It’s always refreshing to see a Netfllix comedy special where the comedian isn’t yet another white man making similar jokes to most successful white comedians.
I’ve done stand-up comedy at open mics on and off for the last nine years. I can safely say I’m sick of watching white men talk about their genitals or porn, or making sexist jokes about their girlfriend or wife.
So it’s welcome to see a black, gay woman from a working class background on the stage.
Sam Jay has some great jokes, including one about Elon Musk going into space. It’s a comment on how rich white men have got a blind confidence and can do whatever they want.
But there are some very uncomfortable moments as well, and some reactionary jokes that seem to fit with a certain type of identity politics.
Some jokes feature hurtful stereotypes about trans women. There’s a transphobic routine about how we need trans women to fight for us, and how it’s the only way to get women into male sports.
Jokes like this about different oppressed groups are littered throughout the set.
One of the worst ones is about the #MeToo movement and how she supported it until it got too white and attacked comedian Aziz Ansari.
Jay asks how it’s possible for Ansari to assault anyone as it would be easy to fight him off because he’s not a big guy. She follows it up with a bigoted joke about how no one has said they’ve felt unable to fight an Indian man.
It’s clear she thinks because of her identity as a black, gay, woman she is able to make racist, sexist, or transphobic jokes.
But actually it’s just divisive. Whoever it comes from, encouraging racist or sexist stereotypes and defending sexism only further enables oppression.
Some of Jay’s jokes are funny. But overall her set felt very outdated, particularly in the context of a Black Lives Matter movement that is uniting the oppressed.
African culture and politics interweave— Documentary
When Art Meets Power
Monday 17, 24 and 31 August, 9pm
Afua Hirsch, author of Brit(ish), explores Ethiopia, Senegal and Kenya looking at their history, art, music and culture in a three-part series.
It’s refreshing to watch a programme that celebrates African achievement as well as the horrors of its history.
The first programme is on Ethiopia. It shows the extraordinary civilisation of Axum that emerged in northern Ethiopia around the 4th century BC and was a highpoint of world development for hundreds of years. Hirsch rightly stresses the importance of Ethiopia resisting colonisation through the defeat of the Italians at the Battle of Adwa in 1896.
She also puts forward a sophisticated history of the rise of Ras Tafari—Haile Selassie.
Hirsch documents how under him Ethiopia became a “symbol of African defiance” but that he was far from being a beacon of progressive change for ordinary people. Throughout the programme, the history is interwoven with the country’s art and culture. This works well and, for example, shows the transformation under the Stalinist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in the 1970s.
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most diverse societies with a rich cultural heritage and you will discover some of it from the programme. Hirsch is far too complimentary about the present Ethiopian government, but that aside this is a very promising beginning to the series.
Available now on BBC IPlayer
The final cut of Apocalypse Now is available to stream on BBC Iplayer.
In 1970, Captain Willard in Saigon is given a secret mission by the top brass. He must travel the perilous river route through war‑torn South Vietnam into neighbouring Cambodia to “terminate” a decorated US colonel who has gone rogue.
Regularly voted one of the greatest films ever made, Apocalypse Now is based on Joseph Conrad’s literary classic Heart of Darkness.
Many people will already know some of its most famous scenes, including the destruction of a Vietnamese village by the terrifying colonel Kilgore.
The final cut also features scenes from the even longer “redux” version in which Willard encounters a house of old French colonialists. Scenes in which Willard’s crew trade oil drums for sex have, thankfully, been cut.
Frantz Fanon—Black Skin White Mask
Available to stream from £3.50 at player.bfi.org.uk
Frantz Fanon—Black Skin White Mask tells the story of the life and work of the highly influential anti‑colonialist writer Frantz Fanon.
It uses reconstructions, archive footage and interviews with major theorists and writers, and stars Colin Salmon as Fanon.
Artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien and curator and producer Mark Nash undertake an exploration of Fanon’s life, influence and legacy.
It takes us from his early years in Martinique—then a colony of France—to his professional life as a psychiatric doctor.
And it looks at his legacy as a revolutionary in Algeria during the bloody war of independence with France.
The film is now available to rent for streaming at BFI player.