Written by Ijeoma Unachukwu
It’s hard to believe that it was only MTV Girl Code actress Nicole Byer’s fourth time doing stand-up. Rutgers Uni- versity Programming Association (RUPA) hosted Girl Code, a stand-up comedy event featuring Nicole Byer, introduced by Emily HAIWI on Thursday January 30.
The multi-purpose room of the Rutgers Student Center was packed, standing room only, and roaring in fits of hysterical laughter- and that was only the first 2 seconds of Byer’s act. The rest of the come- dienne’s act was a hilarious exploration into the mishaps and imperfections that make up the fabulous Nicole Byer. Nothing was off the table: her weight, her dating life, and most prevalently the stereotypes that come with being a black female comedienne. In fact, Byer opened up her performance by talking
about the type of voice overs she often gets casted for. “It’s like, nobody ever casts me as the simple while gir that I sound like. You don’t see my face in a voice over, so I don’t see why it matters!”
She continued to read off an over exaggerated McDonald’s script targeted at for a black audience. ” My baby daddy
needs to give me some money so I can get off this dollar menu! Yo! My weave’s f***ked up! Thank God for fries though!”
Of course it was all for kicks and giggles, not to be taken seriously. Yet, I couldn’t help but think about how true that all was. Why does a black girl in comedy always have to be an over exaggerated caricature? Ratchet, to say the least? Byer grew up in Lincroft, NJ the center of suburbia itself, the farthest thing from an urban or “hood” So what does she know about it all? Is she trying to fit in to these stereotypes? Or mock them?
Look at Mo’nique, better known as Nikki Parker from the hit TV show The Parkers. Big, Black and also a successful comedienne. In the show, she is a loud and boisterous single mother, going back to college at a late age. The show lasted 5 seasons. Mo’nique went on to star in movies and guest star in other TV shows where she played the same type of character. Loud. A bit rude. Slightly ignorant. Even in the Academy Award winning movie Precious, she played a degrading, abusive, cigarette smoking mother. Never did she play an intelligent career woman, or a well-spoken family woman. While they way black women are perceived in the media has changed thanks to shows like Scandal, and Being Mary Jane, and influential women like Michelle Obama and Condoleeza Rice, to be funny it seems as if you still have to fit a certain mold. The mold of constantly oppressed and stuggling to break out through ridiculous and foolish antics. The mold of constant oversexualization or vulgarity. You have to be willing to act ghetto and basically perpetuate the same stereotypes that hold you back.
The thing about Nicole is that instead of letting these stereotypes hold her back, she comes to terms with them
through her comedy. Instead of letting these clichés affect her, it is almost as if she scoffs at them, making the afflicter the
afflicted. She knows who she is, what people think of her, and how they might try to fit her into a box. But, with a dash of sass and her middle finger up to the air she breaks out. However, it is still early in her career and we are yet to see what future roles she accepts and the character she portray. For now, Nicole is just Nicole.
“People are always tell me what I already know. I know I’m black. I know I’m fat. They say I’m not funny. Okay, I’m a black, fat comedienne!” said Byer with an air of confidence.