'Funny People' Marketing Causes Laughs, Confusion

June 10, 2009

The short clips are appearing on NBC.com and Hulu.com, billed as an upcoming fall series. The only problem? A lot of people don't know that it's fake. So when they see an episode like the one below where Teach says, "I'm Jewish and I'm broke!" and tells his Asian American student, "You will never be the president of America. But you know what you can do? Work at a gas station," some are left angered.

One commenter on Hulu wrote: "If it is supposed to be awful? It is. That is why [I gave it] one star. A dumb Asian and a poor Jew? hahahahah NOT funny."

It's actually refreshing to hear that people who think the series is real are genuinely offended by Yo Teach! and its stereotypes. It would have been more disturbing to read a comment like, "I can't wait for this show to come on in the fall!"

It's also highly entertaining for those of us that are in on the joke. Those '90s sitcoms were embarrassing on so many levels, but especially with how they handled issues like racial difference. Does anyone remember the Saved By The Bell episode where Jessie suffers mass white guilt when she discovers during a history project that her ancestors owned slaves? Classic! The "Miki Moves Up" episode of Yo Teach! skillfully pokes fun at cultural stereotyping and the hackneyed moral instructiveness of family television.

I guess it goes to show how important context is when dipping into the murky waters of parody and satire, which these days is often used as a front for being outright offensive. You hearing me, National Review?


Sylvie Kim

contributing editor & blogger

Sylvie Kim is a contributing editor at Hyphen. She previously served as Hyphen's blog coeditor with erin Khue Ninh, film editor, and blog columnist.

She writes about gender, race, class and privilege in pop culture and media (fun fun fun!) at www.sylvie-kim.com and at SF Weekly's The Exhibitionist blog. Her work has also appeared on Racialicious and Salon.