Just days after removing episodes of BBC shows featuring depictions of Blackface, Netflix has also yanked an episode of W/ Bob & David that included a sketch in which David Cross dons Blackface. The sketch in question is featured in the third episode of the unofficial Mr. Show followup, co-created by and starring Cross and Bob Odenkirk and released in 2015. In the sketch, titled “Know Your Rights,” Cross plays a man named Gilvin Daughtry who tries to provoke a police officer, played by Keegan Michael-Key, in an effort to capture the officer harassing him on film. When his repeated attempts fail, Gilvin returns to the scene in Blackface, whereupon a fellow officer (Jay Johnston) sprays Gilvin with mace, pulls him out of his vehicle, and uses a taser on him.
Cross and Odenkirk took to Twitter to respond to Netflix’s decision; neither offered an apology for the sketch:
Cross’ flippant response is disappointing, though not entirely unexpected. In 2017, fellow comedian Charlyne Yi accused Cross of making racist comments toward her and mocking her Asian heritage. Cross responded by suggesting that both himself and Yi might be “misremembering” the event. In his tweet regarding Netflix’s removal of the W/ Bob & David episode, Cross starts to explain the “point” of “Know Your Rights” before trailing off and linking to a YouTube video of the sketch, telling his followers to “figure it out.”
Odenkirk’s response similarly misses the point by claiming they “considered every choice,” and that the duo’s comedy “is always about the human element, never about making a political point”—but a sketch about the police, particularly one invoking police harassment/brutality, and especially one that involves an ignorant white man donning Blackface to make a point, is political, period. There is nothing apolitical about cops. These responses highlight the privileged perspectives and ignorance that led the comedians to include Blackface in their sketch in the first place.
Ultimately, Odenkirk and Cross’ intentions are irrelevant. There is no excuse for donning Blackface.
Looking for ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.