Actor and comedian Tim Allen has made some comments to the Tampa Bay Times that are sure to draw heated opinions from both sides of the issue. In an interview, prior to a stand-up appearance in Tampa, Allen talks about the use of the n-word in comedy, specifically hearkening back to the days of Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce, and the recent fallout over Paula Deen‘s admitting to using the word in the past.
Allen tells the interviewer that we need to “take the power away” from the n-word “so that no one is offended by it,” adding, “If I have no intent, if I show no intent, if I clearly am not a racist, then how can ‘n*****’ be bad coming out of my mouth?”
The interviewer, an African-American man, then writes:
What surprised me, is that a star big as Allen would say the actual
n-word in a conversation with a journalist. But Allen seems to wear his
heart on his sleeve during much of our conversation, from pulling back
on claims that he’s a Hollywood conservative to talking about how using
racial slurs feels from a white guy’s perspective.
Later in the interview, Allen says, “I’ve had this argument on stage a million times. I do a movie with Martin Lawrence and pretty soon they’re referring to me, ‘hey, my n*****’s up.’ So I’m the n***** if I’m around you guys but 7 feet away, if I said n*****, it’s not right. It’s very confusing to the European mind how that works.”
“So when Paula Deen (admits to using the word), they go after her and now we’ve gone backwards in the world,” Allen continues. “She said n***** in ’83 or something?”
The interview corrects him that it was 1986, but the point still stands.
Allen then adds, “In Webster’s old dictionary the word ‘n***** means unemployed and indigent dock worker. That’s one definition. So I said, (to my brother) in that case … he lives in Boston and he’s not employed … so you’d be a n*****. And he goes, yeah.”
“If my brother told me not to call him a dingleberry in front of my mother, ’cause I knew it pissed him… pisses me off. As soon as Mom left, and I wanted to piss him off? I’d say ‘dingleberry, dingleberry, dingleberry.’ So if you’re around a word to be problematic for you and low intellect or uninvolved people find that out, they’re gonna call you n***** all day long ’cause they know you don’t like it.”
“And I said, so this debate rages in the public, but when it gets to the comedy world, we’re not even allowed to say it, and I gotta refer to it as the N word, F word, B word … it gets all the way down the line. It gets really intense; we’re running backwards.”
What do you think of Tim Allen’s points?