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Episode 54: You Made It Weird
Kenya Barris

You Made It Weird #54: Kenya Barris

The amazing and hilarious writer-extraordinaire Kenya Barris (too many shows to list, one of the funniest guys Pete knows, they wrote on Teenage Daughter together!) comes by in one of those fun, you-may-not-know-the-guest but Pete-loves-these-episodes-pretty-much-the-best-ever kind of episodes!! Get into it, you weirdos! Kenya continues the Patrick Walsh tradition of being a hilarious writer that Pete worked with who also makes a great YMIW guest! FEELIN IT!

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  1. Avarose says:

    Quite a lovely episode.  I’m new to this podcast and big fan of blackish.  Also the big laughs by both of yous were very funny and a treat, especially after a long busy stressful work.

  2. Tyler says:

    I will second Kenya’s shout out to W.E.B. Du Bois. He creates these terms such as the “the veil” and “double-consciousness” that are still so relavant.
    Pete’s comment in this episode on awareness, which I will try and reiterate, speaks to these ideas but in a unique way. He said “Any high functioning person should ask themselves, ‘Who am I? How am I perceived by others?What do people feel when they talk to me?’, and then they should heighten those perceptions, or violate them.”

    Laser accuracy sharp shooting in a cornfield.(tm)

  3. Miles S. says:

    I was the kid that told Pete he’s one of my favourites up there with Louie! I can’t tell you how hard I was smiling when Pete called me an idiot.

  4. Josh says:

    @onReload: You’re totally right. The story of inter-Jewish discrimination is way more complicated than how I described. Lots of tensions in lots of places going in lots of different directions. The religious aspect is just one of them. The ethnic aspect is another. The socio-economic-political is yet another. I would say there were certain times and certain places when inter-Jewish discrimination was primarily ethnically based (just ask my Litvak great-grandfather who married my Yecca great-grandmother!). But it’s my opinion that the ethnic divides among Jews are secondary already to the socio-economic-political-denominational divides, and becoming more and more secondary as the various Jewish cultures collide in Israel and the West. This is less true in Israel, and in some enclaves of the ultra-orthodoxy, for very different reasons, but still true.

    I love the conversational tone of YMIW. I try not to hold Pete or his interviewees accountable for their words in the same way I might a college professor giving a lecture. It’s like the open ended feeling left behind by the conversational tone is where the listeners have room for interpretation. Which leaves things open for conversations like these. I love commenters like @M who seem to express their opinion in a way that’s like, “Hey, I’m kinda feeling this way, what does everyone think?” Next thing you know we’re having a cool little conversation about something. And now I can go to sleep tonight reminded that there are totally cool people out there who like to spend time thinking about stuff!

    Anyway, again, not a scholar here! Love what y’all have had to say! Thanks for breaking your personal rule for just a moment, @Kenya! That was cool of you to do that.

  5. onReload says:

    Or…or there he is right there. Haha, I took too long typing that post to see that Kenya followed up. Whoops

  6. onReload says:

    M, I do wanna say that I have met people who are from the carribean or East Africa, and just like anybody else, some sound what is typically known as “Black” or “Urban,” and some do not…even the idea of AAVE/ebonics is very nebulous, and I’m sure Black people from other parts of the world/country have added to the “Black American” accent. I know the point of sociological terms is to generalize, but I always think people sound like the city they grew up in…Sounding “Black” in Philly is quite different from sounding “Black” in NYC.

    As for the relationship bit, yeah it’s kind of a bummer. I’m sure if you tweet Kenya about it, he’ll explain himself just fine, he seems like a smart and kind dude…It’s weird how this podcast is essentially a taped conversation, with plenty of threads left hanging, or missteps left uncorrected.

    Josh: I had thought a lot of the intra-Judeo discrimination *was* actually ethnically based. Some sects of Orthodoxy are totally based on region. I’ve heard people say (so I’m not saying they’re true) that Israeli Jews don’t consider American Jews to be legit, and I’ve heard the same said for the Hasidim as well.

    Also yeah, Nerdist needs to at least make these comment boxes wider! I like discussion on here 🙂

  7. Josh says:

    What? It’s Monday???

  8. kenya says:

    I usually don’t get involved in these kind of comment sessions (especially when I’m the person being commented on… ugh!), but I felt the need to clarify my self for the woman who was “disappointed” by my answer. I didn’t mean being bilingual in terms of dialect (or ebonics). I meant it terms of understanding that some cultures are forced to be cultures within cultures and thusly have to learn to speak and understand both ways of being. There’s a great book on this by W.E.B. Du Bois called, “The Souls of Black Folks”. If you get a chance check it out. Think you’d enjoy it. On another note, don’t you think coming to a comedy podcasts site and getting political might be the wrong move on a monday? I don’t know, I’m just saying.

