Sunday, March 28, 2010

Never Give a Racist a Ride

by Chuck Zigman, 3/28/10

Life has, yet again, given me something to blog about.

Last week, one of my friends was visiting Los Angeles from England. He’s an American, but he’s got a Ph.D, and he’s teaching Cinema Studies at a university in England.

Anyway, my friend was in town, along with hundreds of other Cinema Studies professors from all over the world, to attend an academic conference in downtown L.A., at the historic Bonaventure Hotel.

On the last evening of the conference, two Saturdays ago, I went out for drinks with my friend and a couple of our mutual friends, and my friend brought along five or six of his film professor colleagues from the colloquium, all of whom he, too, had just met for the first time that week. We all had a fun/robust time, drinking at the recently-restored Hotel Figueroa and discussing arcane old movies in the most esoteric/pretentious way imaginable.

At about 2:00 am, it fell to me to drive five of the film professors back to the Bonaventure, since I was the only one with a car. I warned them, in advance, that my car, a convertible (my “midlife crisis convertible”), was very small, and that it might be a tight squeeze, but it didn’t seem to bother anybody, especially because everybody was pretty toasted.

So here’s what happened:

I’m driving these five film professors back to the Bonaventure. There’s three film professors in the back seat, I’m in the driver’s seat, and to my right, in the passenger seat, there’s a very strapping lady film professor from the University of Copenahgen. This lady film professor, a truly Amazonian doppelganger for Brigitte Nielsen, writes books about American action films, in both Danish and English. She seems to be a very agreeable/personable woman, and in fact, she is so agreeable, that my friend, the American guy who teaches in England, is sitting on her lap during the ride back to the hotel.

At any rate, while I’m driving, Danish Film Professor Lady, who is about fifty sheets to the wind, exuberantly proclaims, “Hey, Chuck! Your small sports car is reminding me of my favorite joke about small sports cars!” Before any of us can stop her, she proceeds to tell her joke:

“How do you fit two hundred and fifty Jews into a small sports car?"

Uh-Oh! The other four of us know where this joke is going. We don’t really want to hear the punchline, but of course, she has to say it anyway, right? She can't leave us high and dry! This is the punchline:

“Two in the front seat… two in the back seat… and two hundred and forty-six in the ashtray!

We all groan, and it has suddenly become very uncomfortable in my 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, because everybody in my car, save for the joke-teller, has already figured out that the driver (me) is Jewish.

After this joke has been told – and it easily one of the most horrible/offensive/obnoxious jokes I’ve ever heard – I offer up to Danish Lady the fact that I’m Jewish. Well, either she doesn’t hear me or she doesn’t care, because she quickly follows suit by telling a second joke, and if you think that one is wrong, wait ‘til you hear the next one she tells. This one really ices the crowd:

Danish Lady’s Joke #2: “What’s the difference between a black person and a bowl of shit?” Long pause for the punchline, which is only two words long: “The bowl.”

This Danish Film Professor Lady is easily one of the most horrible, nasty people I’ve ever met.

And what this terrible person said in my car last week, about Jews and blacks, has been bothering me for a whole week. I have actually been so mad about this lady all week, I haven’t been able to sleep that well. I know there are people I’m supposed to call when I hear something like this, but I don’t know exactly whom I should be notifying! Should I call the Simon Weisenthal Center? The Anti-Defamation League? The NAACP? Is there an organization of professors in Denmark I can fire off a letter to? This vermin should not be teaching college students, and if I have my way she will not be teaching them for much longer.

Now, I love humor – it’s my favorite thing on earth, and sometimes I can even enjoy an ethnic joke if it’s well-crafted. I’m a huge fan of freedom of speech, as well, and I even like Denmark; in fact, I spent the first ten years of my life religiously watching the Danny Kaye movie Hans Christian Andersen ten million times with my paternal grandmother, and I happen to know every single, solitary, wonderful song from that film ("Inchworm," "Wonderful Cophenhagen," the math song that goes, "2 and 2 are 4... 4 and 4 are 8...," etc.).

But I believe that these two jokes that this disgusting, cackling pig/shrew told in my car went far beyond the realm of acceptable behavior.

I just thought I’d use my blog site today to vent about my experience with this horrible, racist Danish Film Professor Lady.

I hope she dies choking on her own blood, and I hope it’s painful.

PS, This wasn't the first racist thing I've ever heard. Once, a smart, ivy league-educated woman actually asked me, very seriously, "Chuck, why is to so hard for you to get into the film industry? You're Jewish! Can't you just get right in?" (My answer was, "Oh, I can get in anytime I want to. I just haven't done the secret handshake yet." With gravitas, she asked me if I could show her the handshake!!!)... On another occasion, when I was in my mid-twenties, I had just starting dating somebody, and she kept saying horrible things about Jews right in front of me ("Let's not go into that restaurant... it looks too Jewish in there"), and after her third ethnic slur, I informed her, "Wait a minute! I'm a Jew!" She started to cry, because, as I expected, she didn't know I was
Semitic. She replied, through her tears, "If you're Jewish, why aren't you wearing one of those little hats?" I sure know how to pick 'em, huh!


I don't like the nasty Danish lady who told racist jokes in my car last week, but I still like Denmark. To prove it, here's a scene from my favorite boyhood movie: Here is Danny Kaye singing "Inchworm," from 1952's Hans Christian Andersen.