SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Rush Limbaugh’s imitation of the Chinese language during a recent speech made by Chinese President Hu Jintao has stirred a backlash among Asian-American lawmakers in California and nationally.
California state Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, is leading a fight in demanding an apology from the radio talk show host for what he and others view as racist and derogatory remarks against the Chinese people.
In recent days, the state lawmaker has rallied civil rights groups in a boycott of companies like Pro Flowers, Sleep Train and Domino’s Pizza that advertise on Limbaugh’s national talk radio show.
“The comments that he made — the mimicking of the Chinese language — harkens back to when I was a little boy growing up in San Francisco and those were hard days, rather insensitive days,” Yee said in an interview Thursday. “You think you’ve arrived and all of a sudden get shot back to the reality that you’re a second-class citizen.”
During a Jan. 19 radio program, Limbaugh said there was no translation of the Chinese president’s speech during a visit to the White House.
“He was speaking and they weren’t translating,” Limbaugh said. “They normally translate every couple of words. Hu Jintao was just going ching chong, ching chong cha.”
He then launched into a 20-second-long imitation of the Chinese leader’s dialect.
Limbaugh defended his imitation by invoking Sid Caesar, who used to do a number of impressions of foreign languages. The difference: Caesar’s imitations actually sounded like the language he was imitating. Limbaugh just sounded stupid and insulting.
Another difference? Caesar’s imitations were designed to sound like the foreign language, while injecting intelligible words into the mix so as to be able to understand the “conversation”. The comedy came from the fact that you could understand what was being said, while it sounded like a foreign language. That’s what made it funny – you understood. Limbaugh’s comments were insulting because the only “funny” part was that he was making fun of the language itself.
Truly, it’s really the difference between the right and the left in a nutshell. Caesar’s comedy was constructed carefully so that you laughed at the circumstance the character was embroiled in, much as you felt for Chaplin’s “Little Tramp”. Without that pathos, the characters would not have held the interest of the viewing audience. It required more than a cheap laugh. On the other hand, Limbaugh has no problem with the cheap laugh. It’s all about the cheap laugh. It requires no thought, no preparation, and no pathos. It is simply an insult to the individual or group attacked for the sake of “making a funny”. Sketch comedy vs. fart jokes.
The left focuses on the backstory. They want to know the character, the storyline, to connect with the “audience”. The right doesn’t care about the character – they just want the punchline. The left works to show how their “characters”, average Americans, deserve sympathy and want you to care about the average American. The right just wants their way, to deliver the “punchline” and have their “audience” guffaw, even if the joke is on them. For the right, the average American is only worthy of “pull my finger”.
So it’s no surprise that Limbaugh went for the cheap laugh. It’s all the right knows.