  9. Josh says:

    @M: It’s responses like that and people like you that make me wish these comment boards could be more interactive, somehow. Like I feel like if you and I were talking face-to-face, we could easily have a 5 hour conversation on this topic.

    So, let’s see, I’m a Jewish American white guy of Russian, Irish, English, and Polish descent (though my primary haplo-group is eastern African sooooo, I guess we’re all pretty much from the same stock when it comes right down to it). In the Jewish culture the tension between assimilation and authenticity is central and paramount. And not to make it religious, but some orthodox Jews might look at me, a reform Jew, and see inauthenticity in my Jewish identity. And I certainly know plenty of reform Jews who look at the ultra-orthodox Jewish push-back against assimilation and see inauthenticity in their Jewish identity. When the truth is: both experiences exist in history, are part of the overall Jewish story, and are therefore authentic Jewish experiences and expressions.

    You write like you might be a professor, or journalist, or anthropologist, or sociologist, or historian or something. I’m not a scholar like I’m imagining you are, but I’m a rabbi, so I guess I’m saying I’m happy to report to you that the African American community is not alone regarding the tensions you described in your awesome comment above! I wonder if maybe the question of cultural authenticity is a tension every culture that has come to America has gone through?

  10. M says:

    Hey Josh,

    Thanks for the response.

    I usually say I’m African-American, because that’s what I look like. I described myself as West-Indian American in the post because a) that’s more accurate and b) Kenya made several points about being “authentically black.” Blacks who assimilate are somehow “less black.”

    However, if you’re a first generation American, part of your job is assimilation. You have to translate American culture back to your family to help them succeed. When he talks about being able to speak two languages, American English and “Black” English, he’s referring only to black who are descended from West African slaves. That’s the origin of that dialects. Granted, that’s the majority of African Americans in the US, but not all. I can’t speak “Black” English and when I do, it sounds ridiculous. By Kenya’s definition, I’m less authentic. I’m a Carlton Banks.

    I don’t think Kenya was doing a bit about women and men. I think he was making a statement he actually believed. It least that’s the way it sounded.

    It was a good discussion, but again, I found his statements about “black authenticity” and female friendships to be very disappointing.

  11. Josh says:

    Whoops, there it is again, now it’s back. So weird! @Kenya! The alternative universes! They’re sucking us all in! The space-time-continuum! Help us Obi Barris! You’re our only hope!

    Funny, forced a callback to the start of this thread. Guys, you think maybe this website is sucking in Chris Hardwick’s soul? Slowly but surely, it slides closer and closer to sentient thought. An erased comment here. A perfectly timed exactly what you wanted to see video there. Then one day Chris Hardwick will be gone, and the website will be him, and he it, and we will say, @Chris Hardwick, are you here? And he will say, “yes, I am here,” and animals will be merry, and children will weep, and the entire world will write a one word poem entitled, “whoa”. How’s the poem go? Like this: “Nelly.”

  12. Josh says:

    Huh, that’s funny. I had a comment up on this thread that, when I posted it, had a note on top that said something like, “comment awaiting moderation” and then was taken down! Maybe it’s because the comment included links to those two droid commercials on youtube? Anyway, sorry if I broke some rule! Sheesh — I just got sovieted on nerdist! (c:

    Anyway, briefly, what I said was:

    One, thought it was a great show!

    Two, @M, I found your comment really interesting. And I wondered if maybe you thought the experience of not understanding different types of friendships and how close and significant they can be despite how foreign they seem is a cross cultural, cross gender experience?

    And now that I think of it, @Al, that’s also a really interesting question too! I dunno, what do you think? My gut feeling is that there isn’t an asymmetry at all — that there’s plenty of stereotypes for each group of people to pounce upon. I guess if there’s any asymmetry, it would be in the balance of pain, like, for example, what’s fair game and what’s not fair game in the release of the valve? And exactly how much is there to release? But I feel that that would vary from friendship to friendship.

    This was an awesome episode! Probably the most free-form so far. You guys took it DEEP! And LONG! Uh… Um… What I mean to say is, how long was the episode? That’s right: … wait for it … waaaaaait for it … FIVE hundred WEEKS long! A-good, a-Lord! That was some serious podcasting. I mean, I know you say your podcast is starting to blend in with your regular life buuuuuuuut… Anyway keep it up for me! I can do two-plus hours any time you want!

