more points in a paragraph than many Pulitzer Prize winners. To wit, Abdul-Jabbar takes disgraced comedian Shane Gillis to the cleaners in a blistering examination of Gillis’s unfunny racism for The Hollywood Reporter, where Abdul-Jabbar’s voice is a constant thrum of decency.
Looking hard at the difference between hate-based comments and those which, alternatively, thoughtfully explore the boundaries of what’s politically correct, Abdul-Jabbar dispatches a helpful analogy. The courageous comedic pioneers (Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, et al) are “insightful provocateurs of culture and the human condition,” as Abdul-Jabbar nicely puts it.
Those comedians who traffic in lazy juvenile humor, often offensive and clannish, are the opposite of that. Like Gillis, they are “just another middle-schooler blowing milk out their nose for a quick laugh, not caring who they spatter with milky snot in the process.”