In Austin, Texas, comedian Peng Dang introduced Tony Hinchcliffe to the stage. Then, Hinchcliffe immediately jumped into several lines about Dang, full of racial slurs and shocking language. Following this, Peng Dang posted a 37 second clip of the moment to his Twitter account. Now, the internet arguments have begun. Should the comedian be canceled? Should Netflix remove his One Shot special from their catalog? And from the other side: was there greater context that could explain away what was said? Let’s take a deeper dive into what’s happening.
Tony Hinchcliffe has made a career out of roasts. As a writer, he worked on the Comedy Central Roasts of James Franco and Rob Lowe. He did a short One Shot special on Netflix. He’s been building up his career as kind of a mean comedian, and his audience expects that. It was likely that Peng Dang expected that. What no one probably expected was for Hinchcliffe to use particularly jarring racial slurs to describe Peng Dang during the middle of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) at the time of a historic surge in hate incidents. There’s been a public awareness campaign to fight such incidents, and still, this happens.
The video of the event is still on Peng Dang’s Twitter. Before you watch it, be warned that the audio is loud and clear. It contains racial slurs. The comedian shared the video of Tony Hinchcliffe right here.
So then what happened? Well, the internet reacted to the short clip from Peng Dang, some of them saying it’s funny and others saying it’s racist. Some people felt that it was unfair for Peng Dang to post an unauthorized clip of Tony Hinchcliffe’s set. Some people demanded context. As a result of the context demands, a 23-minute video of the event popped up on YouTube. Again, be aware that the YouTube video contains racial slurs. Here’s the link. It was said that this gives a better look at why Hinchcliffe thought it was okay to say what he did. Peng Dang had just done a set that was super straightforward about people being nice to Asian Americans. Then, Tony Hinchcliffe is playing off of, by saying that people should be super mean to them.
Even if you can decide that was okay in thinking because Tony Hinchcliffe was being sarcastic and doesn’t actually think people should be mean but are saying this in humor, the use of the racial slurs goes way off course. The issue was discussed on Reddit. This set was done in Austin, Texas. The city is known for being largely liberal. Posters argued that the audience could be assumed to be liberal, that they laughed at the stand-up, and that this means the racist slurs must have had a context that made them okay in the setting. None of that sounds like an argument that will stop Tony Hinchcliffe from being canceled by the internet for using racist slurs.
Roasts have a long history of being wildly inappropriate. While this wasn’t a roast, it makes since that is part of how Tony Hinchcliffe styles his jokes. However, that should only make him more aware of where the line is. When you spend all day pushing that boundary, you have to have spent a lot of time on thinking about what it is you won’t do. And apparently, saying racist slurs about your fellow comedians at a time when hate speech is on the rise was a line Hinchcliffe felt comfortable crossing. The repercussions shouldn’t be surprising.