  13. Josh says:

    Holy shit! This episode was FIVE hundred WEEKS long! And great! Loved it Pete and Kenya. You guys took the conversation to great levels — felt like an awesome natural conversation throughout. Really excellent stuff, guys!

    @M: Your comment above is really interesting. Do you think maybe men and women of many cultures have a hard time understanding each other’s friendships? I mean, there are stereotypical male and female relationships in every culture, and often there are great rifts between the sexes and our understanding of each other. I feel like a lot of us YMIW listeners are either comedians or comedy nerds. I’m a comedy nerd — how often have we heard comedians give a “men and women are different” schtick? Those kinds of riffs are often comedy cliches at this point, in my opinion, but at a time they were really interesting cultural explorations of, you know, that ol’ “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” thing. Jeez. Remember THAT craze? Anyway, point is, I think I understand your frustration @M, and I also think it’s not just a West Indian thing, or even a gender thing. Many people have a hard time understand how different kinds of friendships and relationships can be as close as nurturing and meaningful and enjoyable as their own. Current culture case-in-point? Have you seen the mother-daughter & father-son commercials for Droid?

    Check out how the actor playing the male salesman acts like he has no idea what the hell is going on between the mother and daughter. Whereas the dude helping the father and son seems to get it completely.

    Oh, and ALSO: “Not an ideal table setting, for a warewolf hallucination.” Ha!

    Point is, I though the whole episode was great! LOVED the length! uhhh… I mean…

  14. M says:

    As a West-Indian American woman, I found Mr. Barris’ statements about men have more authentic friendships than women in regards to race very disappointing.

  15. Al says:

    Later in the podcast, Pete addresses joking about stereotypes as “releasing the valve”. But isn’t there an asymmetry between friends when one is part of the majority and the other a minority? How do minorities reciprocate?

  16. Al says:

    I really enjoyed the conversation about black people being “bilingual”. If you get a non-black minority guest, I wonder he/she would share a similar duality, and if so, would he/she frame it as speaking “white” and “black”.

    Barris mentioned that certain affectations are better explained by socio-economics rather than by culture, but there isn’t a clear separation. Asian women perform better on the SATs when they are primed to think about being asian, but then perform worse when they are primed to thing about being women. Perhaps black people are more likely to frame cultural dualities as being “white” and “black” because of the stark socio-economic differences.

  17. Nick says:

    Oh my god… let him tell the acid story already!

    Great ep tho. I actually think Pete might be inventing some sort of new form of interview where every anecdote is approached 3-5 times before it’s actually told, to heighten suspense.

  18. Ernst says:

    Great episode. Kenya, dude, it’s cool, i know what you’re saying.

  19. Loving this streak of longer episodes! Great conversation with awesome stories.

  20. onReload says:

    Some great insight into being a writer, and discussion about race and celebrity. It’s interesting that there aren’t many working black writers, but I guess that makes sense, since the “18-34” demographic probably really does mean “18-34 and white,” so studios aren’t looking for writers that (they think) won’t have the proper perspective. I’m glad to hear that Kenya is able to work on BET AND Fox shows.

    So good to hear Pete get mad and take a stand about the back-handed compliment he got. I’m guessing the kid who said that never heard Louie’s earlier material.

  21. Great episode! I wanted it to never end, and it almost never did!

  22. Gene says:

    Wow, that was freaking long… and fantastic. Kenya is great. I would seriously love to talk about racism with him sometime.

  23. Dillon F says:

    Eating loudly into the mic…no thanks

  24. ROmpe says:

    finally someone that can match pete’s laugh! great show!

  25. Josh says:

    Ha! Except the third Kenya Barris didn’t seem to have loved it as enthusiastically — less exclamation points. You made it cross-dimentional @Kenya! I wonder if we live in the dimension where you really really loved your time with Pete, or just really loved your time with Pete? Either way, psyched to listen!

  26. kenya barris says:

    Apparently my three doubles from the alternative universes that I live in were listening and writing the EXACT same comments as me at the EXACT same time.

  27. Kenya Barris says:

    Haven’t heard it but I can’t’ wait to!!! Love Pete and not only did we make it weird… We had a BLAST! Thanks for having me Petey!

  28. Kenya Barris says:

    Haven’t heard it but I can’t’ wait to!!! Love Pete and not only did we make it weird… We had a BLAST!!!!! Thanks for having me Petey!!!!!

  29. Kenya Barris says:

    Haven’t heard it but I can’t fuckin’ wait to!!! Love Pete and not only did we make it weird… We had a BLAST!!!!! Thanks for having me Petey!!!!!